Where Were You When... ?
Some events seem to stop time. They become embedded in the ink of recorded history. They transcend time through the lives they touch directly, and those who later hear the stories from loved ones. Some of them are memories as black and white as the photographs that first captured them. Some are as colorful and vivid as the fields they happened on or the sky they happened in. Still others haunt us in the sound of breaking news over the radio. Many were great triumphs, and others... unforgettable tragedies.
First American in Orbit
Where were you when... John Glenn was launched into orbit?
America had fallen behind the Soviets in the "space race". Aleksey Gagarin had already become the first man to orbit the earth. President Kennedy had vowed to put a man on the moon by the end of the 1960s. The pressure was on NASA not only to accomplish that lofty goal, but also to reach the first step-- putting a man in orbit.
On February 20, 1962, John Glenn climbed into "Friendship 7" and roared into orbit. After a short, three-orbit flight, plagued by malfunctions, and possible heat shield problems, Glenn splashed down in the ocean and America was hooked on space.
Threat of Nuclear War
Where were you when... Nuclear war was a heartbeat away?
In October 1962, the president was shown U-2 spy plane photographs of Soviet nuclear missile launching sites on the island of Cuba, just 90 miles from the United States. Cuba had recently formed alliances with the USSR, and the U.S. had monitored an apparent military build-up throughout the summer of '62. The missile launching sites confirmed a clear threat to U.S. cities, and a tense stand-off had begun and would last for 13 days.
Since the earliest years of the Cold War born in the wake of World War II, Americans were convinced of the inevitability of nuclear holocaust. Backyard bomb shelters sold well, and international spy stories captivated the imagination. Espionage, military deployment, conflicts and wars were driven by the tension between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
By parking missiles in Cuba, the Soviets would have brought the possibility of destruction directly to American soil. In what was considered to be the Soviet response to American missile deployment in Turkey, the two countries presented the possibility of nuclear war to the world. President John F. Kennedy considered blockades and air-strike options. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev carried the weaponization plan as far as he dared; and from his bomb shelter Cuban Premier Fidel Castro mobilized his army in preparation for invasion from the U.S. Before the stand-off ended in the removal of the missiles, the cold war had come as close to nuclear as it may have ever been. Again-- 90 miles from the U.S. shore.
Where were you when... Marilyn Monroe died at 36 years old?
In 1950 Norma Jeane Baker had transformed herself into movie star Marilyn Monroe. For films she developed a "dumb blond" persona that led to her struggle with typecasting. In a short career she became an icon, and arguably one of the most famous women in American history. In 1954 Marilyn married baseball great Joe DiMaggio. With hero and "regular guy" DiMaggio, she showed America that women prefer a "regular Joe".
But the marriage couldn't last. Marilyn's fame, and the demands of her career brought it to an end nine months later. Joe wanted a wife at home, and she couldn't have provided that. The public was devastated. But Marilyn's life took many more turns before it finished in disarray, confusion mystery and suspicion.
On August 4, 1962, having provided a relatively short chapter in history, Marilyn's story ended with a shocking and contradictory finality that will always continue to draw readers. This "candle in the wind" had burned out too soon, but will never lose its place in motion pictures and in the hearts of those who love them.
I Have A Dream
Where were you when... Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of "A Dream"?
America is a far different country than it was in the 1960s. The world is a far different place. Between 1957 and 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. wrote five books. He spoke thousands of times and traveled millions of miles. In the hot summer of 1963, King spoke on Washington D.C.'s Capitol mall before 250,000 civil rights demonstrators. He spoke before a finite group, but was heard by the nation. The movement that had been built upon his philosophy of peaceful and non-violent resistance was given wings by his dream.
He was Time Magazine's "Man of the Year"; was arrested 20 or more times; and he led a movement that resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Ultimately in April of 1968, at the age of 39, his work of equality and freedom for all people was brought to an ugly violent end, but his dream is becoming reality.
One Small Step
Where were you when... Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon?
" I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth ."
Those were the words of President John F. Kennedy that launched the United States into the "Space Race" and eventually, on July, 16, 1969, launched three American astronauts into space to achieve that seemingly "astronomical" goal. World-wide television coverage documented the trip, the landing, the moonwalk and the return to earth. The world changed for ever. The President of the United States said of the event: "This is the greatest week in the history of the world since creation."
Where were you when... you heard Elvis Presley died?
Elvis Presley had altered the course of music forever. Heartbreak Hotel hit the charts in 1956, and Elvis perfected his seduction of audiences on a relentless string of tours interrupted only by military service. A fairy tale relationship with a girl he met while stationed in Germany in 1958 culminated in a 1967 wedding. Though his last No. 1 hit "Suspicious Minds" came in 1969, Elvis continued to perform for sell-out crowds in the 1970s.
His marriage ended in 1972, and by 1977 Elvis's life had become an exhausting series of concert tours and prescription drug-induced sleep. On August 16, 1977 the King of Rock-n-Roll died at his Graceland estate of cardiac arrhythmia. Grieving fans swarmed Graceland, and nearly every radio station played his music.
Where were you when... you heard about John Lennon's death?
The Beatles hit America hard when they arrived for the first time shortly after the assassination of President Kennedy. The country needed a new vision, and the British stars were determined to provide it. The brewing social change in America provided an avenue for the outspoken John Lennon and his band to take the roll of leaders in a cultural revolution.
After the Beatles separated in 1970 John Lennon began a solo career of music, fatherhood and social commentary. As Americans watched Monday Night Football, on December 8, 1980, commentator Howard Cosell delivered to them the sad news of the murder of John Lennon on the sidewalk outside his New York City home.
Where were you when... you heard about the Challenger disaster?
In 1986 shuttle launches were becoming routine. NASA was attempting to regain public interest in the space program by sending a civilian into space with the scientists and astronauts. Christa McAuliffe was a 37 year-old high school teacher when she joined the team. She appeared on radio and television talk shows, and her astronaut training was heavily publicized. On January 28, 1986 at 11:39 AM the Challenger crew and the teacher left launch pad 39-B, and flew into history.
- YouTube - CNN: Challenger Disaster remembered
The Space Shuttle Challenger exploded moments after lift off on January 28, 1986. CNN takes a look back at that day.
The Fall of The Wall
Where were you when... The Berlin Wall came down?
On November 9, 1989, it was announced that the border between East and West Germany would be opened. The events leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall included policy changes that supported human rights and eased immigration within Soviet block countries that were struggling economically. Germans had lived with the wall since 1961 when the border between east and west, set up by the allied forces after World War II, became a twenty-eight mile heavily-guarded physical barrier of barbed wire and concrete. In the aftermath of the fall of the wall, Germany was re-unified in October of 1990 .
Where were you when... the lives of every American changed in an instant?
In an incredibly heartless act of calculated inhuman behavior, a band of murderers conspired to take the lives of 2,751 people on September 11, 2001. Life in America changed in an instant. New York's vertical reach was viciously adjusted in a way that left families and compassionate rescuers searching through rubble and debris for the precious souls who hours earlier had worked and lived without thought of suffering or eternity. Oh what man can do to his fellow man!
As in a book with many pages missing, life stories changed on 9/11. From one remaining page to the next, every life had been brutally adjusted. Acceptance and recovery come at different paces, and on different levels for all; but for those born since the event... they'll live in a post-9/11 world created anew at "ground zero".