Everyone knows exactly where they were on 9/11 when they first heard that a passenger airplane had smashed into the World Trade Centre. As a trainee journalist in a small town, I was interviewing a housewife for an article about her missing dog, Scrap, (later found safe and well). The interview was nearly done when my editor called to tell me the terrible news, and order me back to the office “immediately”.
The assassination of JFK was another of those rare moments when time seemingly stood still, although most here are too young to have been alive then. Again, for those old enough, who can forget the Cuban missile crisis of October 1962, when the world seemed on the precipice of nuclear Armageddon?
At times of great danger, the accredited media serves a fearful public’s need for up-to-the-minute information and expert analysis. When a major crisis happens, the press, TV, and radio often devote 100% of their efforts to just one story, covering it from every possible angle.
For just a few days in October 2016, there was only one topic being discussed in the accredited media: the Russian warship refueling crisis. People forgot about trivial things which, only the day before had seemed so important: things like baseball, the acidification of the oceans, Jewish conspiracies, their investments, and even the Kardashians. The world collectively held its breath, monitoring with trepidation the sinister movements of an aggressive fleet of Russian warships, sailing with dark intent through the English Channel. Would these evil warships, people asked, actually refuel in Spain as one Vladimir Ilyich Putin had threatened.
Earlier this week, the Accredited Times walked the streets of London, England, to ask the British public where they were when they first heard Russia intended to refuel its warships.
University student Harry Taylor, 18, had been in a lecture theater, studying vegan art. A friend had held out his smartphone and showed Harry a CNN headline about the crisis. Harry described the crisis as “the end of childhood innocence”:
‘For weeks afterwards, I kept asking my father, “Why would anyone threaten to refuel these ships in Spain?” I just couldn’t understand it. Reading about tragedies, like the shooting of students from the tower at the University of Texas, and the assassinations of MLK and Bobby Kennedy, taught me that there are a lot of crazy and violent people in the world, but that was the first such event in my life where it was necessary to be explained to me by my elders that there are people who do horrible things, things that most of us can never fully understand.’
Halal butcher Mustaffa Bakri, 52, seemed agitated when we put the question to him, fiddling nervously with something under his heavy winter coat. “It was the day the world ceased to be a safe place.” he said simply, before scurrying away.
Whilst we know now that Putin choked at the last moment, just like Khrushchev did when Kennedy faced him down over Cuba, things could have turned out very differently.