Miscellenia

Pivot points: Where were you when…?

I’ve got tons of sewing to show you, but I’m feeling chatty, so let’s talk instead.

I was having a real-life talk with a bunch of women today after our annual CBD Craft Crawl, about pivotal moments in history.  It started when one of them asked me “Where were you when Princess Diana died?”

The funny thing is, I don’t really remember Princess Diana’s death very clearly. I remember, far more vividly, Mother Theresa’s death less than a week later.  One of my sisters was obsessed fascinated with Mother Theresa, so her death made more of an impact on my world.

I realised, though, that the woman who asked me was a couple of years younger than me, so Princess Diana’s death was probably the first memorable world event within her memory, and thus made the biggest impact.  I’m just enough older, that I remember another world event, though my memory of it is mixed up with weird childhood guesses at what was actually going on.

I just remember the fall of the Berlin Wall.

I didn’t quite understand the situation, and how there could be a wall, and why people were divided.  We certainly discussed it in school, and teachers tried to explain, but I didn’t quite grasp the concept.  I was quite impressed by images of chunks of the wall with graffiti.  I didn’t understand why people hadn’t just been tearing down the wall instead of painting it earlier. It wasn’t until years later that I understood that on one half of the wall, there was no graffiti, as people weren’t even allowed to approach it.

Talking about the Berlin Wall with this group of women, one of them said “Yes, I remember that, I was there.” We looked at her in astonishment, and then remembered that duh, she’s German (there are so many accents in Wellington that after a while you don’t notice all the differences).  She went on to explain that she wasn’t there knocking down the wall (she was five), but that her mother took the kids into West Germany to buy toys just after the borders open.  Her brother got a walkman, and she got a crying doll: things that were unattainable before the wall fell.  How amazing.

I do, of course, remember 9/11.

It was my first year of university.  My roommate liked to wake up to a radio programme (though technically, being the US, it was a program 😉 ) featuring a fire and brimstone Christian preacher.  Unless it is Ian McKellan, I’m not particularly keen on starting my day with “There will be no butter for your burns in hell!”  The Baha’i faith tends to focus on the personal and universal benefits of being good over the drawbacks of doing bad.

One morning I woke up to the usual damnation and fire, and staggered down the hall to the bathroom and shower for my morning ablutions.  I was standing in the shower, dazed and grumpy, when I suddenly woke up enough to realise that today’s flames and condemnation had been a bit…different.  I finished the shower in a hurry and rushed back down the hall to our room.  That day, the fire and damnation was the news, not a preacher.

With no guidance, and not sure what to do, I went off to my 9am class: Asian Art History.  The professor wasn’t sure what to do herself, so we got an unscheduled lecture on the history and politics of Afghanistan, looking at the Buddhas of Bamiyan, and American involvement in the region during the Cold War.  Halfway through, we found out that all classes were cancelled for the day, but we all chose to stay until the end of the lecture.

The rest of the day was surreal: news in the main room, students crying, the double blow of hearing that a small plane carrying a professor was missing (it crashed in an entirely unrelated event), and attempts to call my parents.  It was midafternoon California time before I got through to Hawaii.  I said “Hey, I just wanted to let you know they have shut SF down but I’m fine”.  My dad said “What do you mean, you’re fine?”  Almost 12 hours after the event, my parents were still in blissful ignorance.

After 9/11, my roommate stopped waking up to the radio, and my parents started listening to the radio (NPR).  And I could no longer get sewing done on flights home.

Those are my memories of pivotal history moments.  My dad has told me about his memories of JFK’s death, but I can’t remember either of my parents talking about the moon landing.  My husband remembers the Aramoana massacre, and how terrifying it was, with so little information.

What do you remember?  What bits of history made a huge impact on your life?

43 Comments

  1. The fall of the Berlin Wall is definitely a very strong memory for me, despite just being 7 years old and living n Sweden. My father had a lot of contact with a lot of people in East Germany, both personal and professional. In fact he had been invited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the state at the Swedish embassy, but declined with the reasoning that he had just been in East Germany. I remember my parents watching the TV a lot in those days and the euphoric feeling when not only the wall fell, but when some of our best friends were able to call us on the telephone that same night. Just the year before it had been impossible to even send a letter directly to them, instead having to use friends’ friends all over the Eastern Bloc.

    For 9/11 I was at home, packing for moving to Ireland just a week later. I was in our computer room, when my father shouted and said that something strange must have happened because all the stock markets were falling rapidly, and they had gone up earlier the day. My first reaction was actually to turn on the computer and go to the forum where I spent most of my online time just to find out and talk to people.

