Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You..?

I remember the terror.

We were sent home early that day, in light of the news.  Dad was at work across town, and Mom was occupied with my baby brother and couldn't walk over to get me.

No, I had to walk home alone.

I remember the fear that overtook me, making my walk home that much longer.  My legs shook as I fought to process the news.  My hands clutching the white envelope I was to give my mother.  I wished it were the sun causing me to sweat so bad.

I had nightmares of debris raining down on me for days afterwards.  I would wake up in a cold sweat, shivering.

The day was July 10th, 1979.

I was six years old.



My stomach was queasy that morning.

For some reason, it was especially bad that day.

I remember thinking how I should have had a couple of slices of toast instead of that second helping of Corn Flakes.

I walked to my locker, grabbed my Social Studies and Science notebooks, and headed to homeroom.  As both subjects were taught by our homeroom teacher, we'd be spending all morning there.

I was rather excited because, as a special treat, we were going to watch the big event (or at least parts of it) on TV.  The big TV cart was set up at the front of the class, the custodian just getting ready to plug it in.

Everyone was standing around talking.  I remember thinking something was wrong, because Mr. Sawiak would have our heads if we weren't sitting in our seats when he walked into class.

My friend Byron saw me enter the room, raised his arms in a victory pose, and exclaimed, "The world's a better place,"  his porcine face turning red with excitement, "Another teacher is dead!"

My heart sank.  I knew what he meant.



My alarm clock didn't go off.

It was nearly 8am, and I instantly regretted the previous night.

I ran to the bathroom, splashed some water on my face, and tried my best to rinse the taste of the previous night's martinis from my mouth.

I struggled to remember where last night's companion was... vaguely remembering a taxi, a sloppy kiss goodnight, and a slight twinge of guilt.

I got dressed in a hurry and grabbed my keys.  The last thing I heard before shutting off the TV was news of a terrible accident involving a passenger jet.

I sprinted to my Daytona, popped in a CD, and sped off to work.

Traffic seemed to be on the light side... unusual for this time of year, what with the kids back in school and all.

I pulled into the parking lot and, as I walked to the building, I overheard two of the guys from the coffee roaster next door... something about another plane.

The boss didn't seem to notice that I was fifteen minutes late.  Again.

My warehouse co-hort quickly brought me up to speed.  We spent the day glued to the TV and internet, hungry for more information.

It would prove to be our slowest business day ever.



Our power of recall is a funny thing.

It amuses me how we can all recall "where we were" and "what we were doing" on "that fateful day", usually in great detail... but rarely what we were doing on any other day of our lives.  I could delve into the inner workings of our psyche and possibly tie it into our collective consciousness, but I'm tired and really can't be bothered with research.

Anyway...

Skylab de-orbitted and fell to Earth in July of 1979.  Nobody seemed to know where it would land... in a panic, our daycare called each of our parents to let them know we were being sent home early.  The daycare was at my elementary school a couple of blocks from our house, so I was to walk home.  I'd made the same walk all year, so it wasn't a big deal.

I was terrified...  the likelihood of Skylab falling on my head (let alone Winnipeg) was infinitessimal, but to a six year old with an overactive imagination it was a very real, near certain, possibility.  Why else would they have sent us home?  I barely ate that evening, and it took forever to get me to sleep.

Skylab eventually fell that night... on parts of Australia.  No doubt giving some Aussie kids nightmares as well.

I was in the 7th grade at Ken Seaford Junior High when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after launch.  We were going to watch the event live on TV, as one of the crew, American teacher Christa McAuliffe, was part of an educational program called Teachers in Space.  Our teacher thought it would be a neat experience, as a tie-in to the unit we were working on in Science class.

Unfortunately, we ended up watching news footage of the disaster instead.  The sense of shock was palpable, and I don't think any of us left that classroom the same.

I remember feeling for years afterwards that the disaster robbed us of a great learning opportunity in the Teachers In Space project.  I mean, how cool would it have been to spend our Junior and High School lives watching lessons taught from SPACE?!

Assuming, of course, the Seven Oaks School Division #10 would have splurged... as it stands, the only other memorable event of my high school years was the Meech Lake Accord.

Today, we mark the 12th Anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

If it weren't for the terrorist attacks,  I'd probably have forgotten the previous night's date (an unremarkable one night stand).  I'd probably forget buying and assembling a microwave cart I'd bought at Wal-Mart that day, and the stylist probably wouldn't have given me a loving "Take care of yourself, now" after cutting my hair.

I remember a lot of rumours, speculation, and out-and-out bat-shittery being broadcast that day.  I remember the only outrage I felt was when a woman requested the April Wine song Enough is Enough in order to send the terrorists a message...

Because lines like:

You fill me up, until I get enough
Oh girl you fill me up, can't you see that
You're my girl, and enough is enough
Baby, you're my girl, and enough is enough 


are totally in context, and a strong rebuke from a local yokel will result in the terrorists giving pause to reflect.

I remember the conspiracy theories hatching and propagating, the near-complete lack of activity in our business complex, and the traffic snarl on Brookside Blvd as the Mounties fought to keep the gawkers, enticed by the marked increase in air traffic, away from the airport.

I remember watching Wolf Blitzer on CNN as I put together my microwave cart, my internet connection being slowed to a crawl, ordering a pizza that took several hours to arrive, and the horror I felt as I watched, for the first time, footage of people jumping from the Twin Towers to their deaths.

Some flapping their arms wildly as if, by some miracle, they'd be able to fly.  It was then that it all hit me... the human cost of the tragedy.

I'll never forget.