Petit Fours » A group blog of authors writing in different genres

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Crystallized moments

by Carol Burnside

For years I didn’t ‘get’ how so many people of my parents’ generation remembered exactly where they were when they heard the news of JFK’s death. I was but a small child, and vaguely remembered my dad and mom huddled around a radio with ashen faces and watery eyes, shushing anyone who dared speak. But I didn’t feel the significance of that moment in the same way that it was for them.

Then came 9-11-01. That morning, I sat in front of my television and felt the same kind of shock and horror that another generation felt, of having been attacked in a way that would forever change the feeling of invincibility I’d had for my country.

Senseless death. Devastating destruction. My generation had its can’t-forget moment.

There are other, more personal moments that crystallize in my memory. Tears and prayers late one night, my father rushed away by a wailing ambulance, dead from a massive heart attack. Another night, the sky filled with an unnatural light as we evacuated our home due to an exploding tank at a nearby natural gas refinery.

Thankfully, some of those defining moments are happy ones. Standing before a JP without witness one and feeling the rightness of marrying the man I continue to love decades later. Holding my newborn child for the first time. Surprising my mother on her 80th birthday with a big party, all my siblings and her friends present.

Good or bad, what moments have crystallized in your memory?

Debbie Kaufman - September 27, 2010 - 6:34 am

I’m guessing I’m a little older because I remember watching the news on the Kennedy assasination and running upstairs to my parents to tell them. I can think of several crytalizing moments, the happiest of which are labor and delivery related. I remember vividly where I was each time I went into labor. Not something you forget easily!

Sandra Elzie - September 27, 2010 - 6:57 am

Good morning Carol,
Hummmm, so many of them…where do I start? (g)

Well, there’s the obvious birth related memories,(g) JFK (I was 13, in History class & they came on the loudspeaker to tell us) and 9-11-01 (I was in Anaheim–Disney Land..still asleep in the hotel, and got a call from my son-in-laws parents to tell my daughter and myself that not only the two towers had been hit, but the Pentagon where my SIL was working that day.)

I remember my first paycheck and my father telling me…laughing…that it would be the first of many. (Truer words were never spoken)

And I remember the day I finally understood who God and Jesus are. It changed my life forever…in a good way…with no lingering bad memories.


Maxine - September 27, 2010 - 7:25 am

Hi Carol,
Yes, I remember being glued to the TV during the JFK death, the Towers, and not trying to be funny, just sad, I also remember the day Elvis died; there’s my parents and others.

I also have happy times I remember. What it feels like to have somebody I truly love and who truly loves me.

There are times and memories that make me laugh out loud and to know what true happiness is. Those are the ones I like to keep in my head and heart to fall back on when the sad ones creep in and to just have because I get the loosy-goosy happy feeling when those hapy memories are present.

I just know that if we live on this earth long enough, we’ll have some of both kinds of memories.

Sally Kilpatrick - September 27, 2010 - 7:34 am

My 9/11 moment was having the guidance counselor pull me out of class to tell me what had happened then tell me I had to explain it to a class of silly sophomores. I was wearing a blue paisley maternity dress, and the counselor, God love her, was afraid I might go into labor because I was so pale. But I went in and did my duty, hopefully sending my babies off with the right mix of truth and reverence.

I remember where my husband proposed in the Smoky Mountains and how we celebrated with an old timey photo in Pigeon Forge–then the look on the Best Man’s face when he realized he’d forgotten the rings.

I remember finally going into labor with Connor only to be told to wait until my appointment 10 hours later to come in. So I went to school and finished my grades. While in labor. (Fun times!)

I remember my first nice car. And the moment someone totaled that car.

I remember getting the message I had won the Duel on the Delta then Pam’s call about the Maggies. When I said I was revising my query letter, she said, “Well, I have something you may want to add to that!”

I, too, remember the day I went down the church aisle at the end of church. I didn’t go for the right reasons that time, but joining the church paved my way to a greater relationship with Jesus.

And those are just a few. No one sits around the table with her Granny without understanding the importance of memories and of talking about them–thanks for the reminder, Carol.

Marilyn Baron - September 27, 2010 - 8:05 am

Like Debbie, I must be the older generation because I remember hearing about JFK in 5th grade math class. We were glued to our TV sets as the events unfolded.

I was at work the morning of 9-11 when my colleague in the PR department who was monitoring the news for his job ran in to tell us. Our whole office huddled around his TV to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. We thought the first was a fluke accident. Of course after the second attack our reality changed forever.

Unfortunately, I’m going through my own tragic moment right now. I flew in to Miami to be with my family because my father was hospitalized with kidney failure and now I am trying to figure out how I’m going to say goodbye as we sit around him at his house while he”s in hospice care in the last days of his life. To top that off my husband went into diabetic shock in our hotel room around midnight and the wonderful fire and rescue team showed up at our hotel room and took us to the hospital. It was surreal but he’ fine. I guess for “memorable” moments, last night was one I won’t forget.
There are many happy moments and memories but right now they’re being overshadowed.

Thank you for your beautiful post.

Tami Brothers - September 27, 2010 - 8:46 am

Wow, ladies. I’m humbled by all the memories. My prayers are with you Carol and you, too, Marilyn!

Memories. I wasn’t around for JFK but like Carol, I remember how it affected my parents. Like Maxine, they spoke of Elvis in the same way.

I remember just waking up when my husband called me from work to tell me about 9-11. Then him calling a few minutes later to make sure I knew about the second one. I remember hugging my son that morning and knowing life as we knew it had changed forever.