    My earliest memories about world events are, not the events themselves but the aftemath. I don’t remember the Chernobyl nuclear accident itself, but I remember everyone telling you that you shouldn’t eat berries in the woods, and pictures of slaughtered animals. The same goes for the murder of the Swedish prime minister Olof Palme. I don’t remember the murder, but I remember the teachers in kindergarten trying to keep a bunch of preschoolers quite for a moment of silence (it didn’t work) and watching the funeral when I was at a hotel room in Oslo.

    • Lord, Chernobyl! I remember being concerned about winds and rain spreading contamination. We lived in Germany, and were told not to play outside for too long, and to take a bath or shower immediately on coming in from being outside. I was young, but I think it might have impacted what we could get from the grocery store, too!

  2. I find it really interesting to look at history through this lens.

    You can remember the fall of the Berlin Wall, but to me that’s history. It’s something that happened in “The Past” that you read about in textbooks. Asking older people where they were and what they remember is a great way to humanize historic events, to see how they did and continue to effect real people.

    I’m pretty young, I barely remember 9/11. I recall watching TV and there being a big fuss about something happening. It wasn’t until I watched the documentaries and programs about it in the following years that I understood the scale of it.

    I can remember the July 2005 London Bombings quite clearly, I was a little older then. I can’t recall much else with the same scale as 9/11 or the Berlin Wall though.

    I’m sure when i’m much older and other events have happened younger people will be amazed that I can remember 9/11, haha.

  3. Witcharachne says

    The earliest world event I remember IS probably Princess Diana’s death. My parents had broken up a week before, my dad had taken us to McDonald’s for lunch as a treat/bribe, and I heard a kid mention it while we were playing on the playground. I thought it was total crap, but Dad said it was true, and I made him take me home so I could break the news to Mum, she being a big Princess Di fan.

    The earliest significant event in my country’s history that I remember is probably the Port Arthur massacre, where a gunman went on a rampage through one of the biggest tourist spots in Australia. Our gun laws had a HUGE overhaul after that. I was only about 11 when it happened so I think it only made such a big impression because we were learning about events that shaped Australian history in class, and it was obvious to all of us that this would be one of those things. I was at Port Arthur recently, and the stillness of the place is both incredibly tranquil and incredibly eerie, the massacre being only one reason for the creepy feeling.

  4. Lyndle says

    Hmmm… This makes me realise how much older than you all I am. My first NZ ‘major event’ memories are of the NZ prime minister, Norman Kirk dying (1975) and the road signs switching to metric (i think a little earlier). I wonder if Diana’s death had less impact on you because you were living in the US? I heard it from a taxi driver. He said ‘isn’t it terrible about Princess Diana?’ And I said ‘oh, what’s she gone and done now?’
    Strangely I don’t remember the actual day the Berlin Wall came down, although I was about 21 then. I do remember the Springbok tour of NZ in 1981. Two of my teachers were arrested for protesting and my mum wouldn’t let my dad go. At 9-11, i was in a hotel in Auckland and my partner rang me at six am. She’d stayed up late, seen the footage of the first plane hitting (about midnight here, I think) and been unable to go to bed. I went to a conference I was presenting at, where no one seemed to have heard and all the talk was about median barriers. It seemed to me like we must have been the only people in the world not glued to the news that day. (Besides your parents, obviously).
    My very earliest consciousness of the world was when I was four and we lived in the US on a campus. The nice man in the next apartment used to scream in the night sometimes and my dad said he’d come back from the war in Vietnam. I’ve never forgotten that.

  5. I remember where I was when I heard the first news of September 11. And when I heard that Princess Diana had died – and Mother Teresa after her.
    Less importantly, I remember where I was when I heard that Black Magic had won the America’s Cup.
    And I remember hearing that the Soviet Union had broken up, although being only five or six it didn’t mean a great deal to me at the time!

  6. During 9/11 I was at high school and when arrived home in the afternoon turned on the tv and everything was full of it 🙁
    My father told me back then when Chernobil nuclear power station melted down they were on a trip to the USSR thru Ukraine (he was a soldier) for a military training and noone told nothing about it but weeks later when they came back home the news sparked off, Hungary was in the first windblow and funny the goverment adviced to wash carefully the cabbages… :/ 🙁 I’m so happy that the 20th century is over! It was just awful 😛

    • Elise says

      Great things happened: Women earned the right to vote in many countries, equality laws, penicillin, etc. But oh, the sadness: world wars, famines, religious extremism.

