"I'll never forget where I was when I heard that..."

Now that i’m coming up on my 30th birthday and i’m old enough to be nostalgiac about things, i’ve been thinking about the major world events that have defined my life. My father, who was born in Boston in 1950, told me that he and everyone else of his generation could never forget where they were when they heard JFK had been shot. For his father’s generation, it was when they heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Thinking on that made me try to recall the major events in history where I can remember exactly where I was when I heard it had happened.

This is what i’ve come up with:

-When Bill Clinton was elected
-When Columbine High was attacked
-When George W. Bush was elected
-When the 9/11 attacks occurred
-When John Entwistle died
-When the Iraq war began
-When Barack Obama was elected

Anyone else want to share theirs?

Desert Storm–I was in the Air Force at the time, and had a pretty good idea when the fireworks would start.

9/11–heard about it while driving to work. Saw the towers fall on TV in the office.

My list would include:
[li]RFK’s assassination. I was in the kitchen.[/li][li]Challenger explosion (at work).[/li][li]OK City bombing (home for lunch).[/li][li]OJ Simpson’s slo-mo freeway chase (at work, different job).[/li][li]Desert Storm begins (Applebee’s :confused:).[/li][li]The 9/11 attacks and everything subsequent (in my house).[/li][/ul]
What amazes me are the events I should remember but don’t, like the moon landing(s), the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., and the collapse of the 35W bridge in Minneapolis, which I didn’t find out about until the following day.

Shuttle Challenger explosion - In Ms Rossman’s 8th grade English class. It was a very cold day and the school heating system failed. It was cold enough to see your breath inside.

The principal comes on the intercom and starts with “I am sorry to report that…”

The chairs started screeching immediately. Students tossing books into bags. Even Ms Rossman muttered something about finally being sent home and how could students be expected to learn while shivering.

The principal continued, “the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff.”

And everyone stopped. We stared at each other. And then started debating whether the principal would make up something like that. And if so why? Finally classes started congregating in the few science labs that had televisions and we watched the news.

Other moments included:
OJ verdict (at home)
9/11 (at home, out sick that day)
Shuttle Colombia break up (at work. Colleague came in and told us.)

9/11: 3rd day teaching in front of a high school classroom

Challenger: I was 9, found out from teachers in the faculty lounge of my school

Columbine: Sitting in my ratty college apartment in Illinois, trying to hold down a panic attack because my wife was currently teaching

Columbia shuttle disaster: Listening to NPR (Morning Edition) on the way to a couple’s therapy session. The announcer (it must have been Steve Inskeep) said something like “I think it’s safe to say that we’re in special coverage now.”

The ousting of Hosni Mubarak: Happened to check CNN between classes, and I was able to show my students the live feed of the coverage. Figured it was more important than calculus for a day.

OJ: Got home from the mall to find my brother and his girlfriend watching the chase. I thought they were watching Cops.

9/11 is it for me, because I was online when it unfolded. I cant even remember very well even what was happening with the NZ earthquakes and my dad was in them, and thats not long ago at all.

Just doesnt seem to be how my memory works.


Things that pop to mind:

9/11, obviously. I was in Oakland, CA, going through a divorce, living with a roommate, it was a weird time.

OJ Simpson Car chase: I remember watching it all afternoon/evening in an apartment I’d just moved into.

Challenger disaster: in college in Northern Maine, sharing an apartment with two other guys. We started making pseudo-jokes about it only 10 minutes in, as in … “Say, I wonder what’s on channel 2? What do you know … the shuttle blowing up. How about channel 4? Shuttle. Is there anything else on fucking TV today?” What yuks, huh?

Reagan getting shot. After school – my first foray into paying attention to the 24-hour news cycle.

John Lennon’s death. I’d gone to sleep early the night before and I didn’t find out until my mother told me in the morning, “Hey. Did you hear? John Lennon got shot last night. He’s dead.” Holy shit … I’d just really starting getting into the whole Beatles mythos.
Probably others, but my memory isn’t what it used to be.

Princess Diana’s death - I came home from work, switched on the TV, and there was the news. I was stunned. It had only been confirmed minutes earlier so I was the first in the house to know about it.

Elizabeth II’s Coronation: 7 years old: watched on B&W Zenith TV with round screen.

Sputnik: math class: kids drawing sputniks on classroom windows.

Marilyn Monroe’s “suicide”: even more shocking to many people than JFK’s assassination.

Kennedy’s assassination: in Freshman Architecture class. The class clown came in and said Kennedy had been shot. No one believed him. A few days later: saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald.

Beatles on Ed Sullivan: little B&W TV in my college rooming house.

MLK and RFK assassinations: everyone in rooming house devastated.

Moon landing: at BF’s house, with his mom and little brother.

John Lennon’s murder: On radio, getting ready for work.

AIDS: small newspaper article about 8 gay men with strange illness.

Challenger explosion: just happened to turn on the TV at that time.

Princess Diana’s death: on the radio, on my way home from a chorus rehearsal.

9/11: little TV in the kitchen. Got up late, but in time to see second plane hit.

Obama declared winner: announced by Wolf Blitzer, as soon as polls closed on West Coast.

  • Reagan shooting (I was home sick from the fifth grade and it was on every channel)
  • Challenger explosion (we ran into the classroom next door which had a TV)
  • 9/11 (I was working from home that day and heard on the radio breaking news that a “small airplane” had crashed into one of the towers. I turned on NBC and they weren’t even talking about it yet. Then watched the rest of the day unfold.)

