It’s the kind of question that is usually only asked in relation to tragic events. Where were you (or your parents) when Kennedy was shot? Where were you when you found out about the 9/11 attacks? Yesterday’s death of Nelson Mandela, at the age of 95, left me wondering if people also remember where they were when they learned the much happier news in 1990 that Mr. Mandela had been released from prison after 27 years of confinement.
I’ll go first. In February 1990 I was spending a semester of college studying politics in London. And when I happened upon Trafalgar Square on February 11, a massive crowd had gathered. Protestors maybe, but these folks seemed happier somehow, even with all the signs and chanting and energy you’d expect of demonstrators. I soon discovered they’d convened in front of the South African embassy to celebrate the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Major news that was cause for major—spontaneous—celebration.
Throughout the decades, demonstrators had often gathered outside the embassy to protest the anti-apartheid policies of the South African government and the sentence of life imprisonment that had been imposed against Nelson Mandela. Now, they could mark the beginning of a new South Africa, one that would see Nelson Mandela become president and eventually visit Trafalgar Square as head of state.
So please let us know in the comments, where were you when Nelson Mandela was released from prison? Are there any other events you’d add to the list?