      I was actually thinking today how weird it is that a population fetishizes the American 1950s forgetting the awful segregation laws, anti-woman rhetorican. And more interestingly also forgetting the parts that made the period so stable: strong unions, redistribution of wealth, low-cost university.

      You should like you have a lot of interesting memories!

  7. We lived very near the Wall and I was only three when it fell. Not long before it did, my family got a chance to see it from the other side for a day. And I remember that trip even more than 20 years later: clouds of brown coal ash in the air from the heating ovens in the houses and crumbling buildings in many places. Looking back on it now, it felt like going back to a 1940s dystopia. When the Wall finally fell, it was the only time in my life I saw my dad cry. He had seen it built as a child in the 60s and he was crying from joy. And I understood why he did even though I was so young. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that moment.

  8. Nicola Lowrie says

    Oh my I feel old. My earliest ‘event’ was the assasination of JFK when I was about 3 1/2! I remember watching the footage and how upset everyone was, I think fear of what would happen in the USA (I am English). I remember the 1966 world cup and the Bradford FC fire disaster is indelibly etched in my memory.

    9/11 I was teaching a class when my sons started tecting me to put the tv on. I couldn’t with the bad yr8 class I had but with the next yr 10’s were great and watched the disaster unfold. I taught RE so it became a big teaching point on how such an act is unlawful in Islam as well as all the other world religions.
    Diana’s death – was watching a film at 1am and it wss interrupted. Berlin wall I watched but I had 4 young children and was exhaustedso only remember bits.

  9. I remember all most all of those things. Not JFK-I was still in my mothers womb then. I remember the death of Elvis too.

  10. You and I seem to be about the same age. I also barely remember the Berlin Wall; I remember watching the celebration on TV, and that my parents were interested, but I had no context for what was happening. And it took me years (till I was an adult) to realize that the wall was around West Berlin to keep East Berliners out, instead of around East Berlin to keep East Berliners in.

    Princess Diana’s death, being American, was startling, but again I didn’t feel emotionally connected.

    As for 9/11, I was in my first year of uni in Michigan, coming back from my 9am class and walking down my dorm hallway, everyone who had a TV had it tuned to the same station. And I thought it was really weird but didn’t realize what everyone was watching until I got to my room and my roommate was also watching the news. I believe we watched the first tower fall, and then I had to go to my next class.

    A much smaller pivot point in general but a large one for me was the school shooting at Northern Illinois University in 2008. I was working out in San Francisco and got a call from my mom telling me what was happening but that she and my dad were all right. My mom worked in the next building over and that afternoon she fielded hundreds of phone calls from panicking parents. I got sent home because I was shaking so hard they thought I was going to pass out.

    I find it really troublesome that most global or national pivot points are tragedies. Unless you really care that a certain politician got elected, I can’t think of one since the moon landing that everyone really rallied around.

    • Lyndle says

      That’s almost true. And troubling. The only other non-tragedy that a lot of the world shared in, watching on our tvs, that I can think of right now, was the Berlin wall falling. Certainly it was celebrated at the time. And maybe the Millenium!! (I missed it, i had measles, but there were a lot of parties, not to mention the spectre of the y2k bug!)

  11. When Diana died I was sleeping on my best friend’s front room floor after a night out on the town.

    9/11 – my ex messaged me and told me to look at the news. This weirds me out on a number of levels because I had had a very strange dream the night before about a helicopter crashing into my Hall of Residence, known as the Tower, and to this day I hate even thinking about the implications of that as it’s really weird and icky and coincidental and just… people think I’m making it up.

    Berlin Wall – I actually sort of vaguely remember this but at the same time don’t remember it making an impact.

    I do remember Dunblane because a support worker came into m class at college and told me that someone had shot up a classroom full of children.

    Oh God, the London bombings. At the aforementioned Hall of Residence I stayed there with a girl who died in the Underground bombings, but only realised after her picture popped up on BBC News and it was “Oh my god that’s Dirty Jen!” (I think it was because she had a dirty laugh!) Again, I don’t really remember where I was when they happened but I do remember being in London a year later on the day and I was in Westminster underground and there was a woman crying on the platform while reading the Evening Standard memorial edition and that stuck with me more than the year before.

  12. Elise says

    I think I will certainly be checking back on this thread–there are so many interesting posters that it will be cool to see what made an impression on them.

