I was prompted to write this article after reading Susan Petersen's moving account on Long Lost Relatives.net recalling the Challenger Space Tragedy and her involvement as a teacher at the time.
31st August 1997 - Death of Diana. Sunday morning 7am and the phone went, meaning a leap out of bed thinking "Has something happened to our daughter", who we knew would be finishing night shift in the Edinburgh police control room. She gave us the news and of course we immediately turned to the television to watch the tragic events unfold - and it was tragic the sudden death of an attractive woman and mother with so much potential but whose personal life had taken a sad turn before being cut short. You could not but be moved to see the two young princes following their mother's coffin on its silent route through London. Psychologists have written pages on the state of the nation at the time, "wallowing in grief tourism" etc. We were annoyed at the media calls for the Queen "to be with her people" i.e in London, as if being in Scotland meant she was out of the country. It was a definitive moment in many ways.
11th September 2001 - I was working at Library Headquarters that day in the Local Studies Room when my daughter phoned to tell me that a plane had crashed into the twin towers in New York. I had visited the city many years ago, long before the twin towers were built and I was a bit hazy about them, but my first reaction was "what an awful accident". I told colleagues and we logged onto the BBC website and saw the dreadful news of the second strike. There was an American visitor in the Study Room and we broke the news to him - he immediately went outside to phone friends and family. We then dashed to the Training Room where there was a television. Words cannot describe the horror. What struck in my mind most was the experience of those on the planes who had left Boston to discover they were flying to their death - yet whose thoughts were to phone family expressing their love.