It’s so crazy to sit down and think about all of the “I was there when…” moments of your life.
In the twenty-nine years that I’ve inhabited this planet, I’ve lived through a couple of these.
For instance, I (obviously) will never forget where I was on 9/11. I woke up to my regular morning DJs talking about the fact that a “small, commuter jet” had crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers.
I had just entered the kitchen when the second plane hit the second building.
I won’t ever forget the morning of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the Thai tsunami of 2004, or the Boston bombing attacks of 2013.
I remember Donovan Bailey winning the 100 meter track finals of 1996 like it was yesterday.
I can close my eyes and re-live the relief, shock, and unbearable happiness that surged throughout my tension-wracked body when Sidney Crosby scored the Olympic game-winning goal in 2010.
I (oh so strangely) remember when Kim Campbell beat Jean Charest for the Progressive Conservative Leadership in 1993. I was eight years old, and had stayed up the entire night watching the conclusion of the convention (because obviously I didn’t have parents and Canadian CSPAN was the next best thing.)
I will always recall the intense flood of incredulity and glee when I found out I had been accepted into the UBC creative writing program, or when I was shortlisted for a Rhodes scholarship.
I treasure the heart-bursting joy from every job proposition I’ve ever accepted over the phone.
I remember my first kisses like they were yesterday.
For some very strange reason I remember exactly where I was when I found out that Heath Ledger had passed away. I was in the basement of the UBC student union building, checking my email on one of their truly awful PCs.
These contraptions were held together by nothing more than food crumbs, pizza grease, coffee stains, and sheer will power.
I was using a Yahoo email address back then, and when I signed out I was re-directed back to the site’s landing page. There was his face, a snap of his pre-Batman life, framed by the years of his birth and death.
I recall feeling awkward by just how saddened I was to read this news.
I vividly remember the morning that the United States invaded Iraq. It was the spring of grade twelve and I struggled to make sense of the massive print, splayed across the cover of the Globe and Mail. I can recall thinking to myself that this decision seemed so completely arbitrary and out of the blue. Where in the heck had Iraq – IRAQ? – come from? Weren’t we just talking about Afghanistan?
There are of course moments I wish I didn’t remember: emails sent; words said; secrets betrayed.
These are few, but they cut. Sometimes I’ll be out for a run, and the memory of these moments will hit with such strength that I feel as though all of the breath has been knocked from my body.
Oddly enough, one of my most vivid “world changing” moments is the night that Princess Diana died.
The detail in which I remember this evening is staggering.
August 31. 1997. Sunday night.
Patricia Beckerman was sleeping over. Jessi’s friend Emily was also staying the night.
We’d spent the entire afternoon swimming in our neighbour’s pool. Lois didn’t ever use her backyard, so she loved having us and our friends over for the day. My hands felt like two giant prunes, and I couldn’t stop brushing my fingers tips across my cheeks and nose.
Everything smelled of sunshine and sunscreen.
We’d eaten pizza for super, and my mum even allowed us to drink pop with our ice cream.
We were just about to put on a movie (Anastasia!), but we had to change the TV to channel three in order to press play.
Channel three was CBC, and the news was on.
This was strange as it was not yet ten o’clock. The woman at the news desk was looking so grim. Peter Mansbridge then entered the shot, and he looked like he’d just burst into the studio and clamoured into the nearest suit.
But really, he seemed sad more than anything else.
And then we heard the words.
“Princess Diana has died tonight in Paris.”
And for some reason this news absolutely destroyed me. I didn’t think twice about Diana prior to her passing, but holy crap did the ensuing weeks (and omnipresent media coverage – how apt!) ever throw my pre-pubescent self for a loop.
I bought every Newsweek magazine, cried fat salty tears, and stayed up the entire night through watching her funeral procession.
I was sure I would marry William and help mend his broken, broken heart (while mending mine too in the process.)
To this day it still baffles me why I had the reaction that I did.
But there are some things you just can’t explain.
There are some things you just have to say, “I was there when.”