    I barely remember the wall coming down. I remember writing letters to Quebeckers ahead of the 1995 separation referendum while living in Ontario. I think that was my first piece at civic participation.

    I remember the 1992 WTC bombings and a classmate’s dad had died. (I was living in New Jersey). That made 9/11 very eerie. (I was in French class at university.)

    I remember the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I was in Spain, and there were mass protests. My dad was often in South America while I was a kid, and I heard a lot about dictators and what they did. So watching the Spanish President commit his country to a war that the entire country was united against was chilling. Franco had only been dead for 25 years, and his legacy was still strong.

    I remember when I got the call from the base commander that our little gay-straight alliance was approved. It was the first GSA on an Air Force base and the second in the whole military. Its impact has changed my life. It’s more personal than panoramic, but life-changing nonetheless. We knew at that moment that we had made history, and because of our GSA, many military policies have since been changed.

  13. I can clearly remember the space shuttle Challenger exploding on take off. That was ’86/‘87? We were stationed in Frankfurt at the time, and my second grade teacher had promised to wheel in a tv so we could watch the launch. It was big news, because a teacher, Christa MacCauliffe was going, too! We were sitting on a rug in front of a tv on the cart when she explained why we weren’t going to be watching it after all. I remember going home and watching it on the news that afternoon.
    That same year, terrorists had placed bombs on base, and one of my friends had a broken arm in the blast.

    We were still living in Germany when the Berlin Wall fell. I was in the 5th grade, and my older brother and dad went on a road trip to photograph and chip at the wall. We’d just been to East Germany the year before, so it was a big deal for us. The East German guards smiled, too, and allowed a couple photographs. They also traded away parts of their uniforms, and if that doesn’t say victory, I don’t know what does.

    I remember Diana and Mother Theresa.

    9/11 I learned of from the radio. I was listening to a rock station, getting dressed for work at my boyfriend’s house, and the dj went silent. He couldn’t even articulate what had happened, and I went to turn on the tv. I sat half dressed on the couch for quite some time before I could get it together. At the time, I worked in children’s’ mental health, and between watching the news in the break room, we discussed what we could and should discuss. That was the first time in my life I had to think about how to discuss tragedies with children. At that same time, my parents were stationed in Weisbaden, and I was totally worried about their safety, and what impact it would have on them.

  14. Makenzie says

    9/11 is my earliest memory of a world event. My first grade teacher sat the class down and tried to tell us what had happened, but she couldn’t stop crying, and then they turned the whole school out onto the playground for the rest of the day. I don’t have any memories of flying that predate the attack so to me all the security is “normal”, that’s just how airports are.

    In terms of deaths, the first one that I have a clear memory of is when Steve Irwin died. All through elementary school I had watched his show in the afternoon while doing my homework. It was the first time that something like that had had any kind of measurable effect on my life, even superficially.

    I think its fascinating to me that events of very descent history, for me the Berlin wall, are often less covered than events far in the past. We learned about World War II very early in school, but I don’t think I had a coherent idea of what the Berlin wall coming down meant until junior high, and even then I think it was something I looked up on my own because I was confused.

  15. I know that I am most likely way way younger than everyone on here, but one of my very first memories is 9/11. I was four (yeah, I’m that young) and I remember my dad was telling my mom to quickly come to the living room (he’s a New Yorker himself). I remember seeing the whole thing. Of course I had no idea what it was, but 9/11 is my fourth earliest memory. Now I know what 9/11 is and it does sadden me sometimes. It isn’t until you’re older that you really comprehend world events and try to make sense of them. One incident that did really shake me up and make me really sad was the SandyHook shootings. I felt horrible for days and I was just really sad for the Christmas season. I could not believe that someone could such a thing. I love little kids so much, so that really hit me hard and it still brings tears to my eyes. The only thing we can do is learn I suppose. And teach future generations from the past generations.

  16. redbarngirl says

    Hi, I rarely post but this is such an interesting thread…

    I vaguely remember 9/11; I saw the news in the morning and at first thought it was some kind of action show but then I was floored by the fact that human beings would do that to each other…I also remember asking if this meant I did not have to go to school (no). I also remember when Mother Teresa died. My grandma found out about JFK when students asked her where she was when he died…she had been in class and did not know. My Grandpa was in Germany when the wall came down, but he would not go to the wall for fear they would change their minds and he would not be able to get home.

