2.2 Where were YOU?

If you are 60 or over, I can mention four events and there is a 95% likelihood you can tell me exactly where you were, what you were doing, and how you learned of the event.

November 22, 1963.  The day JFK was shot.  I was in Puerto Rico working alone on a boat.  On the radio was a monotone announcing minute-by-minute movements of something.  It was dull and uninteresting and tried other stations and got the same broadcast.  Finally, they mentioned the assassination.  Where were you?

January 28, 1986.  The explosion of the shuttle, Challenger.  I was in Fort Lauderdale, working from home.  My wife, Carol, called to tell me.  Where were you?

April 19, 1995.  The Oklahoma City bombing.  I had surgery almost at the exact moment of the bombing.  I did not turn on a TV for two days.  The bombing was the first thing I saw.  Where were you?

September 11, 2001.  The bombing of the World Trade Center.  Michael Wiest called that morning and asked if I had turned on the TV yet.  It was Tuesday, usually a slow day, at the Fall boat show.  Not knowing what else to do with myself, I and a dozen or two other yacht brokers, went to the show.  We spent most of the day watching the replay on TV.  Where were you?

There are other events that rate lower than 95%.  I mentioned this topic to a friend who said she remembers

August 16, 1977. The day Elvis’ died.

And now I recall

August 16, 1948.  Richie Wilson called me on as soon as he heard Babe Ruth died.

*   *   *

What a variety of memories we have.  Early comments tell of memories of:

Feb, 3, 1959. Buddy Holly’s death

November 18, 1978. The Jonestown Massacre

November 27, 1978 Harvey Milk’s assassination

November 13, 1981.  Assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II

December 12, 1980 John Lennon’s death

My friend Dave LaRoche who has a special talent for restoring reality when it begins to slip away, notes he remembers positive events

May 8, 1945 VE Day

August 14, 1945 VJ Day

July 21, 1969 Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon

August 8, 1974 Nixon’s resignation

November 29, 2008. Obama’s election


July 29, 1929 you may remember as the day the stock market crashed. I remember it as my parents’ wedding day.

19 Responses to 2.2 Where were YOU?

  1. Pingback: Welcome | AL's Blog

  2. The memory is indelible. I was at work at 225 Bush Street at Standard Oil Co. the day we heard about the assassination. Friends and I cried all weekend. I was at home on the days of the other disasters except for Elvis’ death. I was in Brazil then. There wasn’t much of a stir for that event. And when Babe Ruth died I was in Shanghai, waiting for Mao’s army to march in. Wonder what other memorable events are ahead?

  3. Lew says:

    I am over 60, so I qualify.

    November 22, 1963. Sitting in a training session at Sylvania (Waltham MA) to be persuaded how to make our projects more profitable. Ed Kuleza broke into the room announcing “The President’s been shot! And immediately closed the door. The instructor kept on for another five minutes before giving up.

    January 28, 1986. At work in Tampa FL. It was about 10 steps to the east facing window on the 14th floor to see the plumes live -not on TV- and watch the plume split when it came apart.

    April 19, 1995. Totally aware of your own situation up the road a bit, in my Santa Cruz CA office I watched as the person visiting from Oklahoma City at my desk interrupted his conversation to take a phone call. Someone informed him the Murrow Building had been hit. He jumped up and ran out to get a plane home. His daughter worked in the Murrow Building.

    September 11, 2001. In Oklahoma City OK, just beginning to get the day organized to audit Boeing’s OKC facility. The secretary burst in my contact’s office to announce “one of our planes just hit the Trade Center.” Boeing went into an immediate lockdown and my two day assignment stretched to 10 days before things cleared enough to let me get out, back home to Payson AZ

    I strike out on the two extra-credit dates.

    Later the August 16 date got bracketed by birthdays for a great grand-daughter and a nephew.

    Thanks for the interruption to working on what else I still remember.

    Lew …

    Lew …

  4. Lew says:

    FYI your clock seems to be posting about 9 hours later than my clock time.

