Where were you when I heard the news?

Over the course of my life there have been a handful of those “moments”…

I was particularly saddened when Nelson Mandela passed away, especially given his impact on South Africa.  But more so because of his universal message of peace and reconciliation, which symbolized his lifelong struggle and endeavours for a free and just world.

I remember clearly as I sat in my car listening to the newsreader announce his death, they were genuinely affected by the news, you could tell by the tone and cadence of their voice that they were personally feeling his passing.

How could you not be affected I thought.

Mandela’s his courage and conviction were legendary, especially in an era where politicians are regarded as little more than the lowest of the low.

Arguably he had been a beacon of hope to millions of people around the world… then and now!

This week I’ve been reflecting on my life and the key moments that have shaped my lifetime.

There have been a few!

I was in primary school when Apollo 11 landed on the moon.  Now that’s some history, right there!

The teachers cleared space large enough for everyone to sit on the floor and watch the moon landing unfold on the school’s only black and white television, which had been propped up on a tall metal stand in front of the room.

I clearly remember that we all cheered and clapped as we watched Neil Armstrong stepping down from the lunar landing craft and saying those immortal words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

Fast-forward to November 9th, 1989, after months of the ever increasing civil unrest in East Germany the government decided to open their borders which effectively brought about the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Prior to that during my year of backpacking in Europe I desperately wanted to travel to West Berlin, but it meant that I had to line up for at least a day to get an entry visa to travel through East Germany.

Yeah – nah.  That’s what happens when you’re young and think you have time on your side.

As you can imagine I’ve kicked myself ever since, particularly after the wall came down in 1989 as I had missed my opportunity to see a divided Berlin.

C’est la vie!

However, all these events pale in comparison to 9/11.

If I asked any adult where they were that day and what they were doing almost to a person, they could tell you exactly where they were.

This was one of those “day of days”, and akin to the likes of Pearl Harbour in terms of a cataclysmic event that changed the world from that day forward.

I clearly remember being in downtown Toronto, having dropped off my car for a service prior to a scheduled meeting in the financial district.

It was just before 9:00 am and the first reports were just beginning to filter through about a plane that had just hit the North tower of the World Trade Centre in New York City.

Every available television was carrying coverage of the “accident” as it was thought of initially.

The moment everything changed was as we were watching the coverage another plane flew in low and accelerated into the South Tower.

Little did we know it at the time, but at that moment all our lives changed forever.

There was a noticeable gasp from those around me, holy shit did you just see what I saw?  You could literally see the colour drain from everyone’s face as we stood there silent trying to take in what we’d just witnessed.

And like a light bulb going off, we all realized that these crashes were no accident…

As we stood dumbfounded looking at each other in hushed silence it became apparent that we had to leave where we were as fast as possible.

Especially given that we were in a tall office tower in the middle of the financial district not unlike the ones in New York City that had just been hit.

I wondered to myself as I exited the tower if Toronto was also going to be a target.

Buildings quickly emptied as people rushed from them toward the comparative safety of their homes, me included…  The downtown became completely deserted.

I remember later that night hugging Zach and Sami a little more tightly as I looked lovingly into their sweet little faces.

Strangely, the next most memorable moment was when I heard the news that both Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade had died within days of each other.

Many may have not noticed their passing back in 2018 but what struck me was that both Kate and Anthony had suffered from mental health issues, and sadly chose to end their lives.

Generally, I didn’t pay much attention to the media during my time in Toronto, and so hadn’t heard about Kate’s passing until I saw the news flash on the screen while I was at the bar in Lake Placid, New York.

This flash was accompanied the sad news of Anthony Bourdain’s passing within days of each other.

In that moment it seemed appropriate that I should raise a glass to these two icons of my generation…

More importantly, and why it hit me so hard personally is that deep down it brought up the challenges that Zach had been facing for a past couple of years around his personal battle with depression and mental health….

As you can imagine, this reflection hit me in the pit of my stomach and indeed, my very soul.

I tried not to dwell, but it wasn’t easy…

I suppose in many ways memorable events trigger something deep inside that brings personal connection and context to the moment… thus they stay with us.

We each have these markers in our mind, perhaps take just a minute to reflect on the memorable moments in your life…

Until next week



Fortunately, for me I’ve visited a unified Berlin many times and is now firmly ensconced on my list of favourite cities in the world to spend time.  ❤️✈️