  17. Lynn Brooks says

    I remember seeing the Berlin Wall come down on Tv, Princess Diana’s death, Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, and his election. I don’t remember where I was who I was with, just that I witnessed it on television. But the three events that stand out most, that I can still tell you, where I was, who I was with, how I felt, were:
    1. The 1989 San Francisco earthquake: we felt it in san jose, I was about to get in the tub when it hit. I was 7 months pregnant and very clumsy, I fell trying to scramble into my clothes. We didn’t have cell phones, I was in a panic because the radio said part of a certain highway had collapsed, my ex was usually on that stretch at that time of day, when night came and he still hadn’t called home, I thought for sure he had died. It was really scary.
    2. 911: I was on a business trip in California in Yosemite. My boss called our room at 6a.m. telling us to turn on the TV. I thought it was a commercial for some action movie. So much devastation. We all piled into the hotel bar holding each other and crying. Strangers held each others hand. Noone could locate my dad who was supposed to be at an appointment near there (he overslept and never went to his appointment, thank god). The rest of our trip was cancelled so we could go home to our families. What should have been a four hour drive took twelve. It’s the event that turned me into a bit of a conspiracy theorist, I remember writing poems about it on the drive home.
    3. The day the verdict came out and George Zimmerman was found not guilty for shooting Trayvon. It was a slap in the face reminder that my country is built on institutionalized racism. It was an open invitation to every racist pig in America that it’s ok to murder folks in America as long as they are darker than the person pulling the trigger. The Trayvon case was not some isolated incident, it happens every day here, the only thing that made it unique was that it made the national news. It was the day I realized that my daughter’s skin made her a walking target. Sandy Hook was sad, but this was a reminder that while we may speak more politically correct nowadays, we have not progressed.

  18. Grace Darling says

    The trial of Lindy Chamberlain in the early 80s. I was actually living in the Waikato when her baby went missing, but had returned to Melbourne in 1981. It was chilling to be a young woman in my twenties and living in a so-called western educated industrialized culture as a Medieval witch-hanging-by-media unfolded.

    The devaluation of native wisdom and life experiences informed the way I live as a woman of white european/UK ancestry.

    As for Diana, sobering lesson on what happens when you make poor choices in men. I am the same age she would have been.

    Michael Jackson’s death was a shock. His “Thriller” album was such a strong soundscape for the 80s and he looked good then. Hadn’t gone overboard with the knife.

    Almost forgot, sinking of the Rainbow Warrior. I was on a winter holiday in Queenstown at the time and the way the Kiwis responded to that event left a deep impression.

    After you turn 50, everything kinda runs together.

    The first heart transplant by Christiaan Barnard in 1967 – that was huge. I remember all the programs on TV at the time. A bit later on were reports of organ donor recipients experiencing memory transference which really piqued my interest. Still does.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

    • Grace Darling says

      sahistory.org.zasahistory.org.zaMy original reply got eaten. 🙁

      No contest, I was a few months shy of turning 7 when I saw the news of this on the telly in Australia.

      On 3 December 1967, South African doctor, Dr Christiaan (Chris) Barnard, performed the world’s first human to human heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town. This extraordinary event which pushed the boundaries of science into the dawn of a new medical epoch took place inside Charles Saint Theatre at Groote Schuur Hospital. After a decade of heart surgery, Barnard and his gifted cardiothoracic team of thirty (which included his brother Marius), were well equipped to perform the nine hour long operation.

      The recipient was Louis Washkansky, a fifty three year old grocer with a debilitating heart condition. Washkansky received the heart of Denise Darvall, a young woman who was run over by a car on 2 December and had been declared brain dead after suffering serious brain damage.

      quote source
      http://www.sahistory.org.za/dated-event/dr-chris-barnard-performs-worlds-first-human-heart-transplant

      • Helene says

        I also remeber the heart transplant. Years later, on my so far only trip to South Africa we went by the hospital that was pointed out by the very knowledgeable driver. I was proud, but felt old for knowing about it.