    Lew …

  5. Roberta Lemons says:

    I remember them all….including the day Buddy Holly died in the plane crash. We were in the girls’ upper gym dancing before our first class (we danced a lot in high school). They announced it over the PA system and we were all in shock for days.

  6. Risa says:

    Can I first mention, for the record, that I am not 60 or over? The day JFK was assassinated I was in my junior high science class in Richmond, CA. A kid burst into the room and told us the President had been shot. We turned on the TV in class and watched the news for the rest of the period. My next class was math, and the teacher kept us focused on our work, or tried to anyway. It was strange.

    When the Challenger blew up, I was home in Oakland. My sister called and told me to turn on the TV. I was pregnant with my third child.
    I also remember quite vividly the whole Jonestown disaster (again, at home –in San Jose– listening to KSFO). And then there was the George Moscone and Harvey Milk killings right after that…my baby and I were alone at home and I wondered what kind of a world I had brought her into…

    We were in London on September 11, visiting my daughter and son-in-law. I was in a cab, alone, on my way back to our apartment, again listening to the radio and not being able to make any sense out of what had happened. When I got inside and turned on the TV, they showed the planes hitting the buildings over and over again. One by one, the others came to the apartment and stood in front of the TV with me.

    Oklahoma City — don’t have a clear recollection of where I was then.

    But John Lennon…I absolutely remember that. I was in bed, nursing my three day old baby. My husband rushed up the stairs in tears. He said, “They shot John Lennon.”
    That baby turns thirty this year.

  7. Dave says:

    I see you remember all the good times. We need perspective but what I rember:
    Wendle Wilkie’s parade down main steet, banners flying, bands playing
    The end of the big one; VE and VJ days. We all danced in the street.
    My highschool prom, and that cute girl I had admired all year asking for the last dance
    The moon landing and that memorable speech by Armstrong
    Nixons resignation and later, the Obamavwin – Hooray!

  8. Michael Joyce says:

    Getting on the elevator in IBM office on Grand Ave. in Oakland when my bosses secretary told JFK had been shot. Went home to Montclair and stayed mostly in front of the TV for a couple of days.

    Early in the morning at my desk in Alameda waiting for the first patient of the day on 9/11. My second son called from Boston: “Dad, are you watching this?” and went on to tell me. Lost a friend on flight 93. Still brings tears to my eyes.

    In the back of a pickup truck between Nevada City and Grass Valley with a bunch of other kids when we were told the Babe had died.

  9. Chip Levine says:


    22 November 1963 – I was four years old – remember my mother cried. In the hazy mind of a child I registered that a hero had been killed by a bad guy, and then a good guy killed the bad guy.

    28 January 1986 – A young Army officer at Fort Carson, Colorado. I was taking my Nikon FM to a camera shop to be repaired – a friend ran over it with his Mazda after a ski trip – remarkably it only needed a new light meter. I heard the news over the radio on Academy Boulevard.

    19 April 1995 – An older Army officer in Seoul, Republic of Korea. Had not long before written a paper on nuclear proliferation. Was focused on threats from foreign foes. Felt like being stabbed in the heart to be attacked so viciously by a domestic one. Reflected on the fact that an Army officer swears an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Was overcome by emotion when I visited Oklahoma City a few years back. 9-11 was called a “failure of imagination,” but believe it was the result of bureaucratic infighting, jealousy, and turf battles inside our Intelligence Community (and the federal government writ large). A colleague who once worked in the CIA said of leaders in our intelligence community that their focus is too often not about finding the truth, but about covering each other’s back. Believe every senior officer of our Intelligence Community should visit the site of the Murrah Building and remember WHY we have an intelligence community – it is about protecting people, not bigger budgets, ego-gratification, turf, or rice bowls.

    11 September 2001 – Training with Industry at General Electric Medical Systems in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Stunned. Nancy and I sat in our backyard that evening an reflected on the eerie quiet of a blue, blue, cloudless sky with no contrails or air traffic.

