Thursday, September 11, 2014

I remember when, I remember, I remember... when in the course of human events

Today, the 13th anniversary of the tragic September 11th/nine-eleven/World Trade Center however-you-personally-like-to-say-it terrorist attacks on multiple U.S. cities that caused the deaths of thousands, has turned into a veritable "Where I was when" fest on the ol' Facebook. Rather than add to that with a mere status update, I thought I'd give a quiz about where I was during some of the big news events of the Generation X Lifetime. I'll tell you my vivid memory of where I was when... and you see if you can determine what newsworthy event happened when I remember Where I Was When it happened.  (Small prize to the winner!)
note: events are in chronological order, which might help you figure them out...

1. Phoenix. Home sick from elementary school that day. Watching an Indiana Jones flick, I think on, like, The Movie Channel, in our Villa Rita house living room when Grandma called to see if we were watching the news. Since we weren't, she informed my mother what had happened, and needless to say Mom hurried in, shut off the movie, and turned to some broadcast network or other. How will I ever know what happened to Indy, mom?!?! Does he vanquish the enemy and get the girl and save the treasure or what? Before Setpember 11th, this event was often described as "my generation's" Kennedy-assassination-like moment, but I am going to demonstrate here that I remember where I was when I heard other news, too. This was the first biggie for people of a certain age (mine), though.

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

2. Phoenix. Chez Marcia, one of my high-school best friends. Watching a little after-school Jeopardy (nerds then, nerds now, nerds forever!) on the small TV set her family had on the kitchen/breakfast nook counter. A breaking news alert meant we never did get that final jeopardy answer, but instead watched several hours of harrowing reporting from people who were indeed in real jeopardy.  (Now both Harrison Ford AND Alex Trebek have been interrupted. Is nothing sacred?)

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

3. Provo, Utah. Walked into my friend Ranj's apartment and I distinctly remember being on the stairs next to her kitchen and she poked her head into the stairway to announce the news. She was either on the phone with her younger sister or had just got off the phone; said little sister had been plunged deep into mourning, for she had apparently just recently been to a concert where he waved at her... (She was probably already wearing black, though, to the best of my recollection of her wardrobe.)

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

4. Back in Phoenix. Working at Best Western's reservations call center one seemingly normal evening, and suddenly the call volume just plummets. Nothing. The phone lines aren't dead, but nothing's coming in. Finally a guy calls, and as we're checking out his double room and continental breakfast options, he asks, "Are you watching this?"  I warily reply, "Watching...what?" Ahhhh. That explains it. I had a 15-minute break coming up; naturally, everyone in the break room downstairs was glued to the TV. Not that there was really anything happening, but that was kind of the point of this one. What was going to happen? Anything? Just keep moving, as they say.

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

5. Phoenix. Listening to the radio this time, at home in the apartment I lived in with my mom on Thunderbird, getting ready to leave for class. I was an avid listener of the 106.3 The Edge morning show with Jayn Sayd and Dead Air Dave (Willobee having left for greener L.A. pastures). They read the news and I altered my morning radio routine just a little by turning on the living room TV to get some visuals and more details, though I kept the radio playing in the bedroom. And I totally remember lots of "Who's the Muslim?" speculation. (Not necessarily on the part of Jayn and Dave, just people in general.)

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

6. Phoenix, but just in town visiting, staying with Mom at her 19th Avenue apartment. Very recently returned from Cuba (by like a week), I was trying to practice my Spanish one night. We were watching this already-starting-to-develop story on TV, and I had insisted on keeping it on the Spanish news channel for a bit, so I could impress myself with my new language listening skills, as opposed to my previous growing-up-in-Phoenix life in which I had always cruised right by the noticias en espaƱol. Well, I was letting the details wash over me aurally when suddenly the newscaster upped the ante and I sat bolt upright. "Mom!" I said, then repeated (in English) the devastating new detail in all its finality, adding, "I think that's what he said?!"  She quickly flipped to an English news station, which confirmed the sad news.

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

7. Los Angeles. I had bizarrely fallen asleep with the TV on the night before, which was weird because at that time of my life I rarely if ever watched TV, let alone fell asleep with it on overnight. I had been drowsily continuing to sleep and drift with no real awareness of what the morning newscasts were saying until a sudden noise and clamor on the television was enough to jar me awake, around 7 a.m.. Took one look at the screen and then jumped out of bed and ran to look out the window, sure I was going to see bombs raining down from the sky over L.A., or some such thing.