  19. Johanne says

    I’m trying to think of events that actually shifted world views or my world view. At seven years old I remember VJ Day August 14, 1945 the end of WW2 because of all the noise and excitement in the air. People drove around in their cars singing “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here.” WW2 is always clear in my memory because of the photos of the concentration camps in Life magazine that I saw at the age of six. My moment of coming to consciousness. The advent of television. Immediacy guaranteed. After that it was the daily reports of the Korean Conflict (War) shown in the newspaper that I’d gingerly remove from our mailbox when I returned from school each day, always hoping for better news. We participated in public Salk vaccine inoculations against polio, that little pink sugar cube in a tiny paper cup, ending each summer’s fears and part of the rise in the belief in medicine and science. The Moon landing held less meaning for me than the first astronaut which caused tears of relief when the mission was over. The assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy felt as if our world would fly apart at the seams. I was at work when someone rushed in crying, “The president’s been shot.” Disbelief and shock were followed quickly by the need to be at home with our families. We spent the following days mourning through television coverage. The fears of moving against the government to stop the Viet Nam War that ground on and on no matter how many demonstrations and shouts of “Hell no, we won’t go!”; Gorbachev and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 seemed miraculous; 9/11 when I was living in Italy and ran to the local coffee bar to view their TV as I had none. Everyone was sympathetic, but there was one man at the other end of the bar loudly repeating, “La guerra. La guerra.” I thought, “Oh no,” but he was right. The personal computer with the internet more fun than I don’t know what; and the tears of happiness over the election of Barack Obama.

  20. Kylie says

    Not a world event, but certainly a state/country one – I just barely remember the Ash Wednesday fires in Victoria/Australia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ash_Wednesday_bushfires). I mostly remember the smoke and ash in the air, and, given that I was 3, not understanding why it was so dark during the day…

    Wider world events, I think the first Gulf War was the first one that made an impact. We had just done the world wars in class at school, and I was terrified that it was going to be another one…

  21. virginia says

    This is an excerpt from something I wrote on the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination (I was 10 in ’63, attending a local French school and struggling with a new language):

    France is 7 hours ahead of Texas, and my dad had already returned from the base by 8:00pm local time. No phone, a TV with poor reception, and no Walter Cronkite – we slept through the night not having been notified of the tragedy that had occurred across the Atlantic. When I came home from the village school the following day, a Saturday and school day in France, it was already dark, and my mother kept repeating, “Listen to the radio, what are they saying? They keep saying too-aye, Kennedy too-aye. Too-aye, what does that mean, I think it means killed? What does it mean, why do they keep saying Kennedy too-aye?” I looked at her, I looked at the radio and shrugged my shoulders. “I don’t know mom, I’ve only been in that school for 2 months.” When my dad came home with The Stars and Stripes tucked under his arm, she found her answer on the front page.

    What a different world from today, with our cell phones, Twitter feeds and instant news.

  22. Valerie says

    I think my first historic memory is the Exon Valdez oil disaster, quickly followed by the Berlin Wall coming down, but they are very tied up in my memory with moving from Canada to the US, and so the images are all a bit mixed up. Princess Diana’s death had a big impact on my Mom, my middle name is the same as hers, and I remember my Mom watching the news all day and night afterwards. The war in Bosnia had a big impact too, suddenly there were people in my elementary school that didn’t speak English (a big deal in a small mid-western town in the early/mid 90s) and everyone was using a term I had only vaguely noted from WW2 lessons: “Genocide”. 9/11 was intense, it was homecoming week my senior year of high school, we had morning tv announcements, and instead of the announcements the tvs turned on two periods early and were showing billowing smoke coming out of the Twin Towers. We were all terrified for months afterwards because we lived very close to the missile silos for the US’s nucs and everyone assumed those would become targets as well. Hmm… I really wish that some more positive world events had stuck in my memory as indelibly as these…. there must have been some since ’84, right??

  23. Tracy says

    I’m considerably older. I was in the third grade when President Kennedy was killed. It was the first time I’d seen my parents (and other adults) cry and it profoundly disturbed me. Probably the next thing that was a sea change was Watergate, the hearings and, ultimately, Richard Nixon’s resignation. I was in college, majoring in history, and the constitutional crisis was gripping and horrifying. And 9/11…I was getting ready for work when I heard. I was scheduled to attend MANDATORY training that day. I went to the class but it was so irrelevant in comparison that I spent the day in tears and sick toy stomach.

  24. I just remember the Berlin Wall coming down. I remember listening to my parents talk about it at dinner. I didn’t really know what it was all about, but I understood it was important. I can remember it seemed really strange to me that Germany was split in two like that.

    I don’t remember Princess Di’s death, though I do remember it being all over the news for what seemed like weeks and I got very, very sick of hearing about it.

    I’ll always remember 9/11. I thought I was watching a movie at first, and then I realised it was a news bulletin.

    More recently and much more pleasantly, I remember the Spirit, Opportunity, and Curiosity Mars rovers landing.

  25. This is an interesting topic and I have been thinking about it all days.
    One of my earliest memories is watching the JFK funeral on a black and white TV (I was barely four years old). I remember the riderless horse in the funeral procession with the backward facing boots. That seemed so wrong to me.

