Wednesday, 27 August 2008

What was one doing when...?

I've been invited to recall what I was doing when I heard of the following events.

Princess Diana's death - 31 August 1997
I was camping in a field near Stratford-upon-Avon. Prior to packing up the tent, I switched on my car radio.

Instantly aware that something wasn't right - why was James Naughtie presenting the news on a Sunday?

Tone of voice suggested a death. For a few seconds, I don't know why, I thought that Mother Theresa had gone aloft. And then Naughtie confirmed Diana's death.

Margaret Thatcher's resignation - 22 November 1990
A headteachers' meeting re the National Curriculum, near Andover, I think. Cold afternoon.

A tubby headteacher announced the news at end of the meeting. Majority of those attending applauded, which I could understand - but felt was rather mean-spirited.

Attack on the twin towers - 11 September 2001
I was at work. A colleague heard news from a friend via a phone call.

The BBC website was not working and I went to my car to hear the report confirmed. At this point neither tower had collapsed.

I called my brother in Boston, Mass, to check that he and his wife were all right.

I felt overwhelmed.

In the evening I went and sat quietly in Coventry Cathedral.

It's of no consequence, but kind New York friends once took me to brunch in the Windows on the World restaurant at the top of one of the towers. Windows on milk that day - we were in the clouds.

England's World Cup Semi Final v Germany in - 4 July 1990
Er, so sorry. God didn't give me the appropriate gene for this one.

Why couldn't the question have been about the 1966 World Cup Final?

President Kennedy's Assassination - 22 November 1963
I guess, for my generation, the head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest event.

I was thirteen and in the study hall at boarding school near Bath doing 'evening prep' - so the time was between six and eight o'clock on that Friday evening.

My friend Andrew McNinch was called out to take a phone call. Passing my desk on his return he whispered: 'Kennedy's been shot.'

I think that our housemaster confirmed the news at the end of prep.

The next day my brothers and I went home, for a planned two-day visit.

News bulletin followed news bulletin. The images: the motorcade sweeping through Dallas in clear sunshine; the jolt following the shot; Mrs Kennedy turning and reaching out towards the Secret Service agent and pulling him into the car.

And later, the swearing-in of Lyndon Baines Johnson aboard Air Force One. Mrs Kennedy beside him, still wearing the same blood-spattered outfit.

On the Saturday evening we watched the first episode of a brand-new TV series called 'Dr Who'.

Sunday evening brought the news of the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.

Prayers in our church, of course for the first Roman Catholic president.

Of no consequence, but C S Lewis and Aldous Huxley died on the same day as JFK.

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