Where were you when the bombs happened? In Jericho’s (my current favorite TV show) universe, 15 years from now, that will be the ultimate –and only- Where Were You question, one to overshadow 9/11 or Princess Diana’s death or Britney Spears’ VMA performance.
In the real world, that one catalyst event is or course 9/11. At least here in North America. So come every September 11th, I always run into a bunch of people asking me that question – where was I? What was I doing right before I heard about it? It IS a horrible and unforgettable event, but in all honesty, I hardly remember what I was doing. It always takes me a good long minute to recollect I was nursing a spectacular hangover, and I was just lying on my couch, trying to find a channel that didn’t broadcast smoking towers. If memory serves, it took me about 10 channels to realize something big had happened.
Again, it IS a horrible event that I always regard with sadness and seriousness. But it didn’t happen with all the confluence of the place, smells, lighting, mood and everything else that just wraps up around the event to make it into a time-frozen image in my mind. I’ve only ever had three of those moments, in my entire life (one of which ain't any of your business, a'ight???).
The first one happened in early 1990. Bear in mind that it was before the Internet, or Eminem, or American Idol. The SNES was reigning king of game consoles, Indiana Jones was still after the Last Crusade in some theatres, and Nelson Mandela was finally getting out of Prison.
I was visiting one of the Province’s prominent newspapers on a school trip, and I was just like a kid in a candy store! All the things I learned, I could write a whole darn book with (if you’re hooked on the Astrology section, don’t ask me how they do it, you’ll regret it). At one point, we get into a room where some kind of machine (again, before the Internet) would receive pictures taken by news agencies around the world. The tour guide is babbling away, and I’m just subtly looking at the day’s arrival, when the machine starts humming and loudly buzzing at the same time. The teacher snarls at me, my best buddy elbows me, I’m frozen on the image arriving and the guide is smiling – The buzzing indicated something that HAD to go to the editor right away. The picture takes it’s time getting out. It’s long, it’s huge, it’s black & white. There’s a hand, in the air, followed by a face, a huge smile, more hands and faces, and…a big piece of a broken wall.
Right before I became a man, I saw, arriving in Canada, the first picture taken at the fall of the Berlin wall. For kids today, that wall means nothing. For previous generations, it was a watershed moment that signalled anything being possible in the new decade.
I was in a newsroom when the wall was taken down.
The second moment emanated from a personal event. I was just finished with a very gruelling shift at work, and a bunch of colleagues decided to go for a beer (in my case, it was never just A beer). My wife was at home waiting for me, but I was a grown man, and could do whatever the heck I wanted to wind down. So the pals and I are walking the few hundred yards from work to brew when my cell phone rings. My wife had to call me to tell me the news, ‘cause we were always working or sleeping and hardly had time for long conversations. She had to call me to tell me she was pregnant. We’d been trying for almost two years, but nothing was happening so we both just forgot about it. I hadn’t even noticed the recent morning sickness or the increasing amount of food she ingested. My wife had to call me to break the news. I turned around, stopped at the flower shop, and made for home as fast as I could (I didn’t know that up to the third quarter you could still…oh never mind).
I was on my way to grab a beer when I learned I’d be a dad. I didn’t grab it, not then, nor after, never. I stopped drinking completely for the sake of my wife and kids. Where were YOU when something affected you enough to change your entire life around?