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Where Were You?

18 February 2013, 07:31

Where were you?

Some of life's news events about people become defining points of reference for us. I will always remember where I was when I heard the news of Princess Diana's death. It was Sunday 31st August 1997 and I was sitting in church when it was spoken about from the pulpit. I could not believe what I was hearing. I could not wait to get home, to turn on the television and find out what was going on. It must be a mistake! But it was not.

It was Tuesday 11th April 2000 when news broke that Hansie Cronje had admitted that he hadn't been entirely honest. I heard the report during the 11am news on CCFm – I was driving in Cape Town and on the off-ramp onto the N2 from the M5. I don't often go that way and on the odd occasions that I do, I always remember Hansie. I remember standing in the entrance area of CCFm on Saturday 1st June 2002, around midday when someone came in and told me that he had just had a call – Hansie was dead.

And in the same vein, I will always remember exactly where I was when I heard the news that Oscar Pistorius had shot his girlfriend and killed her. I was told it was accidental. I was told that she went to his house to surprise him. I was told he thought she was an intruder. It was 14th February 2013 at 8-28am when I heard the news. I was sitting in the CCFm broadcast studio, about to go live when my colleague Jason came into tell me. I lifted my hands to my face and gasped in horror. The extreme tragedy of it all shouted loudly that Oscar's life will never be the same again. A woman was dead. A family was in mourning. Oscar was to blame. As the day progressed and more information emerged, it just became too shocking to hear that he was arrested on a charge of murder. I, like most people in my country, supported Oscar because he is South African. We admired him for his tenacity in competing against able-bodied athletes.... for flying the flag high and courageously for the disabled. For giving people hope. It's hard to hear that he could be anything other than a nice guy who from extreme physical disability had risen to be one of the world's most recognisable athletes. The media merry-go-round has got hold of it and in a pit bull dog kind of way, they're not letting go. They will follow this story, bleeding it for all it's worth, uncovering every stone, interviewing every possible connection, splashing the dark, the dreadful and maybe even deceptive details all over their front covers & in all their major bulletins. The Crime Channel producers are probably already making notes, Crime Stories, Evil Up Close, Medical Detectives will be scrambling to get first dibs on producing the documentary.

Eventually, time will pass and like we remember where we were when we heard, it will be nothing more than a memory, except for those involved. The family of Reeva Steenkamp will always mourn...will always wonder what may have been. Oscar Pistorius will always regret... always try and turn back the clock to do things differently.

It's a lesson to us all. Think before you act. Slow down. Remain calm. Life can change in the blink of an eye.

Helga van Niekerk is the presenter of the Rise and Shine show on Cape Town's 107.5 CCFm. She broadcasts Monday to Friday from 6-9am. Off-air, she is a prolific blogger at

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