What were you doing when …?

The Conservative blogger Iain Dale has started a meme which invites those other bloggers who’ve been tagged to explain what they were doing on five key dates. I have been tagged for this meme by former Labour MP Harry Barnes, so I guess I’ll have to rise to the challenge – although I won’t inflict the meme on any other bloggers.
In fact, in responding to this meme, I have a head start on most bloggers because, long before I had a blog, I had a diary and I have in fact recorded a daily entry for the past 47 years. So I can check the dates in the diaries. This is what I recall:
Princess Diana’s death – 31 August 1997
It was a Sunday and Sunday morning for me always means the “Observer” newspaper – but at breakfast time it had still not been delivered. My wife called our newsagents and came to me in tears to announce that Diana was dead and all the newspapers were being reprinted. Immediately we switched on the television and found that all the broadcasting schedules had been taken over by the news throughout the day. That night, we watched a 75 minute tribute to Diana on ITV without any advertisements. I wrote in my diary: “The media killed her and now she will become an icon like Marilyn Monroe”. But I did not anticipate – or even fully understand – the scale and intensity of the emotion that we then saw between the death and the funeral.
Margaret Thatcher’s resignation – 22 November 1990
I was in Strasbourg on a delegation to the European Parliament as Policy Officer of the trade union for which I then worked the National Communications Union (now the Communication Workers Union). After attending a meeting of the Socialist Group in the Parliament, we were addressed by three different Labour Party Euro MPs. In the course of these briefings, the Dutch official with the Socialist Group who was looking after us slipped into the room to announce that Thatcher had resigned. I wrote in my diary: “This was a sensation and for a time it was hard to concentrate on the meeting”. After I had flown back to London that evening, at home I watched an extended BBC news on Thatcher’s resignation announcement. I wrote: “It was all very exciting”. As a committed Labour voter, I was pleased to see her go – but her tears as she drove from No 10 could not fail to move one.
Attack on the twin towers – 11 September 2001
Of course, this is the date I remember most vividly and most painfully. I was at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton as part of the delegation of the union for which I then worked, the Communication Workers Union. The Congress had started the previous day and that afternoon the Prime Minister Tony Blair was going to make a controversial address to the Congress on the private funding of public services. As I sat on the floor of the conference centre that afternoon, a delegate told me that a light aircraft had accidentally flown into one of the Twin Towers. However, it soon became clear that something much, much more serious was going on. When Tony Blair spoke, he abandoned his intended subject, spoke gravely about the attack on America, and left immediately for Downing Street. Then I left the hall to visit the AEEU stall to watch the BBC’s News 24. I saw incredible film of the South Tower collapsing; then later I saw shots of the North Tower collapsing; next I saw the Pentagon on fire. I could barely believe what I was seeing. Congress was suspended. Back in my hotel room, I watched a lot more news. I recorded in my diary that “the events in America are outside all our experience” and “my jaw literally dropped at the awful scenes”. It was clear that the world had changed for ever.
England’s World Cup Semi Final v Germany – 4 July 1990
I did record England’s defeat in my diary, but I have less interest in football (or indeed sport generally) than almost any man I know – so the event made little impression. I understand that Gazza was in tears. I believe that he’s had few more problems since then.
President Kennedy’s Assassination – 22 November 1963
I am actually old enough to remember this. I was 15 at the time and living at home in Manchester. I heard the news on the radio in the kitchen and I knew at once that it was both tragic and important. I did mention it in my “Lett’s Schoolboy’s Diary” – but I also recorded that the Beatles were at Number One in the charts again and had three EPs in the Top 30.

One Comment

  • Irby

    My mum’s cousin Belle (in her late 70s) came to visit on the morning of Sep 11 2001. This was the first and only time I met her. My mum had died six years previously and I was surprised at how alike they were in stature and looks.
    As she left with my cousin to visit my Uncle, I switched the TV news on and a few minutes later the first news flashes about the twin towers started appearing.


XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>