September 26, 2020

Where Were You?

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Alan Jackson, one of America’s top country music artists wrote a song entitled “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)?” in November 2001. It was written in the wake of the September 11th suicide attacks by al-Qaeda on the United States. Do you remember exactly what you were doing on that Tuesday morning when the shocking news swept with disbelief across the world? I do and I was working with CITN at the TV Centre in George Town. The morning show, Daybreak, was just finishing when I was urgently called into Master Control.  The MC operator showed me the CNN and BBC World feeds where the first of the planes had crashed into one of the twin towers. I gave the instruction to broadcast the CNN feed over Cayman 27 and initially had thought it was an accident never dreaming what horrors were to come. It is indelibly printed on my memory for eternity. When I hear the song today it still brings tears to my eyes as I am a very emotional person, although one doesn’t have to be emotional to feel some form of pain at the memory.

My first memory of something grave happening was when I was eight years old and was at school in England. It was 6th February 1952. We were suddenly called into the school hall and the news was broken to us that King George 6th had died. We had just got television (the only second household to get it in the street where we lived) and I also remember our house being packed with people to watch the funeral, all crouched around a 9inch TV screen. Yes 9inches! This was followed up by the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and I only mention this one because it really was special to me. Coronation Day was on my birthday, June 2nd. All of you who were alive at the time can probably remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

The next memorable one was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Friday November 22 1963 in Dallas, Texas. I was watching BBC television in the evening at my home in England when they interrupted the programme. What it was I don’t know. An unfamiliar newsreader (all their regular newsreaders were at a party at the Dorchester Hotel, London) gave an announcement that Kennedy had been shot and then it was back to their scheduled programmes. I thought I had misheard the announcement and switched over to ITV but they were showing “Emergency Ward 10”. It was only around 9pm when Ronald Allison, the BBC reporter appeared announcing in a solemn voice that US President John F. Kennedy had died. The next day, as I travelled up by train to London my fellow passengers were grim faced with shock. Where were you?

Another shocking death that I will never forget was on 31st August 1997. I was at the Prospect Playhouse having a drink with cast members (I believe the production was Last Panto in Grand Cayman/Beauty for Sale) when my wife, Joan, called me to say that Princess Diana had been involved in a very bad car accident. On arriving home we sat on the bed listening to the unfolding news that the Princess was in hospital. Then came the awful announcement that she had died. Joan cried out, “No! No! No!” and burst into tears.

My last “Where Were You?” and not least was on August 16th 1977 and today is the anniversary. “The King has died” was the announcement. There was no immediate “Long Live the King.” This king was the “King of Rock and Roll” known simply as “the King” – Elvis Presley. I was staying at a hotel in Winchelsea – England’s smallest town, nr. Rye, Sussex where I was working on a building project. I was having a drink at the bar when a man walked in, asked for a pint of beer, and said casually, “Do you all know Elvis Presley has just died?” We didn’t and I remember the shock.

Our cooking correspondent, Dody Denman, who is no stranger to these Islands – this is her second home (she actually has a room in her house nr. Houston called the ‘Cayman Room’) has a special recipe she has dedicated to Elvis – pound cake which was his favourite. Give it a try and have an Elvis party tonight. And I bet you can remember where you were when the King died.

 

 

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