    Would add 13 May 1981 – the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Was sitting in my office at the John S. Mosby Army Reserve Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. It was the first anniversary of my enlistment in the United States Army. During his visit to Washington, DC in October, 1979 was among the crowd who watched him as he drove down Pennsylvania Avenue. Remember he paused for a moment to look at his watch and thought “how eminently human”. It never occurred to me that the Pope wore a watch. In one of the photos taken of him that day in 1981 – the anniversary of the appearance of an apparition of the Virgin Mary in Portugal in 1917 – his watch is clearly visible.

  10. Chip Levine says:

    Oh – not over sixty, but think I still qualify… Not a clue on where I was the day Elvis died. When I visited Graceland was struck that he had the save oven we had in New Jersey, and the shag carpet on the walls of the “jungle room” was the same stuff we had in our den…

  11. tanya grove says:

    Got chills thinking about these events. I was only an infant when JFK was assassinated, but I remember the others vividly.

    The morning the Challenger blew up I was in my first post-college job as an assistant teacher in a second grade classroom. The lead teacher, Phil, was speaking to the kids in a circle on the rug, and the vice principal showed up at our classroom door and whispered the news in my ear. We broke it to them as gently as we could and tried to allay any fears. A seven-year old softly sobbed in my lap. I was so glad we had chosen not to watch the launch on television as so many other classroom did.

    On April 19, 1995, I remember walking into the school’s front office at lunchtime and the secretary at the front desk said there’s been a bombing in Oklahoma. “Where in Oklahoma?” I’d asked. She answered Oklahoma City, and when I asked her where in Oklahoma City, she said downtown, and when I asked where downtown, she told me the federal building. I ran into the teacher’s room and commandeered the phone, trying to dial my father’s office in the Journal Records building which was located right next to the Alfred P. Murrah federal building. I tried several times but couldn’t get through. I finally managed to call my parents’ house, which was a few miles from the blast sight. They had heard and felt the blast at home. Luckily Dad had planned to go into work a little later that day, so he wasn’t downtown at the time of the bombing. That was the longest lunch period ever.

    On September 11, I turned on the radio as I was getting dressed and heard Peter Finch on KFOG say that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I woke up my husband and told him that the United States was under attack. I drove my daughter and myself to school, glad that her third grade classroom was just three doors down from mine. Several parents had kept their children home, but most of my students were there, and several had grandparents on the East Coast that they were worried about. I let kids talk, answered what questions I could, and stayed calm to provide an atmosphere that felt safe. During lunch all the teachers were glued to the little portable TV someone had brought into the staff room. It all felt so strange.

  12. Sandra says:

    We recall all the tragic events, and I know that both Al and I remember the Columbia space shuttle disaster of February 1, 2003. On a positive note for all of us who grew up hating the Yankees who dominated baseball for much of the 20th Century, I’ll never forget October 13, 1960 when Bill Mazerowski’s ninth inning home run allowed the lowly Pittsburg Pirates to beat the Yankees in the World Series.

  13. Colleen Rae says:

    I was doing dishes in Manhattan Beach, CA where I lived in 1963 when I heard the news flash of Kennedy’s assassination. I called my husband, picked up my son from pre-school and watched the T.V. off and on all day. We were all heart-broken at the thought of our articulate warrior and new hope for the future, fallen on the battle field.
    The other incidents I remember less clearly where I was at the time. I remember standing in a doorway in Guernesville, CA when the ‘big earthquake’ that took down the Oakland Bay Bridge struck. The porch above my head began to fall in pieces. I ducked back into my son’s house, as the outside staircase fell to the ground in a tremendous blast of thunder!
    One of my most vivid memories was while I was traveling in Afghanistan and Pakinstan, circa 1973-4. I happened to be in a book store in Peshawar that had English books and magazines. I saw a headline and the photo of Nixon on the Time cover. It was a month old. I bought it and devoured it. That was the first I’d heard anyting about Nixon’s resignation, watergate or our new President.

  14. Helen Herzberg says:

    Let me add MY date: October 6, 1981 – I was traveling in Egypt, alone, when Sadat was assasinated….the country shut down….and I left Cairo on the overnight train and only heard the news when I woke up the next morning in Luxor.

