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?