Both Space Shuttle disasters.
Reagan being shot (I was 5, but very upset by it)
Princess Di’s death
Phil Hartman’s death
Michael Jackson’s death
OJ Bronco chase / verdict
Obama’s election (I was at the victory rally at Grant Park).

To the others posted here I’ll add:
Elvis’ death.

9/11. Kurt Cobain. Phil Hartman. When the government burned down Waco. Columbine. Dale Earnhardt.

Michael Jackson - was wandering around in a discount store.

Osama Bin Laden - was wandering around in a discount store.

I remember where I was during the '93 bombings, Columbine, 9/11, Princess Di, and news of SCOTUS’s decision re: Bush v. Gore. I also remember watching George Bush on TV when we formally went on our military campaign into Iraq. Major stuff like that.

It’s sad that there have been many terrible events in my generation that don’t get that kind of pause. Who remembers where they were during the last school shooting? :confused: I doubt most people my age remember where they were when they heard about Columbia. I think the reason why news agencies are so gimmicky is because people are immune to shock.

I was in 1st period AP History class, 11th grade, when 9/11 happened. My teacher was awesome, plus it was history in the making, so we got to watch it being reported live on TV. It’s a good thing I wasn’t in English class when it happened, or I wouldn’t have known until 2nd period (she was a hardcore battle axe!). I’d just had my 17th birthday the day before, and I was supposed to have my party that weekend… it didn’t happen, of course. I was still childish enough to be upset about not getting a birthday party, but adult enough to be mature and keep it to myself.

I can’t think of anything else.

Osama Bin Laden’s death. My final project was due the next day in one of my classes. Almost my entire grade for that class was based on that project and it was a huge, nearly-impossible “design and construct” type project. I had been up for weeks working on it and had been almost certain that I wouldn’t have it done in time. I was completely exhausted, but it was close enough that I knew I’d have it done (it was a fucking masterpiece, by the way. It was miles above and beyond anything anyone else did. I got an A in the class and every single other person got a D or an F.) I took a Facebook break around 2 or 3 in the morning when everything was done but finishing touches. I saw a bunch of stuff referencing 9/11 and Bin Laden and such and it was all sort of patriotic and “America! Hell yeah!” and I was like, “Jesus, really? It was ten years ago. Chill.”

Then I saw enough Facebook statuses that I figured something must have actually happened, so I checked on CNN.

I ended up moving my laptop over to my work area and putting the president’s speech on while I sat on the floor painting bricks onto my project. It was so weird and surreal- the relief of having this monster of a project almost done and the excitement of getting to show off the finished product the next day, the haze of exhaustion after staying up nights to work on it for weeks, and the odd thrill and conflict of something like that happening without warning.

I was in school for 9/11. At a different school for Hosni Mubarak’s ousting. I was tutoring and didn’t have any students at the time, so I checked the news on my laptop and then told the other tutors. They didn’t care. I did.

I was watching TV at my parents’ house when Obama was elected. That doesn’t strike me so much as a “where were you” thing because it was a scheduled event and I was watching TV on purpose. But I remember Stephen Colbert crying when they announced it. And the crowd. And the palpable joy in the air.

I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard about:

OJ in the white Bronco: my mom had invited some friends of hers from work over to pick blackberries. Instead of picking berries, they sat around the tv watching the news. I couldn’t have cared less, didn’t know who OJ Simpson was. It took me a while to understand just what a Big Deal this was.

9/11: I had worked second shift that Monday, and was sleeping in the next day. My SIL called and said something about one of the Twin Towers “falling over” (she’s not big on details). Turned on the tv, and there it was. Watched CBS all day, my boss called and they had shut down the warehouse for a couple of days. The one gas station in the little town I lived in had shut down when they heard about the planes, and since all air traffic was grounded we would not be getting our paychecks for a while (had to send them on a truck). I had nothing to do but watch the news for a few days.

Columbia Shuttle disaster: I was working graves at a nursing home. One of our jobs was to deliver papers early in the morning. The newspaper man would deliver a big stack to the front door, and we separated them and took them to each resident. It was on the front page. Read the paper instead of working for 20 minutes.

Death of Princess Di: a cousin of mine was visiting, who was 17 or 18 at the time. I was doing something outside, and came in the house to find her sitting on the couch bawling. She had just heard it on tv.

The Thurston school shooting in Springfield, OR which is about 40 minutes north of where I lived. My teacher told me what had happened, and I watched CBS news that night for details.

Bill Clinton winning a second term. I walked to the street to get the paper, it was on the front page: “Clinton Rolls To Victory!” Don’t know why that has stuck with me.

Those six stick in my mind. Several other events in this thread I remember vividly, but couldn’t tell you exactly where I was when I first heard about them.

Too late to edit: I remember OBL’s demise announcement also. Saw it of Facebook, didn’t believe it so turned on CNN, and there was ol’ John King talking about it. My wife had actually heard about several hours beforehand from her sister, who is married to an army officer and had heard it from him. However, my wife’s sister is a hardcore right-wing nutcase / conspiracy theorist so my wife dismissed as a joke or just another brainless rant. It wasn’t until I told her what was being reported that she believed it.

I never forget where I was when I learn anything. For some reason that’s how my brain remembers stuff, even really mundane things. I even remember what room I was in when I had any phone conversation that I still remember. And I move every year or so, so that makes it easy to tell what year everything happened.