Truly Historical Moments

In church last Sunday the preacher showed a few minutes of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech. I love that speech and it got me thinking about what it must have been like to be there. Did the listeners at the time have a sense that this was one of those ‘history in the making’ moments, when you know that the world will never quite be the same again?

It got me thinking about those moments that I have witnessed live (through a TV screen) when I realised that something truly historical was happening. There are plenty of great sporting moments that I remember, but not that really changed the world, and there are many other moments that I did not see or hear live, but heard about later that day (such as the release of Terry Waite). The two that came to mind were:

  1. Seeing Nelson Mandela get out of the car and walk those final few yards to the gate of the Victor Verster prison. I was only about 14 at the time but news images of my childhood had often included those of the struggle against apartheid. I didn’t understand much about him but I knew something important had changed in the world.
  2. Seeing the first tower on fire after a plane had crashed into it on the morning of 11th Sept 2001. I was working at a computer hardware company and a colleague was working on trying to program a particular circuit board into a video receiver. It was early afternoon (in the UK) he’d set up a tv in the office and the first picture he got was of a smoking tower. We initially thought it was some action movie. The tv then got set up properly, in time for the second plane to hit the second tower, and then to see the tower collapse. After that I didn’t want to watch any more. Again, a sense that the world had somehow fundamentally changed.

I’d be interested to hear what other people’s historical moments were. The rules are that you have to have seen it live (been there or on tv).


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