That question has been asked of me — and I’m sure all of us — in so many different contexts across so many different facets (and years) of our lives, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that this is one of the most engaging questions you could ever ask someone. This is the question that can light up someone’s eyes or make them go dark; the question that can spark immediate joy or crushing angst; the question that allows us to share some of the most emotional and intimate parts of our backstories without even realizing it at first; the question that spans every generation but can also be specific to one.
For my generation — and really, for me — these are the most common moments in my life that I get asked about the most, along with my answers:
Where were you when the Challenger exploded?
I was in elementary school and the school made special arrangements to show the shuttle launch to us. I didn’t quite understand what happened at the time, but I can still see the explosion through my memory. I still haven’t watched it since, the first time I lost my innocence.
Where were you for Game 6?
Game 6, of course, refers to the 1986 World Series, where the NY Mets were trailing the Boston Red Sox 3 games to 2, and it was getting really late in the game. Mookie Wilson was up at the plate with a chance to tie the game, and he hit a weak ground ball that magically sauntered through Bill Buckner’s legs. The Mets tied the game, then took the lead, and then the rest was history. I was 7 years-old, in my living room in our old house, sitting on the floor in front of the TV screen like I had so many times before, my pajamas on and my baseball glove in hand. When the ball crept through to the outfield, I simply ERUPTED in pure joy, and ran laps around the room.
I’ve seen that play approximately one billion times since, and whenever I do I reclaim a small piece of that childhood exuberance that can sometimes get so lost as the years pass by.
Plus, there’s this AMAZIN’ reenactment that makes me smile even more:
Where were you when Hulk Hogan body slammed Andre the Giant at WrestleMania
Back then, I didn’t pay attention to numbers, and I didn’t really think about this event as WrestleMania III, simply WrestleMania. Also, back then, I was 8 years-old and we didn’t really have the disposable income to watch WrestleMania live on PPV. Yet I remember seeing Hulk Hogan body slam Andre the Giant so vividly as if I was there, as if I saw it first-hand, as if I was not only watching on TV but in the arena, at the Pontiac Silverdome, ring-side. That’s the kind of indelible mark that Hulk Hogan vs. Andre had on me, and even though my answer to this question is that I wasn’t really anywhere in front of a TV at the time, my tiny little heart was there, fully invested in the match and the outcome. And when I did find out what happened — that Hulk Hogan did the impossible — I became a wrestling fan for life.
Where were you when Kurt Cobain died?
April 5, 1994. I remember that date so clearly not because I was a huge Nirvana fan or because Kurt Cobain was my music hero. Instead, I remember that date so clearly because my brother was a huge Nirvana fan and Kurt Cobain was his music hero, so much so that after the news broke that Cobain killed himself, he was in a state of complete shock, sadness and disbelief. I was 15 at the time and he was 17, and that can make a huge difference in terms of music and pop culture tastes at that stage of life. Sure, we both liked the same sports teams and had some crossover interests, but back then my brother was the real music-lover who just soaked up everything.
When Kurt Cobain died, though, I’d never seen him more deflated from losing someone in the pop culture realm. He lit candles, developed conspiracy theories against Courtney Love, and listened to Nevermind and In Utero and whatever other bootleg tapes he had at the time on a continuous loop. And then there was that T-Shirt with Kurt’s face on it and that date inscribed as if to hammer home the permanence of his death: April 5, 1994.
So, where was I that night? In my room, listening to Nirvana through the walls of my brother’s room. It’s a date I will never forget, because I never wanted him to feel that kind of pain again. That’s the mark it left on me.
Wow, I guess I didn’t realize exactly where I was going with this, nor do I know where I still might go.
It has also taken a bit of an emotional toll on me recounting these events, so it’s best I stop here and come back with a part 2 in two weeks to tackle some more of this topic.
In the meantime, if you have a “Where were you when…?” question for me or your own story you’d like to share — about pro wrestling or anything, really — please let me know in the comments section below. This could end up being a bigger series than two parts if it needs to be.