Thursday, 11 September 2008

What were you doing when...

A few other blogs have done this so I'm going to join in:

Attack on the Twin Towers - 11 September 2001
I was outside up a ladder painting window frames around my flat. I was listening to Terry Wogan on Radio 2, soothing listening when you have a mindless task, when the first news came in. I continued to paint and listen to the updates on the radio. One thing I remember was that the presenter said that there was another plane (not the ones we've heard about) gone missing. We never heard any more about that plane.
At 4 p.m the school bus dropped off my daughter and the lady driver said "Have you heard what's happening?".
"Yes" I said "It's the beginning of World War 3".
A French guy, a trained engineer, was staying with me at the time. When we turned on the TV that evening and watched the footage for the first time he instantly said: "The building wouldn't collapse like that from a plane. That's dynamite. That's a demolition."
I was naive then and thought he was talking rubbish.

Princess Diana’s death - 31st August 1997
I'd just come out of Eurodisney outside of Paris. Around 6 a.m. I pulled into a petrol station and the assistant said to me, excitably pointing to the TV behind him: Vous avez vu? Lady Di s'est tuée!
For a minute I thought he meant that she'd killed herself. Then I thought it was a sick joke because he knew I was British. But he didn't as my car had French number plates. I said something, clearly shocked and he heard my accent. He immediately apologized.
I drove into Paris, to the Pont d'Alma where she was killed. I entered the tunnel with my, then, 3 year old in her buggy. The Mercedes car had gone but the black skid marks were still evident. An elderly black lady came and put down flowers at the post where Princess Diana's car had crashed. She was the first one.
I walked out of the tunnel and an English woman was artfully crying. She had full makeup on (it was now about 6.30 a.m.) and was wearing a flattering black dress. She had a child on each hip and an enormous bunch of white lillies. News camera crews rushed towards her and started to interview her about her feelings. She was milking it for all she was worth.
I stood back stunned.
On my return to London I went with my mother to visit Kensington Palace. As soon as we exited the tube station at Knightsbridge you could smell the flowers. At Kensington Palace we placed our own flowers. There still weren't that many yet. Wandering around the park was an experience. Each tree had a little shrine...candles, teddy bears, photographs of Diana sometimes with Dodi, poems, incense, balloons, angry letters to the Royal family.
We went again the night before the funeral. Now the flowers extended a good 500 yards before the gates to Kensington Palace. The stench was overpowering. The candles were lit and the whole park looked like fairy land. People were in sleeping bags waiting behind barriers along the funeral route. I was choked up.
The next day I prepared to cycle to Regents Park, a royal park where a giant TV screen was set up to show the funeral. At the newspaper shop opposite me (at the time I lived in Kentish Town) I saw Diana's hairdresser Nicky Clarke get out of his 4 wheel drive to buy a newspaper. (I recognised him partly because he did my hair a few times when I was a young successful photographer).
It was a sunny day. In front of the screen was a large crowd, many on deckchairs. When Earl Spencer gave his historic speech the entire crowd burst into applause. As the hearse set off I cycled to Baker Street to bid goodbye to Diana. With my daughter on the back of the bike, we watched the hearse go by. People were throwing flowers, the windscreen was covered. The driver, from a funeral parlour in Kentish Town, could barely see so he stopped, as he did on numerous occasions on the route to Avalon where Diana would be buried, and respectfully placed the flowers on the ground.

Margaret Thatcher’s Resignation - 22nd November 1990
I was living in Paris but had returned to Britain to get stuff done. I was wandering around Hampstead Heath looking for a printers to print up my photographic calling card. I saw the Evening Standard newspaper booth at Hampstead Heath station. The seller was shouting out the headline "Thatcher resigned". 
My sister called and laughingly said:"Ding dong the witch is dead."

England’s World Cup Semi-Final against Germany - 4 July 1990
I was travelling in South America for a year. I arrived in Argentina for the World Cup. It was quite difficult to find bars that were willing to switch on the TV to watch England play. Nobody cared when England lost. A Bolivian man started up a conversation while I was watching; "Everybody criticizes Hitler but I think he had alot of good ideas. You in England have la dama de hierra, the iron lady. You are very lucky."
This wasn't long after the Falklands war.
The other semi-final was Argentina versus Italy. I was in Mendoza when Argentina won it's semi-final, and the town exploded with joy. When Argentina lost the final a few days later, the mood was sombre and the streets were empty as I walked towards the train station to leave.

