Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Where were you when?

I have heard people from older generations talk about where they were when important historical events took place.  It is as though one needs those anchors to be able to assure themselves they exist.  If one has no answer for the question "Where were you when...?" they obviously lived under a rock.  I've heard people discuss where they were when JFK was shot, where they were when Martin Luther King spoke, where they were when Vietnam war was declared, where they were when Watergate broke.

I had not thought of myself in that way -- as compared to current events in recent history -- but when I started to consider it, I could pin point the places I was during important events.

When the Gulf War started, I was in Grade 9.  I sat in art class with my home room and used charcoal pencils on paper.  I was learning about shading and depth.  I was also rocking out to Ice Ice Baby which someone had playing on the radio.   The teacher came into the room, turned off the radio and turned on the television.  We all sat and watched as they announced the war.  I remember being surprised that war was necessary.  For some reason, I thought the war had been won in WWII and that would be it.  You know, like, forever.  I remember not thinking much about it again as I made my way through high school.  I had my own battles to fight -- acne, unpopularity, depression -- and they were more overwhelming to me than oil, evil, and dictatorship. 

However, that event is not often the thing our generation cling to when we play the "Where were you when" game.  Our question is about 9-11.  Where were you when 9-11 happened?  That is the question that grounds our generation. 

I was house sitting for my boss that day.  I had to work at 9:30am, so I was awake long before I normally would have been.  I did not like the solitariness of the house and so I turned on the television.  To the news.  People who know me, know I do not watch the news.  I find life depressing enough.  But there it was, the news and I watched.  Just in time to see the second plane hit.

I sat down on the floor in front of the television and stared in disbelief.  The cat who belonged in the house came to see what I was doing.  She sat beside me and looked in the direction of the TV without comprehension.  So did I.  I drove to work, listening to the radio for information rather than music for the first time ever.  That day, we sat and watched the television coverage for hours.  It seemed to never end.

It changed us, that day.  Suddenly we knew the world was not the place we thought it was

And now, it amazes us when someone is too young to remember or cannot recall where they were that fateful day.  I wonder if that is how the other generation felt when people stopped using JFK as an anchor point.  Like the youth had lost an important learning experience and cannot possibly know what the world is really about.  And somehow, disappointed that they too will have to learn.


  1. I worked the night shift September 10th, 2001. A slightly different night shift from the one that I work now, so I was home and in bed by 7AM. I had the TV on one of the specialty cable channels, likely "Comedy", so even if I had been tossing and turning and been aware of what was on the TV, it would have been just been something like Win Ben Stein's Money or a 10 year old episode of Just For Laughs.

    I woke up at 2 in the afternoon and grabbed my remote to change the channel to watch Star Trek (at the time it was on one of the Eastern CTV channels in the afternoon, when they didn't yet have an entire afternoon of Oprah and friends). The first thing I saw was the 2 towers burning, then one fall and immediately after the other one fall and I thought to myself, "Great, a trailer for another shitty disaster movie" but then I noticed the news crawl across the bottom of the screen...and the horrific images didn't stop after 30 seconds. I got the entire day's news in one giant 5 minute mindf#@k package. Both of the Twin Towers gone. The Pentagon, heavily damaged and on fire. Another plane crashed in a field in rural Pennsylvania. Thousands of people missing and presumed dead. Airspace over all of North America closed until further notice.

    It was very literally waking up to a new world where things might not ever be the same again.

  2. JFK - Grade 10, on the skating rink at Leipzig School. Hugh Quigley (
    Grade 9) came back from lunch early with tears streaming down his face.

    Henderson's Goal - glued to the TV set in HBC store, Inuvik, as were the entire staff and all customers.

    9-11 - in the air over Lake Nicaragua, flying home from Panama. Took another week to actually get home.

    There was a Far Side cartoon with all the animals in the forest remembering where they were when Bambi's mother was shot.

  3. I was in junior high current events class watching the spaceship take off and trying very hard NOT to watch the cute boy in front of me when there was a whooshing noise and the Challenger blew up in little bits.

    It felt like there was no air in the room - I think we all drew in breath at the same time - and most of us , my crusty old teacher included, started crying.

    I spent most of September 11th clutching my 38 week pregnant belly and begging Cass NOT to come out. I really thought the next step was a huge, full-scale battle on the streets of N.Y., and I just wanted to go home.

  4. Erik was five. He was always the first one awake in those days. I remember him calling to me and telling me there weren't any cartoons on. I went to the living room to fix whatever was wrong with the tv and ended up standing in front of it in complete disbelief as the second plane hit. When I actually figured out that this was real, I yelled for Darren to come see what was going on. I cried.

    I cried a lot that day as I watched tv at home. I cried for those poor people who lost their lives in such a horrific way, I cried for people whose families would never be complete again and I cried for my children because I knew that life as we knew it, with an unfailing feeling of security, was now at an end. When Lindsay and Erik got home from school that day, I hugged them a lot.

  5. This post totally made me tear up. I have been thinking about the role history plays in our lives as well. I was ready for University early that morning and turned on the TV because for once my annoying roommate didn't have Nickelback blaring. I too saw the second plane hit.

    It definitely shook my faith in humanity. That Sunday I went to church for the first time in 5 years.

    I also remember where I was when Princess Di died. I was sitting in my car leaving Edgefest in Saskatoon and my bff and I bawled and bawled.


  6. When Princess Diana died, I was on a Debenham Camping weekend.

    When September 11 happened, I was not in school. Stopped off at the library and saw the first plane on the news there, and then went to the orthepedic's office and saw the second plane on the news there.

  7. I'll always remember 9/11. I was teaching that day and got a phone call from my mother saying we had lost my dad. He was supposed to have flown from Japan to New York to meet in the World Trade Center tower at Morgan Stanley. (But he didn't!!!!) It took twelve hours to figure out that she was actually calling to tell me that the State Department was checking flights to see where American nationals were and the flight from Japan had been delayed and they had LOST him. Misplaced kind of lost--not dead kind of lost. After twelve hours, they located him at Narita airport in Japan and we received a phone call from the American embassy in Tokyo letting us know that he was safe. For more reasons than one, that was the longest day of my life. I still think about it often and have a very real reminder of how awful and abrupt it must have been for families whose loved ones really were at that meeting at Morgan Stanley.

    It was God's protection over his life...and ours...but it marked me in a very permanent way.

  8. Princess Di - I was sitting in our trailer feeding my little baby boy. I remember hugging him and crying.

    9/11 - I was taking Matt to Preschool. We were sitting at a red light in Lethbridge when my cell phone rang and Ben told me that the first tower had been hit. I accused him of a very bad (and late) April Fools joke. I turned on the radio and cried the rest of the way to Preschool where I informed the teachers and other parents. I remember thinking that the world as we knew it was gone in that one instant!

    I also remember where I was when Elvis died. I was watching "Another World" curled up in a big comfy chair in our living room. My Mom was in the washroom at the time of the announcement. I called to her that Elvis had died. She replied that there was no Elvis on that show! I said, "No, ELVIS died." I cried ... she didn't come out of the washroom for a long time. I was 16 years old.

  9. Your story is similar to mine. I was going to the gym and decided I'd flip on the news before I went, which I never did, and, just like you, saw the second plane hit. I never went to the gym. I worked at a TV station then and that evening we all sat in the operations room and just stared at all the different news feeds coming in, not talking. I remember feeling really scared. Sadly, the small amount of religious faith that I had at the time left completely that day and I can't seem to get it back no matter how hard I try. I thankfully didn't lose a loved one like many many people that day but I still feel a pretty big sense of loss.

    Great post. Really well said.


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