    And Sept. 11 – I had taken the day off to attend the funeral of a friend who had died of breast cancer…I had introduced her to her husband. He passed away 2 years earlier of sleep apnea. And then her, leaving 2 young boys. Could it get worse ? yes, the next day I had an interview at Thoratec – the company’s COO was on Flight 93. I didn’t realized that until I walked in the lobby and it was full of flowers…..

  15. Carol Talbot says:

    The day JFK was shot I was in my car, listening to the radio, on my way home from volunteer work, at a children’s hospital. I remember this awful, empty, feeling as I rushed home to be with my girls. On TV, we watched the replay of the assassination, as well as all the dreadful, and sad events which followed. Every time I turned it off, Kathy my youngest, who was five at the time, would turn it back on. I was so upset myself, that I acquiesced.

    I was in my office when the Challenger explosion occurred. Someone called and told me about that very sad event.

    Don’t recall where I was, or how I heard about the Oklahoma City bombing.

    9/11.. I was at home, watching CNBC thinking, “oh great, the market is going up.” Within minutes, I watched as planes hit both towers. The show’s anchor was horrified, and cried, as did I, as I listened, and watched the events of that day unfold. Later that afternoon, I walked over to 10th St & 5th Ave, one block from where I lived. looking downtown, I had a clear view of what had been the twin towers, now a huge, black, smoke filled cloud, resembling an atom bomb explosion. People were walking uptown like zombies many carrying briefcases, and small computers…those were the lucky ones. By the following day, the subway station, on 14th St, was a wall of photos; inscribed on each, was the individual’s name, and “have you seen this person?” I have few fears, but to this day, get a feeling of panic from the overhead sound of a low flying plane.

  16. Christine Thomas says:

    The 1963 assassianation of JFK absolutely crushed this country and knocked us on our collective rears! THE USA-NOT PERFECT-VULNERALBE-WHAT???!!! This was collective kick in the patriotic heart of all Americans. I was going to high school in Kaneohe, Hawaii. The nuns (Maryknolls) told us, I was a junior. We all emotionally collapsed. We prayed. We went home. Our world crashed. HOW could this happen? WHY? Every person in this country was obliterated by this. It ws shocking beyond belief.
    By the time we landed on the moon, I had two sons, married, we were at Grandma Clark’s home (she was 90 at the time and lived to 104). We were glued to the TV, Walter Cronkite (a great sailor!) moderated. We were proud to be Americans and accomplished this. Kennedy got what he wanted.
    Ok City-now I as fully divorced and self-supporting. We had a meeting in the Marina of San Francisco (Marriott)…HOW could this happen?
    May I add-when I lived on the Marine Base in Kanehoe Bay, Oahu, from 1962 to Aug, 1964, the atomic bomb was detonated far off 800 miles away-on Bikini Island. We made sure we were awake to see this at midnight. Suddenly-it became all shades of the light spectrum! It was daylight-and stayed daylight for hours. Then, again, each color of the light spectrum reversed….it was viscerally shocking…It was the last time we would ever see a bomb go off. GOOD! The absolute power of all this will never leave my memory.
    9/11/2001-the day after my son’s birthday. My neighbor knocked on my door. She said-“We are at war”. I will never forget it. Again, the US is vulnerable-thanks, you idiot Clinton for ignoring the destruction of the USS Cole, for the attempt at the World Trade Center in 1992 (I was at a Club Med in Martinique at that time), for ignoring ALL the many warning signs that AL Qaida gave us-putting us in a more vulnerable position, while you were busy having Monica on her knees…great guy…and now, here we are, 5,000 deaths later, killing the best of our country..for what-?
    Other events are obliterated due to my being busy trying to support myself for the last 25 years…and still trying…
    I guess the question begs itself WHAT markes YOUR Life?

  17. john miller says:

    Kennedy Assassination
    Teaching as a grad asst at Maryland. My Cuban colleague’s response: NOW MAYBE, we can return to Cuba

    Challenger: No recall

    Oklahoma City” My colleague, now a university president, said the rumor was that the MUSLIMS did it!

