History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

12 September 2007

History, Then and Now...

As a New Yorker, I'm acutely aware of the signifcance of yesterday's date, and to be honest, it leaves me in a funk for several days before and after. I'm also very aware of the fact that, in U.S. history, but particularly in New York City history, the 'world' was drastically changed on that date, and that, in the future, history will be divided into pre-9/11 and post-9/11. I look back on those days before 9/11 and think how simple everything seemed then, how I was unafraid to fly, how I loved to visit NYC 'landmarks' and how the restaurant Windows on the World was my 'special' place for celebrations (such as my first wedding anniversary, where my husband asked the pianist to play "Moon River"--the song we did our 'first dance' to at our wedding; my 30th birthday, when I was pregnant with my first daughter and my husband took me and several of my best friends out for a spectacular dinner).

Now, on this side of 9/11, I hate flying--the fears, the added security inconveniences. I'm wary of visiting places like the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. My favorite restaurant for special celebrations is gone. I know, these seem like such minor annoyances compared to the way some people's lives were changed that day, and I'm very grateful for that. Still, my city has been irrevocably changed, as have my feelings in it and toward it. And I'm very, very sad that my two daughters won't remember the World Trade Center, the twin towers dominating lower Manhattan's skyline, and even sadder that they will grow up in post-9-11 New York City, where pedestrians glance up nervously at low-flying planes and check the security level before visiting Liberty Island, where the undercarriage of our car gets checked by guards with mirrors before we park at Lincoln Center or beneath Grand Central Station.

This made me wonder about other days in history that left time so delineated into "before and after." The day that Archduke Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo, setting the first Great War into motion? The day the U.S. declared war on Japan? The Battle of Culloden? Did any of these have the immediate affects that 9-11 did? Or did they take days/weeks/years for the impact to be felt in the day-to-day lives of most people?

What do you think? Can you think of any other examples?


Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Believe it or not, I have vague recollections of the day Robert Kennedy was assassinated....it was the way the adults around me responded...with shock and dismay. I remember thinking they looked so scared, but no one could tell me why.

My elementary school was called to an assembly on the day of RFK's funeral and we all sat quietly, impressed by the seriousness of the adults...though most of us didn't really know who RFK was. I still remember the smell of the gymn, the ocean of students and the flag being lowered on the stage.

8:58 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

I suppose Lincoln's assassination had that effect on our little nation coming so soon after the end of the Civil War. For me, I remember the shock of Lennon being shot, when I was in high school.

I know what you mean Kristina about living in New York after 9/11. When the AOL Time Warner building went up in Columbus Circle, it took weeks for me to go inside, because it seemed to have a big bulls-eye on the side of the building.

9:01 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

This is frustrating ... I just tried to post a comment and got ding-ed out of the site.

I remember both Kennedy assassinations as well as Martin Luther King's assassination. My mother went into premature labor with my sister when JFK was shot, and I was sent downtown to stay with my maternal grandparents.

I'm also a native New Yorker and I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday (well, it was yesterday, but "9/11" will always mean 9/11 2001). I recall with utter clarity what the weather was like, how I found out about the planes hitting the towers, who I spoke to, what I did all day (I was working for an intellectual property attorney who had me photocopying photos of celebrity boobs and butts as the towers fell!) I remember how I got home that day, the smell of the air, the way people looked at each other, for weeks the notes tacked to trees and lampposts asking if people had seen So-and-So. For a movie to begin to describe the atmosphere and the aftermath would be almost an insult.

9:57 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

Kathrynn, good examples! I bet the day JFK was shot had a major impact, too.

Elizabeth, I know *exactly* what you mean about the 'bulls-eye' thing--I've felt that way about NYC in general ever since. Like we've just got a big bulls-eye on us.

Jus something to get used to, I guess. My good friend's husband is the NYPD Terrorism Commissioner now, and he's a brilliant man. I feel like the City's safety is in good hands right now.

10:05 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

Amanda, like you, I remember *every* little detail of that day, no matter how insignificant. I imagine it will stay with us always. Actually, the weather today reminds me of that 9/11--clear skies, beautiful breeze. A beautiful September day in New York.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Gabriele C. said...

The fall of the Berlin Wall. There is definitely a pre and and post Wall Germany.

I think the further you go back in time, the longer it took for people to realise that their world was going to change. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the planes in the Towers was something everyone could see on TV, and most people knew that moment it was something big, something that was going to change the world, or part of it.

But it took about two weeks for the news of the defeat of three legions and a number of auxiliary cohorts in the Teutoburg Forest to reach Rome, and it took another six years for Rome to realise that Germania Transrhenania was indeed impossible to conquer and the battle of the Teutoburg Forest had been the turning point, the first check in the expansionistic politics of Rome since they swallowed Carthago and started building an Empire. A hundred years later, Tacitus would call Arminius the liberator of Germania, thus sealing the fact that the battle was the twin towers of the Roman Empire, in a way.

Amanda, my mother almost fell into premature labor with me when the Berlin Wall was built.

11:04 AM  
Blogger Kristina Cook said...

Fascinating, Gabriele! Thanks for the 'international' viewpoint!

Probably a similar experience in the former Soviet Republic--before and after the fall of Communism.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Amanda Elyot said...

You're right about the weather here in NYC today, Kristine. Early to mid-September in NYC is arguably its loveliest time of year with the skies very blue and the air just beginning to have that crisp hint of fall, with no humidity and it's warm enough that you don't need a jacket yet.

Until 2001 I would think of this time of year as a new year because of the Jewish holidays, and then because my theatre company would perform a show outdoors at the 79th Street boat basin and rotunda every year for about 10 performances in the beginning of September. It was "annual outdoor performance weather." Now, after 9/11, I think of today's weather, and yesterday's as "the way it was that day" ... when we were still "innocent" in a lot of ways ... before the world as we knew it changed in several ways.

It makes me wonder about how things changed after Archduke Ferdinand was killed, triggering WWI.

11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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1:09 AM  
Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Hugs to you New Yorkers. 9/11 is a day etched into all of our minds. I always want to cry when I see the Twin Towers in an old movie or TV show. Here in the Washington DC area we at least could mend our wound to the Pentagon. I do feel so very proud of you New Yorkers for carrying on. It was a horrible day but one with a lot of courage and kindness, too.

As for pivotal events in history. The Battle of Waterloo. Of course, I was not there to remember it.

6:34 AM  

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