We all have significant dates that we remember each year, Christmas, Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc. But we also have dates that seem to become significant entirely by accident. These are dates on which significant, often life-changing, events have occurred. They don't happen every year, and often it is not until looking back sometime in the future that you realise that they are significant.
For me, September 12th seems to be that date. On several occasions in my life, this has been the date that significant events have occurred, but three stick out in my mind.
The first of these is Tuesday 12th September 1978. On this date I travelled from Whitton to Dover, to the Duke of York's Royal Military School. Along with 74 other boys from all over the world, we were commencing 5-7 years of education at an establishment that would often shape the rest of our lives and we were to meet people who would remain lifelong friends. An example of this is that in the blog list to the right is Naive Zebra. He too started at DYRMS on the same date. The author of Diary Of An Old Dukie started at the school the year after us.
It’s very easy to look back with rose-tinted spectacles and claim that my schooldays were the best days of my life. They weren't. True, I had none of the concerns then that I have now, not just health-wise, but how many of us would want to relive puberty!
There is also the 'I wish I knew then what I know now' school of thought, and yes there are certain things that I wish I could go back and change. I wish I'd never started smoking and I wish I'd actually studied when I was at school. I think that I'd leave just about everything else as it has been, otherwise I would be a completely different person.
I definitely wouldn't change going to that school. The friends that I've made, not just from my own year, are the type that you may not see for months or sometimes years. Yet when you speak to them, it’s as if you had only not met for a couple of days. There also seems to be a common bond between all who attended the school, be it pre-war or last year, that means that when there are reunions, there is always a good atmosphere between all age-groups. That's something that I definitely wouldn't change.
The next date is Wednesday 12th September 2001. This date is significant for different reasons. The day before had seen the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon.
I had joined the Territorial Army in February 2001 and in September 2001 I was an Officer Cadet on my first camp in Fremington, Devon. When I'd joined, I had had all the usual talks, one of which was about the unlikelihood of my ever being required to serve for real, after all, the last time that the TA had been called upon was during the Second World War.
On September 11th, I, along with several of the Officers from the Sqn made our way to the mess for lunch. We arrived in time to see the second plane fly into the tower. However, it was not until the following day that we received the full briefing.
On the 12th, we were briefed about the security situation and how George W had declared a 'Global War on Terrorism'. There was also a lot of speculation that as a result of the events of the previous day we would all be mobilised to fight this global war. Within two years, just about all of those at that briefing had deployed, or were just about to deploy, to either Iraq or Afghanistan.
There can be said to have been two good things to have come out of all this devastation. Firstly, this was the most devastating terrorist attack that had occurred on US soil and led to the 'War on Terrorism' announcement. The knock-on effect was that American terrorist supporters were more reluctant to continue supporting Irish terrorists who were killing British soldiers and civilians. Now, we have peace in that troubled Province.
Secondly, there was an element within the Territorial Army who saw their service as being a member of a uniformed drinking club. Following the announcements of 12th September 2001, almost all of these wasters, when suddenly faced with the prospect of actually having to do the job that they'd been trained for, left. What this means is that those of us that are still serving know that we can rely on those who are serving with us.
Lastly, Sunday 12th September 2004. I had returned from Iraq in April 2004 to discover that I was separated. In the months after I returned, a friendship developed with a girl called Kate that, by September 2004, had developed into more than just a friendship.
I had spent much of September 2004 in Aldershot doing a course for the Army, but was back in Kent for the weekend of 10th-12th September. Kate had spent most of the weekend engaged in a St John Ambulance duty in Tunbridge Wells, and on the 12th I was returning to Aldershot to complete the course. So we agreed that I would meet her from the duty, drive back to her house and have a coffee with her before heading back to Aldershot so that we got to spend some time together.
Having met Kate, she waved me on and followed in her car. It was a route that we had taken numerous times, however on this occasion we were only a couple of miles from Kate's when I heard tyres screeching, and when I looked in my mirror, I saw Kate's car swerve across the road in front of another vehicle, which hit her and pushed her part way through a fence into someone’s garden.
I pulled the car over and ran to Kate's car, and found her unconscious but breathing when I did my primary survey. Other witnesses had called the emergency services, so I carried on looking after Kate. It was when I did a secondary survey that I discovered that she had blown her left pupil, indicating massive head trauma.
The emergency services had to cut Kate out of the car and she was taken to the local hospital, where she was intubated and admitted to the intensive care.
Two days later, the tests showed that Kate was brain dead and she was 'switched off', although her organs were donated. It appears that she had suffered a massive cerebral haemorrhage whilst driving which had led to her losing control of the car. She was 35.
So, here we are, 30, 7 and 4 years after each of these dates. This year nothing has happened of any significance, but I will be honest I am always curious to see what will occur as the date approaches.