Monday, January 9, 2012

Family Memoirs: The Moments We Never Forget

I was just reading a wonderful, thought provoking post called "Do You Remember John F. Kennedy?" on the blog Barbara's Kitchen Table. Barbara talks about the various reactions to this question in a diversity training class and recalls her own memory of when JFK was shot.

Certain memories are tremendously powerful and often contribute universally to the memory of a nation. These are the memories that when we think back, we know exactly where we were and what we were doing at that exact moment.

I have two such memories (maybe I'll think of more later?)

John Lennon's Death

When John Lennon died perhaps it didn't impact the world quite as much as when John F. Kennedy died but it was one of those unforgettable moments in my life. I remember exactly what I was doing clear as if it were happening right now. I was in 7th grade and I was the first one downstairs reading the newspaper. Lennon's death was the headline in the paper.  My older brother, who worshiped John Lennon, strolled downstairs and I told him the news. At first he didn't believe me. Then I remember watching his shocked look as he sat down and it sunk in.  That evening we watched on tv as hundreds of people left flowers outside the Dakota building.


This event of course impacted not just the United States but also the world. I don't think I will ever forget this day. It was so surreal. I was nine months pregnant with my second child at the time. I remember the powerful emotions I felt when watching the news programs. I made a conscious choice that day not to watch the tv coverage.  I felt the emotions were too strong and the grief could impact my unborn baby.  So I chose to acknowledge it but not get trapped into watching endless coverage of the event. 

An interesting part of Barbara's post discussed the "memory" of people who witnessed events live and those who learned about them later. Both groups can have strong emotions about an event but only one group actually witnessed it.

Thanks Barbara for the great food for thought.

I would be interested to hear what some of the momentous events in your life were that you will never forget.


  1. Both Kennedy assassinations. Richard Nixon's resignation. The Challenger explosion. And 9/11. Oh, 9/11. My office windows face lower Manhattan from across the river in New Jersey. People from my office watched the second plane hit the World Trade Center. And we all watched as Ground Zero smoldered and smoked for weeks... and weeks... and weeks...

  2. I can remember both the Challenger and the Columbia space shuttle disasters vividly along with the attempted assassination of Reagan though not as vividly since I was still fairly young.

    9/11 though still remains the strongest mostly because I was two weeks into being newly unemployed and had lots of time on my hands. I watched the news all day and for much of the next couple weeks. With all the uncertainty from that, it was a long time before I found employment again.

  3. I was in 9th grade when John Lennon died. It wasn't as emotional for me as for others who were bigger fans of his, but I do remember it was a big deal for many members of my school community.

    I do remember the attempted assassination of President Reagan, as I was watching a soap opera at the time and it was interrupted for the news. And I was in college at the time of the Challenger space shuttle disaster when many of us happened to be watching it live on TV and couldn't believe what we were seeing.

    And of course, I will never forget the morning of 9/11/01. My boys were in 2nd grade and Kindergarten. I had the younger one home for the morning (he had afternoon Kindergarten). When a friend I had called on the phone told me what happened, I hung up and turned on the TV for about a minute. As soon as I realized what was happening, I turned it off, as I didn't want to watch it with an impressionable five year old in the house with me. We went to our local library later, and the radio was on in the library (probably the only time ever).

  4. On 9/10/01 I'd just learned I was pregnant with my second child. Needless to say, there was a lot of "what kind of world will this one be born into?" in the days and weeks which followed....

  5. Oh, and I also learned about Lennon's death from the newspaper -- at 4:30 in the morning, as I started rolling stacks for my paper route!

  6. You have mentioned three of my four big "I remember where I was when..." moments. I was just a child when JFK was killed, and we heard the news on the radio. The memory of that day is still strong. When John Lennon was killed, I was playing tennis. Someone on the sidelines had a radio and told us what had happened. I didn't hear about 9/11 until a few hours later, when I was driving to work. A fourth event that I remember vividly was the death of Princess Diana. I had just come home from a social cricket match when I saw that news on TV.

    When I asked my father this question, he said, "I remember the moment we got the telegram saying that my brother Jim had been killed in the war."

  7. I forgot about the Challenger Explosion and Princess Diana's death. I can remember exactly what I was doing at those moment's too. I remember President Reagan being shot but that is a bit fuzzier. No idea what I was doing at the time.

  8. I guess JFK's death was my first "memory moment". I was in 7th grade and I can still remember our principal's crying voice over the loud speaker telling us what happened. 9/11 was really rough, my husband had just died a couple of weeks before so my emotions were a mess already. I was at work when the wife of one of the guys called to say what had happend after the first plane hit. My youngest son was going to the police academy at the time and they sent them home. He came to my work and was ready to send me off to another of my son's to have me away from the east coast. I just remember trying to contact all of my children to make sure where they were and could not get my truck driver son that was supposed to be going though NY that day. His girlfriend (now wife) finally called me and said he had gotten hold of her and he was fine.

  9. I was in the 9th. grade when John Lennon was shot. I remember sitting on my parents bed and watching the evening news like it was yesterday. My mom told me about Kennedy and how people huddled around radios at work and cried. My dad knows exactly where he was when he heard when Buddy Holly died.

  10. I clearly remember the Lockerbie bombing (1988), the Dunblane School Massacre (1996) and of course 9/11. All so shocking that I can remember where I was, who I was with and what I was doing.