On April 15th 1989 I was twelve. My brother was on a church excursion in Skelmersdale. We heard the news about the Hillsborough disaster on the radio as we waited to collect him, and someone sprinted up to our car to offer more information. Ninety-five - and eventually, four years later, one more - Liverpudlians died that day at a football match. Today I learned and understood a lot more, twenty-three years after that day that affected my home city so very deeply. I cried a little, today, as the two-minute silence was observed at 3.06pm outside Liverpool Cathedral by a group of mourners and supporters. I read about people struggling and suffering and suffocating; about desperate families longing for the truth; about determination and tenacity and perseverance.
On September 11th 2001 I had been in my new job just over a week. I'd escaped a teaching position in a school I loathed, and moved across the country to work somewhere that looked far more challenging on paper but, in the end, provided the happiest three years of my career. The headmaster called his teachers into the staff room during the afternoon session and told us what was happening in the US. I vividly remember my new Head of Department explaining as much as she could about Osama bin Laden to a class of Year 9 pupils with learning difficulties who had asked what's going on? We knew, and understood, so little of what was going on. That evening, I watched the news coverage at my boyfriend's house. I learned and understood a bit more, gradually and eventually. I read about people jumping to their deaths; about those on board the doomed flights; about those left behind; about the myriad ways in which the whole of America and New York in particular were affected in the days and weeks and months and years which followed.
July 7th 2005 was the final day of the academic year. I emerged from the last assembly of the term and pulled my mobile phone out of my bag to check for messages. Waiting for me was a text from my mother: Don't worry - your brother is fine. I had no idea why he would be anything else, but after checking a news website in the school library I began urgently contacting all my London-based friends as well as my brother, just to be sure of their safety. A day earlier, the city's successful bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games had been announced. The celebratory mood had been blown to smithereens by a bomb, detonated on the London Underground. This summer I learned and understood a little more about the human spirit. I remembered back to the support and encouragement and kindness offered
by so many Londoners to their fellow travellers and cityfolk that day. I read about a woman who'd lost both her legs as a result of getting a later-than-normal train and now plays seated volleyball for the Paralympic team of Great Britain.
These days stand out in my mind, alongside all sorts of others. In themselves, as milestones, they represent beginnings: shifts in thinking, alterations in perspective and - above all - fresh reminders that life can be changed within a moment. That there I go, by God's grace. That the decisions and choices made by others can exert enormous and significant and devastating impacts upon us and upon those we love.
They are reminders that we have today. That we are not promised tomorrow. That some things are important, and other things are not. That each new day has the potential to bring something challenging - perhaps enormously so - with it. That there are people and relationships and conversations and moments to be enjoyed and savoured and grasped fiercely with both hands. That we must love, and show others that they are loved, and learn, and understand, with each new day.
Which days stand out in your mind?