Sunday, January 6, 2013

The day the world stopped

We all know them; the days, where the events, which are playing out in front of us, on the TV or on the radio, are so unexpected, heart wrenching and horrible that they leave us shell-shocked and unable to carry on with the chores of the day.
Instead, we become bystanders, hardly able to grasp the reality of what is going on and hoping more than once that it is just a bad dream, which we are all going to wake up from soon.
Although shell-shocked, most of us will still remember very vividly what we were doing when we heard the news, where we were, what time it was, who we were with…

Generations just slightly older than mine remember exactly what they were doing on Friday the 22nd of November 1963, when they first heard the news that President J.F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. For my generation - and younger generations - it is events such as the death of Princess Diana in 1997, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in September 2001 and the tsunami in the Indian Ocean in 2004 as well as the most recent one in Japan in 2011. Some were manmade, some caused by the forces of nature, but despite the differences in their origins, these events had such an impact on us that we will all agree that for a while, it felt as if the world stopped around us.

And then there is the day in the summer of 2009, which had a particularly hard impact on a special group of people, a group not limited by geography, nationality or age; the fans of Michael Jackson. We all have our different stories to tell of that day.
This is mine.

Being nine hours ahead of the events in Los Angeles thanks my geographical location in Denmark, I was fast asleep when the news first broke that Michael had been taken to the hospital. Of course, it meant that I did not have to live through the nail-biting hours of fear and confusion where rumors were flying left and right, but none could be confirmed.  Instead, I woke up to the awful truth. A truth with no hope to hang on to.
As always on a Friday morning, I was in a good mood. It was a short day at work and the weekend was waiting just around the corner. However, this particular Friday I was a bit more excited than I usually was when I came out into my kitchen after taking my morning shower. In the evening I was going to host a garden party. All of my colleagues were coming and we had a beautiful tent set up in the garden, the weather looked beautiful, we had lots of food and wine… In short, I was looking forward to having a good time.

I went to make some coffee, but then changed my mind and made a detour to pick up the remote. I turned on the TV to watch the morning show and was about to turn away, when I realized that it was not the morning show, but the news. However, before I even had a chance to find out what could be so important that the morning show had been interrupted, the speaker threw the explanation right in my face.
“Michael Jackson is dead.”
No warning, no putting it gently…
Just right in my face.
I remember letting out an exclamation (in Danish) that means something like “oh, sweet baby” and then running down the hall towards the second bathroom, where my husband was getting ready. I also remember how my legs started shaking under me as the shock kicked in and then my voice cracking as I told my husband the news through the door.
“Michael Jackson is dead. It is all over the news. Oh, my God…”
I must have gone back to the kitchen, but strangely that part is completely gone from my memory. In fact, I do not remember anything again before sitting at my desk at work, reading every article I could possibly find on the internet, trying desperately to find out why he had died, why his doctor was missing, when it happened… All the details, we so desperately crave for when we try to comprehend the incomprehensible.

At that time, I did not have my own office. My desk was placed in an open office landscape, and my colleagues were walking back and forth behind me, going about their daily routines as I sat there, frozen in front of my screen. At some point, someone was bound to notice that I was not working, but I did not care at that time. I wish I had though.
Upon seeing what I was reading, one of my colleagues stopped, shrugged her shoulders and then went on with the words: “Not much of a loss.” She said something else too, something I will not refer here, but you all know what they say, the people who do not believe in Michael’s innocence.
Yeah… Exactly.
Her words were extremely hurtful, and being a preacher’s wife she should have known better than to judge other people, but I grit my teeth and ignored her, pretending I had not heard what she said simply because I knew that I would not be able to stand up for Michael without breaking down completely.
I was hanging on by a thread and I had to keep on hanging there. If I did not, there would be no garden party and people would talk…and I hate it when people talk.
But God, I really wished it had been any other Friday…
No, I wish it had not been at all.

