There have been quite a few major events in my lifetime, some of which I remember more than others, on account of age. I wish I could say these events were all happy ones, but unfortunately the standout historical memories of major events are grim, sad ones. That said, one of my earliest memories of major events relates to what many would consider good: the fall of the Berlin Wall. This is also the vaguest of the recollections, but I do remember some stuff on the news as the Wall fell.
The death of Princess Diana rocked the UK, and indeed, the world. The manner of her death, in that ill-fated car chase with media hounds, and all the subsequent allegations of conspiracy, have left an indelible mark upon the Royal Family, at least within certain quarters. The public grieved in a manner I’ve not seen before, or since, over her loss.
Two terrible disasters in 2000 have remained in my memory. The crash of Air France Flight 4590 – the first time a Concorde aircraft had crashed – ultimately ended the flights of the only supersonic commercial plane, as public confidence was shaken virtually beyond repair by the terrible tragedy.
The Hatfield Rail Crash of that same year revealed a terrible problem with Britain’s railways, and ultimately led to the end of the private company that had been brought in to run them. The express train that derailed at speed came off the track due to rail failure, and because of negligence, people died. I had been due to travel via Hatfield to London the very next day, so sometimes I wonder if that was my ‘but for the Grace of God’ moment.
2001 needs no explanation – the 9/11 attacks are burned into my memory. I can tell you (as I can with Princess Diana’s death) exactly where I was. I was at work when I heard of those devastating events, and honestly thought it was kind of weird, horrible hoax, because stuff like that… it didn’t happen. As the news unfolded and the reality hit home, I couldn’t process just how terrible those events were.
Similar feelings arose in me on the 7th of July 2005, when terrorists blew up Tube trains and a London bus during a busy rush hour morning. Once again there was a surreal sense of woe and misery, and over time, my wife and I found ourselves more or less accidentally passing near all of the areas affected by the attacks. Outside a Church near Aldgate, I passed by a poignant memorial to the victims at that particular location, and it was like a punch to the gut.
There are some happier moments, though I guess it depends on whether you define them as ‘major’ historical events. Bearing witness to England winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, thanks to last-minute drop goal by Johnny Wilkinson, was a moment to savour. Watching Lewis Hamilton win the 2020 Turkey Grand Prix, and thus equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven World Championship, was another. I wish I could say I’ve borne witness to the England Football Team winning a World Cup, but so far that remains in the realm of hopeless fantasy!