Memories can elicit powerful emotions when they are connected to important events. People usually remember what they were doing when a momentous world event occurred. It is common, in the USA, to ask people of my generation what they were doing when John F Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.
Unfortunately, this does not translate to the Australian scene, where most of us were actually sleeping during overseas historical events, so our answer is 'we heard it on the news when we woke up'. Or, in my case since I was only 13 and did not listen to the news before school.
I also remember what I was doing on other occasions either world-shattering or personally meaningful that did not happen during the night, my time. Some of these memories include:
* In 1954, being taken by my mother on the train from our home in Crediton, on the Eungella mountain range behind Mackay, Queensand, to Mackay to wave to Queen Elizabeth II, when I was only just three years old. My mother was English and all things passionate about the Royal Family.
* In 1957, going outside to see the Sputnik in the sky in the balmy spring evening, and talking about this 'artificial moon' at school; then in 1969 when Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon I was watching it with others on television outside a television shop in Wollongong; and in 1986, getting out of bed in the middle of the night (actually early morning) to see Halley's comet, which was a bit of a disappointment after all the information and hype we had read beforehand.
* Coming home to watch the latest news in our lounge room during the Cuban Missile crisis of 1963. President Kennedy had initiated a sea blockade of the USSR ships carrying nuclear missiles to Cuba so as to be a direct threat to the US. I can still see my father in the lounge room saying to those present, this will be the start of WWIII.
* In November 1975, Australia's Labor Party Prime Minister (Gough Whitlam) was sacked by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr who sought to end a political stand-off to allow Government money to flow. This has been laid down in history as 'The Dismissal'. I was on holidays visiting my girl friend in Maclean (who later became my finance, then my wife). We were all on tenterhooks for hour after hour as we followed the day and subsequent events. Never before had a Governor General sacked an elected Prime Minister.
* On 11 September 2001, it was nearly midnight when one of my daughters rang me, telling me to switch on the television as a large passenger aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Centre in New York. As we spoke and watched, then we saw the second attack. We later heard of another plane slamming into the Pentagon, and then one crashing in a field in Pennsylvania after the brave passengers alerted to the other situations by mobile phone had overcome the hijackers. The rest is history and changed the world forever. This has become known all over the world as '9/11' following the backwards American way of writing the date.
Even here, where there were no attacks, every major Australian airport now has the most painstaking rigorous security checking procedures. The nation was told to be 'alert but not alarmed'. Every Muslin became a terrorist suspect. Australians, along with Americans, went to the 'nth degree of worry. Americans and their allies, including Australians, went to war again.
The fact that there have been other terrorist attacks by non-Muslims, both before and after that date, has all but been forgotten, notwithstanding the recent mass murder by an ethnic Norwegian who was definitely not a Muslim sympathiser, and in fact, stated that he was trying to save Norway from a Muslim invasion. Indeed, the world was changed forever in ways that were unforeseeable at the time.
* And to end my reminiscences, in 2010 there was the recent deposing of Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister by his own party. He had been losing popularity (going from the most popular Prime Minister ever, to one of the most unpopular according to opinion polls) and his administration and governance were reportedly less than ideal. The Labor party members and their supporters received sufficient 'numbers' within the elected Members of Federal Parliament to elect Julia Gillard leader of the Labor Party instead of Rudd, and she was then appointed as Prime Minister by the Governor General (as precedent has always dictated until now).
My wife Delma and I were on a Country Town Tour 'Christian Mission' in the Northern Territory. We were in a cabin in the Kakadu National Park and watched this removal of Kevin Rudd unfold. We, like most other Australians were a little stunned and not a little miffed. For me, I particularly liked seeing Kevin Rudd and his wife being interviewed after church on a Sunday as they meandered down the path from the church's front door.
However, Church-going is not sufficient for being able to efficiently run a nation, and Rudd had lost confidence of all around him as well as a significant number of the Australian public who had voted for his party, with him as leader. Although we do not vote for a Prime Minister, only our local members who may be affiliated with a party or may be independents, people had identified him as leader when they had gone to the polling booths to vote.
Subsequently, there was another election and Julia Gillard only just retained power with the support of two Independents.
As an aside, the Old Testament and New Testaments reveal where key people were when momentous things happened. An example from the Old: Moses was on the mountain as the Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets when the Israelites constructed a golden calf as an object of worship. An example from the New: John the disciple was at the foot of the Cross of Calvary as Jesus was being crucified.
As another aside, Evangelical Christians have a penchant for remembering where and when they made a personal decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ, making a private confession of their sin seeking repentance and inviting Jesus Christ into their heart to become Lord of their lives to Salvation.
These are my recollections of where I was on these momentous occasions in my life time. You will have your own, just as special and memorable.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html