Saturday, September 8, 2007

Where Were You When...?

On September 11, 2001 I was walking the last half mile of my morning walk on the cross country course. That morning on my headphones I was listening to a local talk radio station. The host and callers were discussing a freak accident at a nearby amusement park where a teenage boy fell off a rollercoaster to his death. The radio host interrupted his caller saying, “Ohmygod! We just got word that a plane hit one of the towers of the World Trade Center. What a freak accident.”

I shuddered, thinking, “What are the chances of that happening?”

The host broke in again with, “It was not a fluke. Another plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. It is a confirmed terrorist attack.”

I began running, panicked. Nonsensical thoughts flashed through my mind. It hadn’t quite registered, and I had many questions. The questions ranged from wondering about the safety of the people in the towers to wondering about the safety in our own small town hundreds of miles away. Should I pull the kids from school? Where was my husband?

At home I turned on the TV and switched between news stations. I sat frozen and stunned as I watched the World Trade Center collapse. I saw crowds covered with dust running in the streets of New York City. I heard screams. Crying. Sirens. Breathless reporters updating information while plumes of smoke rose in the distance. Years later the images remain fresh in my mind. I doubt I’ll ever erase them.

How many times have you heard people relay their experiences regarding significant and/or tragic historical events? They remember every detail of where they were or what they were doing when Kennedy was shot or Armistice was declared. Some of us may not remember what we ate for dinner two nights ago, but when exposed to a tragic event, our brains seem to record every sensory detail.

It’s your turn. Recall any historical events of your life. Write about the moment you heard the news. Where were you? What were you doing? Record sensory details. Describe the weather. What thoughts and physical sensations did you experience? Don’t worry about fact checking or the correct order of events. Focus on how it related to you. This is your experience.

I've added the next module of the Creating Memorable Characters workshop. You can access it from the main page at CSWriting Workshop.

1 comment:

Caryn Swark said...

I think we'll all remember where we were Sept. 11. I was in Japan, and it happened late in the evening our time, which means I found out about it when a friend called and woke me up at about 12:30 AM. My remote control was out of batteries so I couldn't switch the television to English, and I barely knew what was going on... it was terrifying! You're absolutely right about sensory details. I remember every moment of that night.

It reminds me of JFK -- my mother once said that everyone she knew remembered exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the American president had been shot.

It brings up all kinds of things, doesn't it? :) Thanks for having the courage to write about it.