I remember the moment (at eighteen) telling my parents some medical news and how the people I’d tried so hard to pull away from for most of my high school life rallied around me.

I remember the birth of my son and even the moments when my sisters called to tell me about the births of their children (I was there for a few of them).

I remember the day I found out a company I loved was going to close and that I would be losing a job I enjoyed more than any I had had before. I also remember the day I realized that the new job I had and loved wouldn’t have been possible without that loss.

It’s enlightening to see how some really amazing things have come after things I consider to have been the worst lows in my life. Although I don’t like it when bad things happen, it gives me hope that I will eventually understand the reason for them.

Thanks for a very touching post, Carol!


Sia Huff - September 27, 2010 - 9:44 am


My husband called from work the morning of 9-11 and told me to turn on the TV. He didn’t say anything else. He couldn’t. I saw the cloud of smoke billowing into the sky and the second tower hit. A terrible day for all Americans.
Happy memories are getting to see Yul Brener in The King & I with my parents and Godparents for my 17th birthday. Getting to hold my children after their birth and feeling a sense of completeness. Watching my oldest son’s eyes light up seeing Mickey Mouse for the first time. Then hugging him after boot camp and not being allowed to see him for 13 weeks.
The bad memories, of being told by several doctors my younger son probably wouldn’t live. Trying to tell my older son, the brother he prayed for may not stay with us. I couldn’t find the words for a four year old and choked up. My four year old put his tiny hand on my back and told me it was okay. When his brother was better, we were going to take him to Disney to meet Mickey Mouse. And we did.
It’s hard when the black clouds loom, but there are rays of light and a silver lining.
I hope you and Marilyn see the light soon.


Sandra Elzie - September 27, 2010 - 9:46 am


My prayers are with you and your family for strength. Spend each moment you can with your father and if possible, tape conversations if he’s able to talk and tell stories of his childhood.

Your husband’s hospital experience only serves to remind us all that life can be cut short…so what is important enough to fight out with those you care about and love?

Thanks for the post, Carol.


Dianna Love - September 27, 2010 - 12:42 pm

I can still remember where I was the day JFK was shot – I was in grade school on my way to bus patrol duty. And I definitely remember where I was when the twin towers were hit. I think it’s those moments in time that make you stop to realize you are human and something very significant has just affected your life in a major way – good or bad – that will change the way you look at the world and others around you.

Interesting post, Carol.

Susan - September 27, 2010 - 2:11 pm

Okay, I should’ve read this sooner. I’m crying now. I remember Kennday, MLK, Elvis (I was and still am a big fan) and the Towers. How about the shuttles? I know where I was and what I was doing with the lost of close family members. But with those sad times are the great ones-my wedding day, graduation from Auburn, the birth of my four kids, one getting a heart transplant and another getting married. The good and bad all add up to just being life.

Carol Burnside - September 27, 2010 - 4:38 pm

Wow. There are so many of us going through life altering moments lately. Some have happened and we’re struggling through them. Others are pending and we’re preparing ourselves.

Thanks everyone for sharing your difficult moments and the good times. Sometimes taking the time to remember the good stuff is what helps us tolerate the bad.

Cyber hugs to all my PFHT sisters and friends! May today be better than yesterday.

Tamara destefano - September 27, 2010 - 5:55 pm

I wasn’t around for JFK…not even a twinkle in my father’s eye. But like most of us, I was among the millions who were shocked, horrified, disgusted, and distraught when the awful events of 9/11 transpired.
My mom and I were in the car, on the way to an antique fair and we heard the news of the first plane crash on the radio. We thought it was a mistake.
Why not, who would believe that something as terrible as that could actually happen.
My husband’s best friend’s younger brother worked on one of the upper floors of the first building to go down.
He didn’t make it.
he was only twenty-three years old. And he’d shared Thanksgiving with us the year before.
He was a really sweet guy, with a bright future.
Dusty, (my husband) still talks about Joey.
I’m just sorry so many people have the same sad memories of people, family, friends they lost to an unspeakable act of violence.
Remembering days like 9/11 sometimes help me to put things in perspective. When I’m “suffering” from my illness, tired and out of sorts, all I need to do is think about how lucky I am to be alive, how fortunate I am to have my family with me, and things don’t seem so bad anymore.
Thanks for the post Carol.
Have a lovely evening,

Linsey Lanier - September 27, 2010 - 6:49 pm

I’ve had a lousy day. But reading through all these memories has touched my heart. I’m teary-eyed, too. Talk about perspective.

My heart goes out to Carol and Marilyn. May God be with you in these trials.

Marilyn Baron - September 28, 2010 - 5:31 am

Thanks everyone for your thoughts and prayers.The first place I wanted to reach out to was to my PF and HT sisters.My brother said that the best thing to come out of this experience is that it is bringing him closer to his three sisters.

And I can’t believe that some of you were not born yet when JFK was assasinated. Hard to fathom.

Pam Asberry - September 28, 2010 - 6:58 am

Thought provoking post, Carol. It’s interesting that most of my crystalline moments – like those others have mentioned – involve those lightning bolts of tragedy. We go through life in a bubble, feeling safe and protected, and then something happens – an assassination, a bombing, a shuttle explosion, a health scare, the death of a loved one – and we are shattered to be reminded of how fragile everything really is. But then there are those moments of utter joy – births, weddings, a negative test result, the first time a beginning piano student plays “Jingle Bells” on the piano – that give us hope and reason to go on. I am so grateful for this forum to share!

Carol Burnside - September 28, 2010 - 7:48 pm

Thanks everyone for sharing!

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