Where you were on Nine-Eleven?

This post was first published as a Facebook note in response to a friend’s note about where she was on the 11th September 2001.

Australia is 14 hours ahead of the east coast of the United States. When it happened it was already the night of that day here. We started the video recording The West Wing, which didn’t start until 10:30pm, and went to bed.

The next morning my husband got up before I did, as usual. This time he came back downstairs almost immediately and said ‘Something’s happened.’ He’d been listening to the radio and turned the TV on to see. By this time it was all over. If we’d stayed up to watch The West Wing we would have seen the first news break.

Eventually we went to work. I worked at that time in a 23-story office building on the Pacific Highway in North Sydney. I was on Level 9, with a desk against the window overlooking the Highway. I could see the sky beyond the buildings across the road.

Everyone in the building was in shock. Very little work was done that day. I vividly remember looking in horror out the window with another woman as a plane came quite low through the sky towards us, which they rarely did. We both held our breaths. We didn’t seriously think that the plane was going to hit us, and of course it just flew over the top of the building. It was the visual image of an aeroplane at that angle. Usually when you see a plane in the sky it’s going from one side to the other, not flying towards you with wings visible on either side. It was months, perhaps years, before seeing a plane flying towards me like that didn’t make me hold my breath.

Even after a few days of seeing the footage of the planes hitting the World Trade Centre over and over again it was still horrifying to watch. It still makes me hold my breath now, although thankfully the TV stations stopped showing it so often.

One night, perhaps the next night, we sat down to watch the episode of The West Wing that we had recorded, and we saw the news break and how little information there was to begin with. They said a plane had hit one of the towers and they thought it was a little bi-plane or something. By the end of The West Wing there was more information, and whatever they had scheduled after that was abandoned as more information, and then the horrifying film footage as it happened, came in. The video had kept recording as I had just hit the ‘record’ button instead of setting the timer.

There were Australians in the buildings that day. Some got out, some didn’t. There were all nationalities, all religions, all ages. The numbers kept going up, and then down as more people were accounted for. It didn’t really matter what nationality or religion they were. We will always remember them, and where we were when we heard the news.

Australia Day family history events

It’s Australia Day, and I was inspired by Shelley’s blog to find out what happening on this day in my own family’s past.

Here are the highlights:

1616 – Eleanor Nicholas, my 9th great grandmother, was baptised in St Keverne, Cornwall.

1823 – Martha Miles, my 3rd great-grandmother, was baptised in the Wesleyan Methodist Church at Towcester, Northamptonshire. She married George Goode from Yardley Hastings, Northamptonshire and they migrated to New South Wales with their two young daughters.

1840 – James Pascoe, baby brother of my 3rd great-grandfather Henry Pascoe of St Keverne, Cornwall, was baptised. He died unmarried  when he was only 31.

1865 – Grace Pascoe nee Oates, my 3rd great-grandmother, her daughter Bessie, and her mother Elizabeth Oates nee Williams arrived in Sydney on the Hornet from Plymouth as assisted immigrants, eventually joining their brothers and sons in the Millthorpe area of New South Wales. Eleanor Nicholas was her 4th great-grandmother.

2008 – dear Uncle Ray passed away after a long illness.

For all but the last one there was no ‘Australia’, let alone Australia Day.

To find out how I got the list out of my family tree software, see this blog.

A visit to Fiji in 1832

nautical_diary 300x200On the 15th May 1831 the barque Peru from Salem, Massachussetts arrived in the Fiji Islands to look for beche-de-mer, turtle shell, and other trade goods. The Captain, John H. Eagleston, wrote a log which is now in the Essex Institute Library in Salem.

Much of the log contains details of little interest to a historian. The entries for most days begin with a description of the weather and the strength and direction of the breeze. The process and results of the collection, preparation and loading of cargo are also described in detail.

Occasionally, though, Captain Eagleston described local events. Here’s one:

November 1832, Friday 2nd Lowered boat & went on shore, found people all well but nothing to do, no fish coming in. The officer informed me that when the natives returned from the fight they brought up one man & one old woman which they had taken & killed. The next day after they returned the woman was cut up & cooked alongside of the trade house. The man was cooked at the kings house. They kept them 3 days probably to make them tender for eating they cut them up with bamboo sticks. I saw some of their bones scattered round the Beche de mer house.

The log has been microfilmed as part of the collection of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies of the Australian National University in Canberra. The microfilms are available at the Mitchell Library in Sydney, which is where I have been investigating them.

I have been slowly transcribing this log over the last few weeks, and when it’s done I’ll start on another one.