I was there when…

Across history there are moments that stand out in the collective memory, and people all over the place remember where they were and what they were doing when it happened. Some  major events that spring to mind are the assassination of JFK, the moon landing (I was not even a passing thought for these) and the fall of the Berlin Wall (I was a toddler). Probably also the announcing of Britain being at war in the 1930s, although the live media possibilities were less widespread at that time.

My earliest political memory is of the broadcast of children’s afternoon shows on the ABC being broken into to announce Alexander Downer had taken over as opposition leader. I had no idea who Downer was back then, or even really what an opposition might be, but the event was obviously significant enough to stick in my sub-10-year-old brain.

The next big thing would have been Lady Diana’s death. I was in the Green Room at the Canberra Theatre, which happened to have a television running. The Sydney Olympics, of course — my memories take on a more Australian tint as I started to consume more news — and Cathy Freeman lighting the torch (at home with my parents, vaguely wishing I been able to be part of the band playing at the opening ceremony). The attacks of September 11, 2001 I mostly watched on televisions at school, although oddly the impact of what I was seeing didn’t really set in until the following day.

In something of a parallel to today’s news, the capture of Saddam Hussein also stands out in my mind. I’d fallen asleep during a movie (as usual) and for some reason woke up just in time to see the news breaking on television and the footage of the formerly great dictator being pulled out of a hole. Today, I was at work and spotted the news about Osama Bin Laden’s death first on Twitter, then watched President Barack Obama’s announcement on television with many of the newsroom staff.

And one more standout event for me, thought it might not be so important for as many others, was the rolling of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in favour of Julia Gillard. Once it started, the news ran fast on television, on the radio and, yes, on Twitter. But the actual moment of Rudd’s concession speech, I listened to on the radio of my photographer’s car while she took photos of school AFL games. I did, however, make it back to the office in time to see our first female prime minister be sworn in by our first female Governor-General. I and my fellow (mostly female) journalists watched it in the tea room and I couldn’t have felt prouder to see it.

It seems to me these significant, mind-sticking events are coming faster these days. It could just be that I’m older now and I remember more. It could be that these are tumultuous times in the world. Of course, I am a more voracious consumer of media than most so it could be that too. Or maybe it’s because of the rise of technology such as Twitter that makes these events more accessible to more people — no longer do you have to happen to be in front of a television or radio at the moment, you can find out from your phone in your pocket.

What moments stick in your mind? Where were you when…?


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