Where Were You When . . . ?

Space Shuttle Challenger ' s smoke plume after...

Image via Wikipedia

25 years ago today the Challenger exploded in the sky, creating a fireball of true devastation. A friend reminded me about this on Facebook, after she heard a story on NPR.

This got me thinking about the key moments that mark our lives. The moments that people say, “Where were you when . . . ?”

When I was a (really) little girl, I vaguely recall those conversations beginning with “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” But that really wasn’t a moment in my life.

The moments for those questions reflect on the greater history of our lives, and our reactions to those moments reflect on us as individuals.

Where was I when the Challenger exploded? I was in French class and they brought televisions into the classrooms so we could watch. I remember crying as the fireball burned. One of my favorite teacher’s from school had applied to be on that shuttle. She wasn’t selected (thankfully) but my heart broke for the teacher who was and for her family.

Where was I during the Blizzard of ’78, a blizzard that impacted areas of the East Coast for at least a week, if not longer. I remember being sent home early from school the day it began. The snow swirled around my feet as I walked back from the bus stop. The speed of snow gathering was amazing and beautiful. Of course, as a kid, the impact of a snow day or snow week was much more about the joy of not having to go to school and opportunities to play in piles of snow so high that they reached the second story windows. But, I also remember neighbors helping neighbors as we walked to the only open nearby store for supplies, dragging a sled behind us.

Where was I when on 9/11? I was watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie in Poultney,  VT as I did not have to go into teach until later that day. I remember the screen changing to the shocking scene of a plane hitting a tower followed by a scream coming from my own voice as I burst into tears. I remember thinking, “Oh my god! This means war! I don’t want that.” That day, that week, and that month became surreal since we were close enough to NYC to have students who lost family or whose parents were firefighters. Of course, that event itself is one of the defining events of our country at the moment. I can never watch Little House on the Prairie with quite the same relaxed laziness.

Where was I when Obama was sworn in? Like millions of others I was in front of the tv, wishing I could be there in person. Things may not have gone quite the way I had hoped on that day, but I still have HOPE. I’m not ready to completely give up on this country yet.

I’m sure I am missing many crucial events that define the world. What are they. How would you fill in the question “Where were you when . . . ?”

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thepetalpusher
    Jan 27, 2011 @ 19:33:06

    We were living in Iwakuni, Japan, at the time. I was in 6th grade. My siblings were getting ready for school when I heard the news on the radio. I alerted everyone to the news. Ironically, when his brother Edward was assassinated, I heard it on the radio in the morning and woke everyone else up. On 9/11, I saw one of the teachers run past my door. Then the news spread. We were all in shock–not knowing what was happening. Parents began pulling their children from school–also not knowing what was happening. You just never forget those moments.


    • Lisa
      Jan 27, 2011 @ 21:51:24

      I’m sure that hearing such disturbing news far from home adds to the surreal reaction. I remember when I was living in Okayama, Japan the Northridge Earthquake hit California. My sister lived in LA and I couldn’t reach her for several days. It was scary. Another powerful moment in my life.


  2. nathan010
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 06:56:55

    I was in Hawaii when this happened. I don’t remember much, but there was a big watching of the launch because one of the astronauts was from the big island of Hawaii. It was a mournful day if not month.


  3. Founder of Changesational
    Jan 28, 2011 @ 19:04:46

    Hey Lisa,
    Interesting post! These moments in history do stick firmly in all our minds and I sometimes find myself telling my kids about ‘where I was, when such and such (an event that they may have heard about, but not actually experienced) happened’ so they can relate to these events personally.

    I think they will remember them, because of the stories I tell, and not only because of a date, time and description someone gave them.

    I guess this is a purpose that all of our personal recollections serve – of adding to the stories we live with, giving us a point of reference to these important points in time.
    Very interesting topic, Lisa. Thanks for posting about it!


    • Lisa
      Jan 28, 2011 @ 20:25:09

      Thanks Mon, the world is much more interesting when looked at through the lens of personal stories, don’t you think?


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