    I am sure that I watched the moon landing, but my generation saw re-runs of this event every year, so the first time has become blurred with the repeats.

    I remember when the Shah of Iran fled Iran and the subsequent hostage taking.

    I remember watching Princess Diane being married on television (this time in color). It was a fairy tale wedding. She was so pretty and so young.

    The space shuttle Columbia break up on re-entry really hit hard. It brought forward to me that America’s space program was sadly outdated.

    I remember 9/11 very clearly. I had walked my daughter into her second grade class and heard the announcements at 8:00 am. A plane was missing, just seemed to drop out of the sky. I went on to work and at about 9:00, we were scrambling for a TV to see what was happening in New York. My coworkers and I saw the live footage of the second plane hitting the tower. We later heard that the pentagon was hit. I worked with a lot of retired military personnel and some had friends working in that building. That day the phone system was overwhelmed and few calls were getting through to DC or NY City.

    I remember when President Bush declared war on terrorism, and the armed services were deployed to Afghanistan. There was debate about expanding the war to include Iraq. I was discussing this question with a cousin and stated that yes, the US would do this. Not because it was a good and right thing to do, but because of the logistics involved demanded that if the US were to do this, now was the time. We already had the equipment and people within hours of Iran. It would be too costly to come back and do it. This thought just flew out of my mouth. I so wish I had been wrong.

    I remember hurricane Katrina hitting the New Orleans area and the massive evacuation of southern Louisiana. (This is where the Mississippi river hits the Gulf of Mexico. It is a major port.) Some folks were never able to go back. This flawed evacuation pointed out the need for better evacuation planning not only for those in Southern Louisiana but also in the areas they would evacuate to. The recovery operations are still ongoing.

  26. Lene says

    The abduction and murder of Aldo Mori is the first news item that I really remember, and it SCARED me…. I had an unholy fear of car trunks for quite a while after that.

    And that story definitely puts me in an older age bracket 🙂

    • Grace Darling says

      I remember all the movies: Towering Inferno, Earthquake, Jaws, Airport in the 70s…..I wonder if *they* have made the connection between La La Land scaring us and the pandemic of anxiety.

      Just sayin’

      Drive-In Theatres…..when all the land got sold to developers to build retirement villages. Passing of an era.

  27. I’m just younger than you and I remember Mother Teresa, Princess Diana and 9/11. But one pivotal moment I remember was Nelson Mandela’s election as president of South Africa.

    I would have been just 6, and I remember it very clearly, because my Dad got up really early to vote that day, but Mum headed over later in the morning, and got caught in the queues that Dad had decided to avoid. I remember sitting in the car and looking at these throngs of people and not fully comprehending what an election was, or why it was so important… Mandela won, of course, and I remember that this was a really good thing. Later, it dawned on me just who Mandela was and about a year later when my best friend actually got to meet him I was wildly jealous! The actual implications of that day didn’t dawn on me until much, much later, but I’m still jealous of my friend.

    In 2012 I travelled back to South Africa and met up with her, after 18 years of separation. She drove me around Jo’berg and showed me the house that ‘Madiba’ lived in – I couldn’t see much behind the high security walls, but it was a beautiful tree lined avenue in a very good part of town. When we went to Cape Town, we couldn’t bring ourselves to go to Robben Island, and instead chose to remember him for the unity he brought, rather than the division he endured.

    • Grace Darling says

      I remember when Cassius Clay changed his name to
      Muhammad Ali. Always the greatest!

  28. The only one of these I remember at all was 9/11. I didn’t really understand what was going on. I vaguely recall being told something about bad people and planes, and I remember that the grownups were very serious and upset for a while.
    But I was 6 at the time, and didn’t think much of anything except bugs.

  29. I’m feeling distinctly old here! My earliest memory of a world event is the moon landing. I was only 5 at the time, so didn’t appreciate the significance, but I remember that we ate our evening meal in front of the TV, which was unheard of, so I realised that it must be A Big Thing!