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

8. Boston. It was a Sunday morning and I was on my way to work at Borders, which entailed me taking a quick bus ride from my house to Harvard station, stopping by the in-subway little Dunkin' Donuts for my coffee, then proceeding through the station to catch the red line of the T. The station had that sleepy Sunday morning feel, with only alternative-shift kind of commuters like myself passing through. I'm not sure I'd ever noticed that there even were little TV sets anywhere in that station, but that day I realized the Dunkin' Donuts workers were watching this oh-so-satisfactory-to-many announcement.

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

9. Andong, Korea. Way ahead of many of you time-of-day-wise, it was Monday morning for us. Brian and I were at home in our apartment, working on our various things. We often had CNN International on in the background, while also both being online; I was likely writing up and researching stuff for, with multiple tabs open, and one of them was probably Facebook. In other words, the news suddenly came at us from several sources at once, but I definitely stepped out of our "study"/spare room into the living room where the TV was (and where Brian was) and we watched some footage of, as Brian called it (referencing his girl Miley), the "party in the U.S.A."

News Event? ______________  Year?  __________

10. Honorable mention: These two bits of breaking news weren't quite as major, no offense intended, but are memorable and particularly so for me because I was basically in the same place and circumstances, two years apart, for these eerily similar announcements. Both times, Brian and I were staying in our same beloved apartment-hotel in Phuket, Thailand. Both times, it just so happened that the TV was on with news in the background, I was focused on doing other stuff on my laptop, and Brian was lying  on the bed. Both times, the news appeared (thank goodness in English) on the screen and I said to Brian, "Hey, ________ Ho----n died!"  Both times, a similar tragic cause of death of not-that-far-apart-in-age people. 

News Events? _______________   Years? ___________

Well, ladies and gents, how did you do on the quiz?  And do you remember where you were when these things happened? 

Isn't it interesting to consider that in the course of all these newsworthy events, and despite my other ways of getting the news on multiple occasions, my reaction was always to get more details from television news? Talkin' bout my generation...I guess that's just how we do. (Some other generations do that, too.) Although I have logged fewer television-watching hours than many of my Gen-X cohorts, I recognize its place as a sort of "gathering" place for us all to watch, hear, learn, and experience when earth-shattering news happens. I used to think of breaking news on television as a kind of proxy for a town square, or suburban street, or dorm hallway, where instead of rushing out to say, "Oh my gosh, neighbors! This news!" we all watch from our own homes/workplaces and collectively experience it that way, and later talk face-to-face and remember together what we watched separately and yet kind of together. I suppose Facebook is kind of sort of where we do that now, although Facebook itself is still not really breaking news to us, just alerting us to "trending" things that we are all putting up there, news that we got from somewhere else first. Would I prefer to experience these things on my smartphone, tablet, or other handheld device? Abso-!@#$^&-lutely not. The time element is key: whatever was being broadcast over the airwaves, it was being broadcast at that time, and though some might have tuned in earlier than others, we then watched our many minutes or hours or days of coverage as they unfolded. Watching uploaded videos individually on our phones at our leisure removes that transmission (I'm sorry, millennials, should I say that "streaming"?) element from the collective experience. And although I have never really had to get earth-shattering news from the morning newspaper headlines, I definitely of an age where I liked to look to the morning paper for the details, the full story, the yellow ribbon on top of the front page of The Arizona Republic when the hostages in Iran were released (I was a tiny tyke -- that and John Lennon's death are basically the first news events that I remember, ever), or the Christmas Day end of the Soviet Union (who wants to blare TV news on Christmas? but reading the paper surrounded by a tree and opened presents seemed all right...)   I'm pretty sure I saved a few major The-Next-Day newspapers over the years, although I might have eventually recycled them, as I didn't find them while we were unpacking here in our new apartment in Chicago. We do have a television, though, and we watched Obama last night, talking to the nation about air strikes and ISIL...and so it goes, and so it goes.


Gene B. said...

Based on the hints I can only guess #3, which I take to be the announcement of John Lennon's assassination in 1980. It's one of my I-know-where-I-was events too, but you seem to have more of them than I do. 13 years ago I could tell from overheard snatches on the bus that something had happened, but I didn't find out what until I got to Borders.

linda said...

Nahhhh, John Lennon is too early/Baby Boomer-y (haha! I am using these generational labels tongue-in-cheek just for you, you know!) The "voice of my generation" (ahem) who died didn't dress quite as nicely, and his wife *certainly* didn't, although both wives had a certain way of getting media attention (and still do). I updated the post with a couple more "hints" but really you might have to know about my early life to locate what decade we're in, so I'll just say: this starts in the '80s and proceeds chronologically.