Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Where Were You?

by Janis Patterson/Janis Susan May

Last week we marked the tragic anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on our country. I can tell you exactly where I was when I first heard the news – sipping coffee and listening to the radio in the back yard after The Husband left for work, appreciating the lovely weather and our hopeful garden. I will wager that every other American of an age to take notice at that time can tell you where they were, too.

It is sad that we must mark the milestones of time with such tragic memories. I wasn’t born when the attack on Pearl Harbor catapulted us into WWII, but my parents’ generation and the ones before it to a person could tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news that changed our world forever.

Same with the assassination of JFK. Whether you loved him or hated him, his death, perhaps more particularly the manner of his death, created an inescapable wound on our national psyche. Everyone I know can say exactly where they were and what they were doing at that fateful moment. I was sitting in my senior English class, disgruntledly worrying with some obscure conjugation problem that seemed dreadfully important at the time. For what it’s worth, I still have never mastered the subjunctive and can barely spell it. I can remember sitting there stunned as the principal, his voice shaking and brimming with incipient tears, read the horrid news over the loudspeaker. We all sat in an unprecedented silence, broken only by some soft sobbing, the heretofore important English exercise forgotten on our desks. School was over for the rest of that week, though we had to sit in silence until the regular release time.

Another memory of a school interruption for a cultural milestone, though a happier one. I remember sitting in my junior high science class listening to the radio broadcast of John Glenn’s spaceflight, the first time man had ever orbited the earth. This was the stuff of science fiction, a perceived gateway to a brighter and better future – one to which we have unfortunately not lived up – and our principal thought we should learn this turning point of history by participating in it through listening as it happened instead of reading about it later. I remember an entire school of youngsters all uncharacteristically silent, hanging on the commentator’s overblown words.

Same thing with the moon landing. My parents and I had been to San Antonio to visit an aunt and, on the way back, listened to the radio as practically every final inch of the space flight was described. Knowing that we would never make it home to see the actual landing on TV, we stopped at a Hillshire Farms café (I think that was the name) and sat there for what seemed like hours, glued to their tv as the space capsule finally settled onto the surface of the moon. History, indeed.
Perhaps less globally impacting but still possessing an emotional punch, I can remember other tragedies and where I was when the news came through. John Lennon’s murder – a party. Princess Grace’s unexpected death – visiting a friend. I was never a particular fan of Lennon, but Princess Grace’s death hit me hard. (She was the icon of my set – an idol to be emulated, though we were all too wise to ever aspire to match her incredible beauty and style.) Likewise I can tell you where I was when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in mid-air and, decades earlier, the submarine Thresher vanished. I can remember the wave of fear I felt when the razor’s edge of the Cuban Missile Crisis was revealed in its naked danger of our own extinction and the moment the first Gulf War was declared.

There are others, and I’m sure everyone has their own ‘right now, right here’ never to be forgotten moments. Some of yours will doubtless be different from mine, but there are always those – 9/11, Pearl Harbor, et al – that are merciless engraved on our collective consciousness. And that is not totally bad, for those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.

My publishing blitz is going apace, in spite of laggardly distributors and positively malign computers. Enough said on both subjects, or I shall become prodigiously profane. This fortnight’s offering is THE AVENGING MAID, a re-release of a traditional Regency Romance with a shiny new cover and a thorough re-editing as well as a never-before-done paperback. If the publishing gods permit, it should be available on all major outlets, but after this week of slow uploading and sometimes clueless customer help personnel, I’m not guaranteeing anything.

It is, however, a fun read about a fashionable young miss who – in spite of the risk to both her reputation and her life – goes to work as a scullery maid at the school where her brother died in order to find out the truth about his death. She does not expect to fall in love with one of the masters, a mysterious man who may or may not be part of the evil there.


Cathy Shouse said...

That's an interesting premise for a mystery! Best of luck with it and may the publishing elves behave for you.

Susan Macatee said...

I witnessed it live on TV, Janis! I was also home alone. My husband was working and my three sons were all in school. I was working out, riding my stationary bike and watching the Today Show.

I wasn't around either for Pearl Harbor, but remember being in the third grade when our school principal came in and announced that President Kennedy had been shot and killed.

I also witnessed the Challenger explosion first hand on TV while my two babies slept.

Most of the other tragedies I learned about on the news, but when Princess Diana was killed, we were on vacation in the mountains and didn't hear about it until days later when we arrived home.

It's those shocking and momentous moments, though, that stand out in everyone's memory, no matter how young or old.

Great post!

E. Ayers said...

I was home sick the day Kennedy was shot. So I saw it all on TV. There were so many things that happened in the 60's. But watching the moon landing was a so-so event for me. I grew up watching the space program so it was the next logical step.

But to my grandmother is was everything! She was born before there were airplanes and flight was a fanciful dream. She sat there like a child glued to the TV. She was over the top with excitement. I think that's when it dawned on me just how important it was.

I doubt most young people today could even tell you when Pearl Harbor was attacked. 9-11 sticks because of our emergency 9-1-1 phone system.

Maybe it's not so much the dates that we need to remember but the events and the meaning behind the dates. Seems there's always a new cataclysmic event to over shadow something before it. I'd hate to ponder what else might happen in my lifetime.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

We still had one son at home at the time and he was getting ready for work. He called our attention to the TV and we were shocked. You're right, as with JFK's assassination, it's something you never forget.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

We had the TV on so saw it as it happened. Horrific. With Kennedy's assassination, I as home, but had the TV on--kept it on. And I was a kid for Pearl Harbor--but heard about the attack on the radio with the family.

Anonymous said...

Don't ask me what I did last weekend, but I vividly remember the events you mentioned, Susan, and could tell you where I was each time and what I was doing. We have experienced a good number of historical and tragic events in our lifetime, that's for sure.

Jan Christensen said...

It is amazing when we look back at all the historic events we witnessed, some in living color in our own living rooms. Like most people, I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when they happened. The Challenger one was particularly odd. We were in the area where it crashed on a road trip, and glued to the radio as we drove. New Hampshire for 9/11, Germany for JFK. At work for the moon landing. And so on.

Susan said...

Something I didn't mention about the JFK assassination - many years later I served on a Grand Jury panel with James Lavelle, the 'man in the white suit' who was escorting Oswald from the police station when he was shot by Ruby. A friendly man who talked openly about those days, Lavelle brought his handcuffs for us to see - the very handcuffs that Oswald was wearing when he was shot. Talk about holding history in your hand!

Susan, also known as Janis Susan

Larion aka Larriane Wills said...

I was watching tv and thought it had some how switched to some movie. as the horror set in, the tears started. I still can watch the programs on it.