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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Where were you...?

On the afternoon of December 8th 1980 I clearly remember sitting in the shadow of the 5"/54 cal. gun mount on the focs'le (forward main deck) of a US Navy frigate in Pearl Harbor.

We had been off work for a little while, and a shipmate of mine was showing off his new 12 string guitar... playing some Dan Fogelberg, Bread and Jim Croce selections.

Another shipmate came on deck and, on hearing the music, wandered around the ASROC launcher to where we were sitting. Without waiting for the song to end he burst out with "Hey, I just heard on the radio that someone shot John Lennon!"

This was long before the days of the Internet or 24 hour news, but another sailor who had been sitting nearby listening to a transistor radio started fiddling with the tuner to see if he could find a news report. After a few minutes he pulled the earphone out of the jack and we all heard the announcement that John had been shot next to his Manhattan home... and was dead.

We were all struck silent. Nobody spoke. We had spent the previous day busy with the official commemoration of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; an event that none of us were alive for, and to which we could barely relate.

Even though the Arizona memorial - which sits atop the actual battleship containing over a thousand dead sailors - was directly across from where our ship was tied up, the death and destruction of that long-ago date was somehow less real than this sudden shock.

John Lennon was someone we'd all grown up with. We felt like we knew him. He couldn't be dead.

My friend with the guitar started playing the intro to 'In My Life', but none of us felt like singing. We hummed through a verse of that song, and then he went into 'Across the Universe'.

I remember walking around that evening in a daze. I didn't necessarily agree with John's politics, but I'd grown up with the Beatles' music. They were the backbone of the soundtrack of my life. It was hard to fathom that the Beatles - at least in their solo incarnations - wouldn't always be around.

Heck, we all assumed that at some point John would leave Yoko and the band would reunite.

December 8th, 1980 was the day many of my assumptions died.

Posted by David Bogner on December 8, 2010 | Permalink


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I remember Lennon's death but I cerainly did not understand its importance at the time. The first 'I remember where I was when' date for me was the Challenger explosion.

Posted by: Aharon | Dec 8, 2010 4:38:34 PM

I remember that day as well. I was working in a restaurant in college and we heard it on the radio in the kitchen. I remember just hearing that he had been shot and my (admittedly flippant) response was "It was probably Yoko". I grew up with the Beatles and I'm not sure why, but I never liked John. Paul and Ringo were my favorites. George was quiet and unoffensive. I guess I always blamed John AND Yoko for the band's breakup...

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Dec 8, 2010 11:19:54 PM

I heard it the next morning on my way in to work. A little chunk of my childhood died that day...

What's bizarre to me is that Lennon only lived to the age of 40... and he's now been dead a full 30 years.

Posted by: Elisson | Dec 9, 2010 6:45:05 AM

I remember I was not long married, sitting in the living room and couldn't quite believe it; a very surreal feeling. Later that day went to the local pub with a friend and had several drinks. I have a very vivid mental image of myself sitting in that room, though; like looking at someone else.....like ou I grew up with the Beatles.
Alex in frozen Scotland

Posted by: Alex | Dec 9, 2010 12:12:18 PM

I was just about to enter my (HS) honors English class when the department head (someone we all assumed was an insensitive dinosaur) came up to the door sobbing incoherently that "John is dead. We're closing school. John Lennon is dead."

Weird as it may sound, the sight of our sobbing English chair was a comfort. Made us all feel less bizarre about being shattered by the news. It also proved conclusively that she may have seemed old to us, but our English chair was anything but insensitive....

Posted by: zahava | Dec 9, 2010 2:12:53 PM

Zahava -- they didn't actually close the school did they????

Posted by: ProphetJoe | Dec 10, 2010 4:20:30 PM

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