President Kennedy’s Assassination - 22 November 1963
I expect I was in my cot. But I clearly remember his brother's assassination. I was in Ireland on a horse-drawn gypsy caravan holiday with my parents. We were in a pub and the news came through. The adults were very upset. More Guinness was required. A flickering black and white television broadcast the news.


  1. I was on night shift when Diana died. It was a quiet night so we were able to watch the tragic event unfold on the lodge TV. We got word that she was certified dead before it was broadcast on TV because the duty op's manager came down and told us to lower the hospital flag to half-mast. We could hardly believe that she was gone. Someone said: "I never thought she'd go before the Queen mum".

    I was also at work on 9/11, a late shift; I was on my operating theatre tour. The attack began just after I'd come on duty. A friend of mine Brian, one of the trauma techs, came up to me in the level 4 lift bay and said: "Ben, have you heard what's happened? A plane has crashed into a skyscraper in New York. It's the World Trade Centre building I think, one of those two really tall ones." I thanked him for the information and carried on with my assigned task. When I got back to the lodge I was the burning building on TV. I went out on another sortie and by the time I got back the second tower and Penatagon had been struck. Then I knew that it couldn't be an accident.

    Thatcher resigned during a very difficult period in my life and I can't remember anything that happened then!

    I was in the hospital social club when England played Germany in 1990. I was a young trainee porter in those days and still in the process of being initiated into the traditional portering social life of alcohol, spliff and late nights. Being a Welsh boy I wasn't as emotionally dumbfounded as the others when Gazza missed, but I was still sad. Penalty shoot-outs are horrid way to lose a match. Many footballers say they hate wining by them too. It's not real football! You might as well toss a coin!

    I was still on God's great drawing board when Kennedy was assassinated. I don't have past-life recall so even if I was around then I don't remember it.

  2. Thanks for sharing that Ben. I just noticed, silly me, that it is indeed September the 11th today so this post is timely.

  3. So it is! I was so focued on September the 10th because of the Large Hadron Collider that I forgot what happened 7 years ago today.

  4. I heard that Saturn is the planet that "holds things back". I'm no expert, but I am interested in Astrology.

  5. It's the planet of limitations. And of time, Kronos. A saturn transit is sobering and constructive.

  6. Maybe it is time to forgive and forget? to rebuild anew on the ashes of the twin towers...
    If Obama, a black man with a muslim name, wins, perhaps this is because, 7 years later, it is time to take a long hard look at the causes of the twin towers disaster, whatever they may be.

  7. Thinking about this some more...perhaps Barack Obama, as a phenomenon, has only been made possible as a result of 9/11 and the war against Iraq. He is in a sense the primary beneficiary of 9/11.
    it's almost as if America is tired and is saying ok world we know we are unpopular, we know we screwed up somehow otherwise we wouldn't be in this mess. If we make a black guy our President will you cut us a break?
    Or am I being horribly cynical?

  8. I'm not sure. There's no doubt that most Americans are very upset by everything that's happened as a result of 9/11. Barack Obama is very different to all the previous presidents; Reagan, the Bush's and Clinton were all from the American "old boy network", sponsored by Old Money families. Obama has a very different background, from what I can see he's more independent and self-made. But he's not president yet! As I've said before: He needs to watch his back.

  9. I'm afraid I don't think he is any different to the others. But I agree, and so do most astrologers, that he needs to watch his back.

  10. I'm not sure, but the fact that Obama is currently being schooled by Zbigniew Brzinski is an indication that he has been "contained". This means he's more likely to win... and still be alive this time next year.

  11. Well done for spelling that correctly...copy and paste job was it? lol
    Can you tell me more about that...I know very little.

  12. I actually spelt Brzezinski wrong! lol.

    He is a very hawkish and conservative political strategist, similar to Henry Kissinger. He was national security adviser to President Carter and went on to advize many other presidents and presidential candidates, like he is today with Obama. He's a real "power behind the throne". He wote a book called "The Grand Chessboard" I've not read it, but I know it contains a future projection of a post-Cold War American agenda to mantain its global superpower status. It has no doubt been a big inspiration to Project for the New American Century which is behind the current administration and the War on Terror.

  13. Wow, great blog (and great debates, too!). I really look forward to spending most of the forthcoming weekend here, catching up! Wonderful stuff.

  14. still not allowed to talk about that day ...
    suffice to say it involves cordite.


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