Where were you the day that…..?
My husband remembers the exact moment he watched the lunar landing live on tv. My friend remembers watching the first bricks of the Berlin Wall being removed. My ex watched footage of Kennedy’s assassination so often, I’m sure he had a picture so clear that could rival the recollection of some who were there in person.
Where were you when…?
Of course there were news events that shaped me when I was growing up, bloody hell, there was chronic starvation and drought, long running wars in far off countries, miner strikes and Irish/UK ‘troubles’. Scargill and Thatcher, anger and protests. Elvis died when I was 7, I remember my mom having tears on her cheeks. John Lennon, dear dear John Lennon even in my ten year old head, it felt really really wrong to hear a musician was assassinated….
Who assassinates musicians?
But I digress…
There were many big news days in my youth, but I always watched them with Dad. Dad was the news man.
My younger sister and I, when we were quite little, used to find the whole night news ritual unbearably funny. We’d try ever so hard to sit quietly while dad watched the news but inevitably the giggles would start and he would shush us in escalating shushes until we’d be sent out the room (attendance wasn’t mandatory) but then, the hall wasn’t where we wanted to be so we’d quickly be calm, we’d return, we’d be momentarily engage and then once more we’d struggle to keep a straight face, then we’d laugh aaaand then — repeat to fade.
I remember now so vividly, Dad’s face smiling at the light hearted relief the news team would leave till the end, I remember him keenly jotting down the football results to see if his bet in ‘The Pools’ had yielded a bonus, I remember the resigned look when he’d philosophically accept that the win didn’t happen but so what, the ritual would begin again and it was the ritual that helped. Dad liked ritual.
The nightly news report was -I struggle to find the right word — ‘harsh’. It seems inadequate but it”s the best I can do. The dramatic music the BBC began with, the *dong*s of Big Ben being the punctuation for all the serious headlines of the day followed by the stern-ness of the newsreaders as they delivered the world as it was to our lounge. News then was no better than it is now, I was just too young to grasp the depth of sadness that it meant for humanity.
I always heard the news with Dad. I didn’t realise how reassuring it was to have him there until he wasn’t there anymore, my first line of defence against the nightly display of man’s inhumanity to man.
I’ve missed him every day since he left. I still regularly wear his jumpers and T shirt, almost 15 years since I inherited them, now frayed around the collar and worn around the elbows but still, my one way of having a hug from dad, wrapped in his jumper as a poor substitution for his wonderful warmth.
On this one moment though, this one earthshattering future changing moment, I missed him most.
It was an exciting day for me. I wished Dad could have been there. I desperately wanted to tell him how cool it was that I’d driven a tractor, and a dumper truck and a 32 tonne compactor as I tramped back to the bothy so pleased with my self and yet so sad that I wouldn’t be able to share it with him. As I got closer to it, I saw all the rest of the team rushing inside, there was clearly something very very wrong.
I, like everyone else who rushed to the bothy, stopped dead at the door while the H&S crew in front of us stood in stunned silence — all apart from one, who had turned away and was leaning on a colleague’s shoulder as she sobbed. My eyes followed the direction of everyones stares, from their transfixed faces contorted in disbelief, or shock, or horror, as the footage of the twin towers — engulfed in smoke — filled that room until it was stifling.
I’d watched my dad process bad news so many times, I’d watched him scoff, I’d watched him scorn, I heard him rant/dismiss/debate and sometimes I watched his shoulders slump in sadness. I watched him look upon us all after-ward, perhaps he felt like I do now, dread, dread for what awaits our children. But I had watched it all in the comfort of our safe warm lounge and in his care until that day. That day, in the cold stark tin cup cabin with twenty unfamiliar faces. That was when I missed him most desperately.
Until that moment, I had constantly wished he were still alive.
Dear Dad, I’m glad you weren’t here on September 11th. 2001 and I’m so very glad you haven’t seen what we have become since.