    Twin Towers: On the treadmill of my gym in Bogota, Colombia. It IS my birthday, 1937. They switched automatically from MTV to CNN. I went into isolation until my 4pm seminar for which I had baked a carrot cake birthday celebration. Colombians said. Maybe now Americans will understand the world of violence other nations such as Colombia live daily. Lots of guerrilla activity in Bogota and its surrounding areas.

  18. karen says:

    Well, I’m not quite 60, but I remember all of those events very, very well. November 22, 1963 is a date etched in my memory, and in the collective memory of the nation.

    I was in the 5th grade when we heard about the assisination of JFK. I had a sister in the 6th grade who came to my class’ lunch table and told me. When she told me the president had been shot, I first thought she meant the principal and I did not believe her. She corrected me and I remember a sinking feeling in my stomach. My family was very political and had campaigned for Kennedy, so I had an inkling of what this meant. Later that day my class was in the school library and I pulled out Profiles In Courage, but could not get into reading it…10 was a bit young for that one.

    My uncle came to our house and my brother, who was 4 1/2 told my uncle “My president has been killed, but he’s not just my president, he’s the president of all my people.” We did get a bit of a kick out of that….and it is one of many memories of those few days and week after the tragedy.

    I cried a lot for the next few days. Everyone did. My sister and I went to a friends house two days later, we were, after all, just kids and could not spend all of our time in front of the T.V, though we definitely did spend hours and hours doing that in those first few days. We got a call from my mother to come home immediately. My mother had watched the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald and she and my dad were quite concerned that we not ‘celebrate’ this occurrance. They wanted us at home so they could tell us this was not a good thing, that every person deserves their day in court, even someone who might have done a truly horendous thing. My parents did some really good things while I was growing up. I respect them for that.

    While I do not remember the dates, I also remember what I was doing and where I was when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F Kennedy were assasinated…well, for RFK I remember the phone ringing in the middle of the night…my uncle was calling to tell us what had happened. Since then, any time a phong rings in the middle of the night it makes me shudder.

    One of my memories of the RFK assasination was that my family was campaigning for McCarthy and a good friend’s family was campaigning for Kennedy. I went to the Kennedy headquarters to help them close it up. Someone asked me if I was happy about Kennedy being killed, since that gave my candidate a better chance. I remember just thinking, what a horrible thing to say. I guess my parent’s actions around Lee Harvey Oswald had a lasting effect on me.

    The moon landing was also a big deal. I do remember it as being in the summer of 1969, though I don’t remember the exact date, and I went with my father to watch it at my grandmother’s house, but my grandmother was not there. I can’t remember if the pictures that were sent back were in color…we had a black and white TV and my grandmother had a color set…so we sometimes went there to watch things in color. I think that was why we went then, but it also may have been so my uncle could watch it with us. The rest of my family was, for some reason, not really interested in seeing the first pictures, or maybe they just did not want to go all the way to my grandmother’s house. One of my other memories of that day is that I had a ‘Tommy’s Famous Chili Hamburger’…my uncle was surprised I had not had one and so he told my dad we had to go there.

    Well, that’s all I’ll bore you with for now.

    Take care,

  19. Nov. 22, 1963: 9-years-old third grade at George Washington Elementary School, Lake Mohegan, NY. Coming back to home room fron lunch, someone yelled something; then I got to 4th-grade homeroom and classmate Steve Grabiner comes up to me yelling: “President Kennedy was shot 15 minutes ago!”

    Jan, 23 1986: The Challnger: Coming out the elevator door at my temp legal job, a co-worker said: “Did you hear the the space shuttle exploded?”

    Oklahoma City: Another legal temp job. The news came over the radio.

    9/11: This is an odd one. I got up, sat down at my computer, signed on to AOL (my ISP at the time) saw the headline and thought: “Hackers messing with AOL. Not funny!” Of course, it wasn’t hackers. I was working at home then and kept telling myself to go back to work all day, but of course, I couldn’t.

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