I rode my bike home from work in a daze, started making preparations for the party in a daze… I was like a robot, doing what I was supposed to do simply because by then I had finally managed to completely shut myself down emotionally. I was dead set on not opening up again until all my guests had gone home.
It was pure survival tactics.
And then I did something strange...or maybe not so strange.
My collection of Michael CDs is very dear to me, and under normal circumstances I would have wanted to play some of his music at the party, but driven by a sudden impulse, I went into my living room and removed everything even remotely linked to Michael. Then I hid all the CDs in my bedroom.
For some reason, I just had to get him out of the way.
Looking back, I know it was to protect myself not only from the impact of Michael’s voice but also from another hurtful comment. However, at the time, I can honestly say that I did not know what drove me.
Late in the evening, when the party was well on the way, someone asked me if I did not have any Michael Jackson CDs. “It is just the right occasion,” she said.
But to me, it was the worst occasion ever. Still, I felt ashamed of myself when I told her that I did not have any Michael Jackson CDs. I felt like the apostle Simon Peter denying Jesus, but I just could not bear dealing with Michael at that time. 
When the guests left, I felt numb and too tired to cry. I wanted to let go, but I couldn’t. It was as if I was holding my breath despite my need to exhale. The feeling lingered all through the weekend as I plowed through stacks of newspapers, still desperately searching for answers that would not come until the trial.
Was I hoping for a miracle?
I guess so.
I was hardly the only one.

As we all know, it did not come.
Still, something happened that finally made me let go.
When riding home from work Monday afternoon, Mother Nature came up with a surprising and extraordinary beautiful spectacle. Ahead of me, the air suddenly filled with what looked like big, floating snowflakes. They covered the road with a puffy layer of white too, but since it was in the middle of the summer I knew it had to be something else.
Spellbound, I stopped in the middle of it, my feet sinking several inches into what turned out to be some kind of seed. Every time a car passed, the seeds whirled around in the air, dancing madly around my bare legs, tickling me like crazy before they came to rest again.
There were billions of them. They looked like a blanket made of cotton straight of the cotton bushes, or the seeds of the African Kapok tree, but neither can grow in the Danish climate.
But they were there and as I looked around in vain to determine from where they came, the thought that perhaps they fell from heaven suddenly materialized out of the blue. And then came the next thought…
“Michael is home.”
And with it…the tears.


  1. "Michael's home" you got me sitting here crying .
    I was at a bar with a friend after work having a bite too eat and a drink when I found out.
    During the day at work ,I did not have the TV on while on my break , I did not hear anything about Michael.
    Sitting in this bar they did have the TV on and my friend was chatting away and then I saw the news , I remember saying : Michael Jackson is dead , what happened ? , she said , oh a heart attack or something , then she proceeded on with her story .
    I was not paying any attention to her story any more , I was just glued to that TV , with no sound on , I was frantically trying to follow what the newschannel was saying .
    I did not stay very much longer after that , while I drove home I could not stop crying ....
    What a sad day , what a loss , what a hole he left .....

    1. K, I am sorry. I swear I did not write this to make you or anyone else feel sad. I just wanted to tell my story once and for all. (But the truth is that going back to that day in 2009 made me feel sad too.)

      Yeah, he sure left a hole. In the world, in our hearts...

      Thanks for sharing your story too.

  2. I agree with both of you that day is one no fan will ever forget, I remember I was cooking dinner and my son came home from the gym and said "did you hear?" Michael Jackson died! I was like you are so full of sh...... He was like no he really did... I put on the tv and I was in shock.. I was waiting to wake up or hear it was just another load of crap put out by the media...unfortunately it wasn't

    That had to be an awesome site to see E..yes Michael is home!

    1. Yes, it was an awesome sight, but to this day I have no idea where the seeds came from. It has not happened again. I am thinking that maybe it is a tree or bush that only flowers every ten years or so... I don't know. But there has to be a natural explanation.

      Wanting to wake up...
      I remember that feeling.

  3. Thi is very touching Enola, I remember feeling much the same way, I felt like I got the wind knocked out of me, I am completely obsessed with him and I felt like I was dead too. I realled LOVED him. I got the news when I got off work from my parents who were dreading telling me. Unfortunately for me there was no comfort of "sign" from heaven to ease my pain.

    1. Hi Kim,
      My sense of reason tells me that it was not a sign from heaven, but something of "worldly" origin. It must be some trees or bushes that flower only every ten years. I have lived here for more than 13 years now and only seen it this once.

      However - that day, I admit the flowering came at just the right time. Almost as if it was sent from heaven. It helped me tremendously. But that does not mean I am not still mourning our loss. I am. Every day.

      Your parents must have felt so bad telling you. I hope they broke it to you gently.

  4. I understand that it probably was some rational explanation but it happened at just the right time and that's such a coincidence it was meant to happen to give you some peace of mind. It's like Michael was trying to let you know that he was ok. MY parents did feel awful telling me and they were gentle about it and I broke down as soon as they told me, it was like a nightmare.

    1. It is still a nightmare, isn't it?
      And the worst part is knowing that waking up is not going to make a difference.