  30. I remember a moon landing but only barely, must have been 1968ish. I remember Di (at a dinner party) and 9/11 (woken by a phone call to my flatmate) and the Berlin Wall.
    The one I remember the most is Erebus. Waking up to the news that the plane had gone missing – getting to school to the chaos of it all, as one of our seniors had been on it with his grandparents. Going to the church with my best friend who was his girlfriend to listen to the radio in the youth group loft and try and get our heads around it all. I remember his memorial service – the organ played A Whiter shade of Pale. So many people I love lost someone close to them that day – we were lucky in that we did not.
    The Wall and Mandela being freed were moments of experiencing miracles. I grew up knowing that Mandela would never be freed because it had been decades of trying to no avail, and that the Wall was never coming down. And then they were. Amazing.
    I remember Live Aid, at a cast party at someone’s house on a beautiful day, with the TV on. It was just such an awe inspiring thing.
    Thanks for the chance to remember 🙂

  31. Tania says

    I remember from the Challenger onwards.
    I remember thinking about the students who had been taught by the teacher and how horrible it must have been for all involved to be watching the launch.
    I was in a dairy in Dunedin when Diana died, it was a news flash on the TV running in the shop.
    9/11 – I woke up and my ex had the TV on. I couldn’t figure out why there was a movie on instead of the news. Then I realised it was the news. I was teaching a lovely class of 6 year olds that day and they kept asking me why someone would do that, would the planes come to Wellington?
    One memory I have is of the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in England when 96 Liverpool fans were crushed against the old style football fences. I was 12 and couldn’t understand how the police didn’t see the crowd were in trouble.
    Thanks for this post it has brought back so many memories.

  32. Beatrix says

    Being a Gen Xer growing up in California my earliest memories of atrocities were the Charles Manson murders, the Patty Hearst Abduction (she had dated my brother), & the Chowchilla kidnappings (Chowchilla was a small farming town in central California, in 1976, kidnappers abducted 26 children and their adult driver from their school bus and imprisoned them in a buried truck.)
    As a teen in the 80’s I remember Princess Di’s wedding very well & how iconic her hairstyle was.
    Good lord all the horrors & excesses of the Reagan 80’s I don’t even want to go into.
    I was actually living in Berlin as a university student (suffering delusions of becoming an organic chemist) in 1989 when the wall came dawn WHAT A PARTY THAT WAS!!!!
    And the tragic death of Princess Di in ’96 , 3 yrs after I’d graduated from university.
    I remember 9/11 quite well. I was getting ready for work in the morning & had the tv on listening as I showered & dressed for my noon to 9 shift at the hospital that day. I briefly heard that a plane had hit one of the World Trade Towers in NYC. I thought some little private plane had probably hit it accidentally.
    I stepped in front of the tv to get a look & was absolutely shocked to see the live pictures of the 1st tower on fire & crumbling, you could actually see people jumping out of the higher stories of the building. Then to add to the horror another large commercial plane hit the other tower while still being filmed live, more bodies & debris flew out of the 2nd tower – within minutes both towers had completely collapsed live on tv.
    It was unbelievable.
    Then stories began that planes were hitting strategic buildings all over the US. ‘Heightened security’ was everywhere . Fighter jets from Travis, Beale & Edwards, & Vandenberg Air force bases were patrolling California 24/7 from that day on for the next month. (It was rather noisy) Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to work that day armed National Guardsmen were posted end to end.

  33. I definitely most clearly remember 9/11. I was in 4th grade, and I remember walking into my classroom to find everyone staring at the TV in the back of the room. I saw the burning towers and the planes, but I had no idea what it meant, or what the World Trade Center was. I didn’t know anything, really. I just knew it was something very bad.

    Even though I didn’t know a lot then and responded with mostly confusion, almost my entire life has been impacted by that event. It changed the world, especially for those of us in America. I still tear up a bit thinking about it and what a drastic impact it has made on us.

  34. Tinny says

    I remember when the Soviet Union fell because it was on the news so much and all the adults talked about it so much, I think I also have memories of seeing all the celebrating in the Baltic nations on the news at the time. I also have some vague memories of the war in Jugoslavia, again because it was on the news practically every single day for a very long time.

    The first big news event I really remember well is the sinking of the cruiseship Estonia on the Baltic Sea, where I think almost 1 000 people died. It was in every single newspaper’s front page and on the news for weeks on end, and I think that’s the first time I saw dead bodies anywhere, when some publications had photos of those who had died of exposure on the life rafts.

    9/11 I remember as well, I had just come home from school when it was on the news in the afternoon. Thinking back, it affected me surprisingly little, but then again that was a time of very strong feeling of there being a huge cultural rift between the US and Europe, and in a way none of the people I spoke to about it at the time seemed profoundly surprised by the attacks.

    Later on, there was the first school shooting that happened in my home country, which I remember well because I had just started university, and that feeling of going to my lectures in the morning after just hearing about the shooting on the news was indescribable…

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