Thirty years ago today (January 28, 1986), the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded just after liftoff. Everyone on board was killed.
I was attending pharmacy school at the time. I remember walking into Griffith Hall, and everyone was standing around a TV screen. I asked what was going on, and someone told me that the shuttle exploded.
I had one of those “oh my God” moments. I will remember it forever.
My parents used to talk with their friends about the JFK assassination. They all remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
My grandparents used to talk about Pearl Harbor, and D-Day, and the day WWII ended in the same way. They remembered those events vividly.
The first one of my “where were you” memories was when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. I don’t have many memories of it, but I remember being in the hospital having my tonsils removed, and someone mentioned it.
I was too young to remember JFK’s assassination, and for whatever reason, I have no memory of RFK’s assassination.
My generation has a few of those “where were you” events.
I was watching Monday Night Football on December 8, 1980 at college. Howard Cosell note that John Lennon had been shot in New York City. A few minutes later, he announced that John Lennon had died. Ironically, Lennon sang a lyric in the song “A Day In The Life”: “I heard the news today, oh boy….”.
Months later, March 30 1981, President Reagan was shot. I was walking across Penn’s campus when I heard.
And on May 13, 1981, someone shot Pope John Paul II.
I remember hearing about each one.
Another moment that people my age remember is the O.J. Simpson car chase. It happened on June 17, 1994. All that anyone needs to say is “white Ford Bronco”, and we all remember where we were. I could not stop watching that chase.
A few months later, someone bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. I was going out to lunch with colleagues for a work event (April 19, 1995), and walked into a restaurant. Everyone was watching the TV screen with mouths open.
I was home taking care of my newborn daughter on August 9, 1995 when someone called me to tell me that Jerry Garcia died.
My most memorable event was 9/11. September 11, 2001. I was at work that morning, and someone came into my office and told me that a plane had crashed into one of the twin towers. Then 30 minutes later, the same person rushed into my office and said that there was a second crash, and it looked like we were being attacked.
The next week was a blur.
I rushed to pick my daughter up at school. She was 6 at the time. She knew something was going on, because parents were coming to school and picking up their children early. She was with the librarian, and I gave my daughter a big hug. She asked “what’s wrong, Daddy?”
I didn’t know where to begin.
I still see that school librarian from time to time. We nod. We share a “where were you” memory.
Where were you when you heard the news?