Where were you when the earth stood still?
When the announcement of lockdown hit us, for many like a wrecking ball against the chest, where were you?
I remember that dreaded Monday evening that changed our lives forever well.
I had returned home from gym, made myself a quick dinner and poured myself a tall glass of lemonade. I then switched the telly on to listen to Cyril’s speech, thinking he was probably just going to recap on how things concerning the corona threat were going.
The previous Sunday the President had announced some protective measures for combating the virus, such as the immediate closing of schools until after the Easter weekend, no gatherings of more the 50 people in one place and restaurants being prohibited from selling alcohol after 18:00, among others.
These were just temporary measures, we all thought, already slightly irritated. But then on 23
March 2020 the nation was shocked when a total lockdown was announced, which would be implemented just a few days later – giving one a chance only for panic buying.
I was flabbergasted by the news. I remember pouring at least three fingers of gin into my lemonade and wandering across to my neighbour, who also happens to be a good friend.
WTF was our stunned reaction. We are now well aware what the outcome of this shattering announcement is – complete economic collapse and South Africa plunging into what is starting to look like a dictatorship. And this is probably how this historic announcement will always go down in the memories of most.
But this was not the first time the world was stunned into silence. There have over the centuries been many moments that made mankind stop and watch, talk and listen.
Even at the time of smoke signals, the bush telegraph or pony express, news of shocking events have been carried across the world – if perhaps not as timeously as now.
Over the last hundred years or so, with the advent of the telegraph, telephone, television and, of course, the manic flood of digital, instant news, which we all take for granted now, generates global responses from all corners of the earth.
The last time news knocked the socks off me was when terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York were first reported. It was probably the first live, blow-by-blow account of a devastating world event.
Before that I remember being woken one Sunday morning by the news of Lady Di’s death in a car crash in an underpass in Paris. By that time the television channels were already full of live reports from the scene, and newsrooms had already been compiling footage of the events of the weeks before that culminated in the Princess and her lover being hounded to death by paparazzi.
Then, of course, who can forget the road that led to the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990? The world was glued to their television screens, and worldwide large screens were even placed at such places as Trafalgar Square in London, where thousands gathered to watch Mandela take his first steps to freedom.
Being a music lover I remember walking through the streets of Cape Town in December 1980 to be informed of the news of Beatles superstar John Lennon’s murder by late afternoon newspaper posters.
These memories that will probably stick out in my memory till the day I take my last breath.
But through the generations there have been many momentous occurrences that have stunned the world. In the last century alone there were major events that changed the course of history.
There were many who remembered where they were when they first heard of the assassinations of John F Kennedy and Hendrik Verwoerd, or the outbreak of the First or Second World War. These, followed a close second by the dramatic, haunting images of the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which ended World War II. Then there was the Russian Revolution of 1917, which ultimately led to the decades-long Cold War, which ended with the 1989 dramatic and long awaited fall of the Berlin Wall, another seminal event.
An unknown South African doctor stunned the world by daring to perform the first heart transplant, becoming the first medical “superstar”.
Many spacecraft launches were also televised in the 1960s, as the world waited for the first person to set his foot on the moon. And this too was televised live on 16 July 1969, captivating a world audience.
One wonders what the news headlines would have been in the days of Jesus Christ.
But now, just as the world seemed to be settling down, a little virus appears and wipes out the world as we know it – no bombs, no guns, no war, no revolution. In South Africa, it has led to complete collapse and anarchy due to idiotic and shortsighted decisions of the SA government, literally causing the country to fall overnight.
So, 23 March will go down in the annals of history as the day we were doomed.