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Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Where were you?

Hmm, where do I start?

I'm not sure if I've ever mentioned it here before, but I've been playing World of Warcraft for over two years now. I only mention that now to explain why I read Matt's blog.

I was intrigued by one of Matt's recent posts, so I'm going to pick up on his meme and answer the same questions he did. The question I'm answering is, where were you when these historic events occurred (adding a few of my own, since I'm an old fart, unlike Matt, who's a young fart. And Canadian. Not that there's anything wrong with that.). These aren't exactly in chronological order, so I apologize if this is a little confusing.

Assassination of President John F Kennedy

This event wasn't a part of Matt's list, but it's the first significant world event from my memory, so I thought I'd add it in. I was an elementary school student in a small town in Texas, about 150 miles away from the events in Dallas, Texas, on that bright November day. I recall being herded by our teachers to stand outside and watch the US flag being lowered to half staff. For a young child, though, this was still a rather abstract event (at least until I got home and saw the solemnities on TV), so our spirits weren't dampened when we went to my classmate Dave's birthday party after school. What can I say? We were little kids.

Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

On January 28, 1986, I was a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy, stationed in Maryland, preparing for a routine deployment to Commander, Middle East Force, aboard various ships in the Persian Gulf. As it happened, I was at home, off work that day. The way I remember it, my wife at the time called me from work to tell me about the Challenger's demise. I didn't have the TV on, so her call was the first I'd heard of it. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the day watching the news reports.

Matt also mentions the Space Shuttle Columbia Disaster (since he was actually alive for that event), which I recall as spending much of the day watching the news reports, but since it was a Saturday, and I had a couple of young kids to care for, it doesn't stand out in my mind quite as much.

Reagan assassination attempt

I was on a rotating schedule and shift work in 1981, so I happened to be off on that Monday morning. As with the later Challenger tragedy, my wife called me from work and I turned on the TV to watch the events of the day unfold.

Operation Desert Storm (to include Operation Desert Shield)

I participated in both of these operations during my career in the Navy. At the time, I was stationed in Rota, Spain, and deployed to various ships in the area. For Desert Shield, I spent time on various vessels in the Mediterranean and Red Seas (USS Silversides, USS John F Kennedy, USS Dallas...that's a submarine, an aircraft carrier and another submarine, for those who aren't familiar with these ship names), and for Desert Storm, I spent time on a couple of submarines (USS Grayling and USS Finback).

As a side note, I completed my submarine qualifications aboard the Grayling, which enabled me to wear dolphins on my uniform. To those who may not be familiar with this stuff, it's a big deal, especially for someone who wasn't permanently assigned to a submarine. Also, the flag in my retirement shadow box was flown aboard the Grayling.

September 11 Attacks

By pure coincidence, on this fateful day, I was once more at home, although this time I was actually working rather than having a day off. I had the NBC Today show on as background noise while I was working, and about 8:45, the report of an aircraft flying into the North Tower of the World Trade Center caught my attention. The way the reports were presented didn't instill much concern in me at the time, since I figured it was a stray general aviation aircraft that lost its way and tragically hit the WTC.

Approximately 15 minutes later when UA 175 crashed into the South Tower of the WTC, I knew this was a deliberate attack on our country. The matter of who was responsible for these attacks was immaterial at that point; the important point was that these were deliberate attacks.

Since I live roughly 20 miles west of Washington DC, all of this became much less abstract when AA 77 crashed into the Pentagon. This instilled panic within DC itself, which resulted in complete gridlock within the city, as I recall. Warnings, evacuations, the end, it showed how utterly unprepared DC was for this type of event.

My wife at the time ultimately pulled our kids out of their elementary school, despite the fact that we lived only about 250 yards away from the school. Rationality wasn't the order of the day at that point.

Of course, we watched the collapse of the various buildings within the WTC that day, but that pretty much sums up the significant, unique aspects of 9/11 for me.

Hurricane Katrina

The weekend tragedy itself doesn't stick out a lot on its own in my mind, but I felt the impetus to travel to Louisiana to help out as a radio operator (based on being a licensed Amateur Radio operator). That was a rough time for my last marriage, though, and I separated from my then-wife a few months later, so I wasn't able to go lend a hand.

Fall of the Soviet Union

Most of this time, I was stationed in Europe (Greece and Spain), and we didn't have a lot of access to the news, so all of this happened without me being able to pay much attention at the time.

The Millennium

First off, I tend to regard dates as arbitrary things, so January 1, 2000, didn't carry a lot of significance for me (especially since the 21st Century didn't begin until January 1, 2001). I don't remember anything specific about this night, although I'm sure it was spent at a friend's house.

John Lennonís death, Kurt Cobainís death

John Lennon's assassination was tragic, but I don't recall any particular effect at the time. Cobain's death had much less effect on me than the deaths of Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, etc, but that's probably mostly due to generational differences.

All this reminiscing is making me tired. Chew on it while I snooze.



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In loving memory
Dr Edward N Garrett
1925 - 2004

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