Twenty-one years and a day ago, I entered a crowded hospital lounge to await an abdominal CT scan. An earlier chest X-ray of a minor bump near my collarbone had revealed another, unrelated oddity at the bottom of the image. The first was innocent; the second needed follow-up. Tired, irritated, and nervous, I found a chair as far as possible from the growing throng in front of the TV. Couldn’t they lower the volume and let me read in peace?
Not till I turned on the car radio, driving home, did I learn planes had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.
One lifetime may include just a handful of world events so sudden and immense that practically everyone can tell you what they were doing when they heard the news. My elders spoke of Pearl Harbor that way. My first such experience was the Kennedy assassination. I was in college physics class when a knock drew the professor to the classroom door. Visibly shaken, he told us the President had been shot. Class was dismissed. Students wandered campus in a daze. We drifted gradually into the campus chapel to sit in shock together.
What national or international event has left you a vivid personal memory of learning the news? Where were you, or what were you doing?
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.