The news story that affected me the most
The most memorable news story which affected me the most was 9/11. Here is where I was and what I thought on the day. This is one of the articles prompted by the Edison and Wordsmith decks from best self to explore myself and make my writing a little more personal.
For a bit of context when this news story hit me let me tell you something about my home town. Nordhorn held the sad record of being the biggest town in Germany without a train station. 52000 inhabitants, no stop. As no one in Germany knows Nordhorn apart from handball fans I used to answer “I come from the biggest town in Germany without a train station” to brighten up the conversation. Once I moved to Ireland that was necessary anymore. The fact that I was from Germany was interesting enough to start a conversation.
Public transport was done by bus and the biggest school in town had about 1.000 pupils. I rode my bike to school every morning and that took me about twenty minutes. Nothing outrageous but also not exactly down the road. While cycling to school I would pass the bakery in which I would get breakfast for me and mom after school (others would call it lunch), my best friends house and the Chinese takeaway where we would get food for our PlayStation sessions. That would always be fried rice with beef. At some stage that wasn’t cool enough for him anymore and he decided to hang out with the druggies. But that’s for another day to tell. That was me, great life. Seriously, I just didn’t see it back then.
We lived in a detached house with a small granny flat in the back. My mother would work at nights and be back around 3 am to 5 am. She would usually sleep until I was home from school. That’s why lunch turned into breakfast in our house. Her commute was an 80km drive one way to Osnabrück. The casino had recently been moved from Bad Bentheim. As my mother predicted the Downsizing of the casino was not far and ironically hit just shortly after she died. People were out to get each other and my mother tried to get another promotion. Must have been tough to be a pit boss in a male-dominated job. Ultimately she was not promoted and rumors were spread that she had a thing with the owner. As she considered some of the staff her friends who spread it, it broke her heart. It all went pretty much downhill from there. At least that is how I remember it.
I had my own room upstairs. My first personal computer had a 133 MHz Pentium processor and we had an internet connection. I liked to hang out on the Lycos Chat and meet my friends on the weekend for a beer, well, one or two crates of beer would be more exact. I had four more years to finish up school. My grades were above average but not outstanding. A couple of As, mainly Bs and one C here and there and one D in maths. I can vividly remember the moment when I opted out in maths when our teacher said “we can get infinitely closer to this line without ever reaching it” when he tried to explain the concept of decimal places to us. I can see today how that can be fascinating. Back then I thought “what is the point, there is a line, I step over it, done. Why would I try to get as close as possible to never reach it”. I didn’t get that entire universe might be between that line of chalk and the millimeter that I am away from it. A microcosm is a fascinating place that hides in decimals. Back then I didn’t connect the dots.
My love life was non-existent and it bugged me greatly. That was not to improve for another ten years. I did Judo, played the guitar and sometimes visited the local Chess club. But my phase started where I got less and less interested in these activities. All I did was hang out in the chat, drink and hang out with my friends in front of the PlayStation or building bombs out of firecrackers. On the weekends we would try to make our way to Scheune, the local teenage disco. My first experience with alcohol was a bottle of Doppelkorn which I shared with my best friend. Doppelkorn is probably the cheapest and most revolting alcohol you can get at a gas station in Germany. Think of it like two teenagers sharing a bottle of vodka without any orange juice or Red Bull to water it down. We drank it, went to the Scheune (which translates to the barn and yes, it was that sad) to dance and somehow even managed to impress two ladies to steal some French kisses. Then I puked from the top of a balcony on the people on the dance floor. Not my best and brightest moment. Don’t worry though I was thrown out via the fire stairs and hurt myself a little. Instant karma, I guess.
Once we had cars or people to drive us we went to Schüttorf to the Index or Uelsen to the Zak. I also liked to nip down across the Dutch border to Enschede. In the year 2000, a fireworks factory exploded in the town killing 23 people and injuring 1000 people. I remember that I heard the blow in Nordhorn, but that might just have been my imagination. Once I had my own car I became the designated driver. One encounter with the police had me put off drinking before I got a car. When I got my car the alcohol consumption significantly dropped. At first, I drove people to places. After half a year of waiting around for other people to get ready either to leave for the disco or leaving the disco, I had enough. Puking out of the car or inside it also did not help. I decided to be a bit less understanding and say “I am leaving at this time and will drive back home at this or this time, if you are not there, tough” without further discussions. When people did not want to go with me after that I somewhat realized that there were definitely some who only wanted lifts rather than going with me.
That was the moment when I stopped believing in friends. I felt like my best friend in primary school only wanted to bully me because I was fat. My best friend during the early years of the secondary school decided that it was more fun to smoke pot than hang out with me and in my final years at school, my friends ditched me as soon as I didn’t want to be their taxi anymore. However, that is only one side of the story. I also was a cynical know-it-all dick who was an only child and had everything they wanted and still complained. I see that now, but back then I decided that people are assholes and It stuck with me for quite a while.
The stage is set and the news story that affected me the most was 9/11.
I think most people who were old enough to vaguely comprehend what 9/11 meant remembered where they were when it happened. When the first plane hit it was 14:46 local time in Germany. When the second plane hit it was 15:03. As it was a Saturday I was already up and in the Internet chatting. I did not see the first plane hit but the chat went mad and I went over from my bedroom to the master bedroom where we had a television. I stopped sleeping in mother’s bed very late. After my father died she was very lonely. I put the television on and saw the first tower burning. I said to myself that that was pretty tragic. My mother was getting ready in the en-suite bathroom as she usually left the house between 4 and 5 pm. In a casino, you work when other people are having their day off and have some fun. My mom and I were both quite sharp, at least I liked to think that. When I told her that a plane crashed into the World Trade Center her immediate response was with a towel around her head to dry her hair “well somebody must have fucked up”. That was just her style. Sometimes she had a guy over here and there. The ones she really liked stayed for breakfast. One of them got really into how he could redesign the garden while we sat on the patio. I just said “well don’t get too comfortable around here” and my mother just burst out laughing instead of reminding me to be nice to guests.
My stepdaughter says I am quite good at cutting a topic to the bone. When the second plane hit I said to my mom “well that’s no coincidence that’s an attack”. My mother said, “yep this means war, the Americans want blood now, but I got to work now Pummi”. Pummi was her nickname for me. It translates roughly to “little chubby” in English. She went and I was quite scared and baffled what happened after. Apart from the terror in the streets, I was terrified that retaliation would be nuclear. That did it happen though.
What came after
Multiple 9/11 books and two full-blown wars later we have two popular dead bodies more, one in Pakistan, the other in Iraq. Tony Blair is being interviewed on British television to say his piece about Brexit even though nobody found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Oil seems to flow and the fight for control over accessing it goes on in Syria. I still remember that day vividly when the planes hit. The game is still the same and more people died in recent civil wars fueled by geopolitical interests than on 9/11.