Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Where were you when...

We've been to the pictures, my parents brother and I. We visited the Mile End Odeon to see 'Sinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger', a film of which I still have fond memories despite the fact that it was crap.
  After the film, we return to my home of my grandparents in Bow to spend the night. My grandparents are not there - I have no idea where they were - and I don't know why we didn't return to our own home in Stratford, only a couple of miles away.
  I'm nine years old. My brother is seven. Our mother comes up the stairs with us, to make sure we clean our teeth before jumping into bed.
  I jump into bed. My mother leans over to kiss me goodnight then, from downstairs, I hear my father's voice ring up the stairs, calling up to my mother in a voice replete with disbelief.
  'Brenda! Brenda! ...Elvis Presley's dead!'


I gallop down the stairs, uniform hurriedly thrown on, ready for another day of school. I'm still on top of the world; I have been a teenager for two whole days, and feel like I can take on the world. I enter the lounge. My mother sits there, watching the flickering TV with an expression of utter disbelief. She turns to look at me and the expression of shock on her face instantly unnerves me.
  'What's wrong?' I ask, suddenly feeling like the child I still was.
  'They've killed him,' she gasps, 'They've killed John Lennon.'

I'm the first one up. My wife snores in bed, my young daughters are still asleep in their own room. I stick the kettle on, light a cigarette and turn on the TV. BBC1 - the news is on. I flick channels. BBC2 - more news. I frown and stab at the remote control. ITV? News. C4? More news. A feeling of unease creeps over me. I flick back to BBC and wait for the stock footage of Princess Diana shaking hands to finish. We go back to the studio. 'Good morning. If you're just joining us, all scheduled programmes have been postponed while we report on the news that Diana, Princess of Wales, has died following a car crash in Paris.'
  I literally choke on my cigarette.

I am driving a train. I pull slowly and professionally into Wickford Station, come to a halt and press the buttons that will release the doors to be opened. I stick my head out of the opened window of the driver's cab, so that I might watch the passengers disembarking and alighting.
  A member of the platform staff hurries up to me. 'Have you heard? A plane has crashed into the World Trade Centre!'

I am sitting upright in bed, reading a book about Florence. The Tuscan city, not the character from Magic Roundabout. I hear squeaking from the lounge as my daughter, who has been tapping away on her laptop all night, rises from her camp bed. I hear her footfall. Then she knocks tentatively on the bedroom door.
  'Dad? Are you awake?'
  'Yup,' I call back.
  There's a brief pause, then she says, 'Michael Jackson's dead.'
  The book slips from my fingers and I stare stupidly at the bedroom door. After a pause, I ask:
  'Are you serious?'

It's true. You DO remember where you were when you heard.

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