When something really big happens, people usually remember where they were and what they were doing on that day. Here’s a list of 10 big events, and what I was doing when I heard the news.

  1. President Kennedy’s assassination – I was in 6th grade and had walked home from school for lunch. I found Grandma and Grandpa Briggs sitting in stunned silence in front of the television, and they told me the news. When I walked back to school, I broke the news to the crossing guards, and later heard some kids saying our teacher, Mrs. Ryno, had been crying. A teacher crying! That was bigger news around the elementary school than the president’s assassination.
  2. Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan Show – I was 11 and was headed to youth group on that Sunday night. I saw the performance before leaving, but could not figure out why Janie and Pam Gregory were acting so crazy about them at church that evening. I guess I was just too young to really get it, but those teenage girls were over the moon. And speaking of the moon…
  3. Neil Armstrong walks on the moon – I was 17 and wanted to go out to a movie with my friend, Karen. Dad stopped me and told me I needed to watch the moon landing (it might have been a rerun of it). Honestly, I wasn’t very interested, and just wanted to go pick up my friend. I stood in the living room for a few minutes until Dad seemed satisfied and let me go. Looking back, of course I cannot remember what the allure of that movie was, nor can I even remember what we saw, but an American walked on the moon that day and I almost missed it!
  4. OJ Simpson trial – I had had a hysterectomy that year and was on medical leave from work for 8 weeks. Mom spent the first few weeks with me (nursing me back to health) and we watched almost every minute of that trial. It was compelling reality TV. By the time the jury reached a verdict I was back at work, and a black co-worker was the one to make the announcement right after lunch one day. She seemed gleeful, but Mom and I knew he was guilty and were stunned at the verdict.
  5. Princess Diana’s death – I was having dinner with two friends, Alice Swartz and Jayne Ewell, in Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant. The waitress told us, but at the time there was no confirmation of the princess’s death. I remember we prayed for her.
  6. Space Shuttle Challenger explosion – I was working at the American Cancer Society in downtown Phoenix. One of the secretaries ran into the reception area and said, “The shuttle just exploded!” I initially thought she was talking about a downtown shuttle bus, and I thought to myself, “I didn’t hear it.” Then it occurred to me what she was referring to. Someone brought out a TV and set it up in the lunchroom so we could watch the news.
  7. John Kennedy, Jr. plane crash – It was a Saturday and I didn’t have the TV on that morning. Carrie called mid-morning for something else, but mentioned the search for the plane, and I turned the TV on and watched the news reports the rest of the afternoon.
  8. September 11, 2001 – I was getting ready for work and had Fox News on my bedroom TV (as I always do in the morning). I heard the news and watched the first tower fall before I left for work. On my way to the Intel site, Daryl called me on my cell phone (I even remember I was at Eliot and the 101 when his call came in)  and he told me the second tower had fallen. I was, of course, listening to it on the radio. Intel set up a television in the cafeteria for the next two weeks so we could keep updated on the rescue and recovery.
  9. Arizona Diamondbacks win the World Series – Brian and Carrie were living with me and Lauren was a baby. Kevin Goerhing was at our house to watch game 7, and when Gonzo hit that bloop single to left center field, we all started jumping up and down and “whisper screaming” because Lauren was asleep in the next room and we didn’t want to wake her up.  What a riot!
  10. Anna Nicole Smith’s death – I know, not a top 10 event, but I specifically remember I was working at Marvell, and one of my co-worker’s said, loudly from her cube, “Anna Nicole Smith died.” Several people said, in unison, “Really!?” For some reason it stuck with me.

Two honorable mentions:

Cuban Missile Crisis – I remember walking from our 5th grade classroom to the cafeteria and Christine Ridenour said “Let’s head for Africa! We’ll swim!” I was amazed that she could think of such a joke. I thought she was really cool.

Oklahoma City bombing –  I’m not sure why this isn’t a vivid memory for me, but I do remember watching the news for the next several days after it happened. I know I was working at Intel, but can’t remember the details of my day that day. I have since visited the OKC Memorial twice.

Memories of historical events serve as milestones on our life journey, capturing a photo of the day in our mind’s eye. Some of them reaffirm who we are, and some of them change us forever.  What are some vivid memories you have of historical days?


  1. I remember, after the big earthquake in Yellowstone Park, we went there on vacation, and I bought the booklet “The Day the Mountain Fell” and read it aloud to you three youngest kids and Dad as we drove along there. It was a somber and rather scary time. I can still picture us as we sat in the car.

  2. Very nice blog post, Donna. I remember all these things, but for about half of them, I can’t tell you what I was doing.

  3. I can remember what I was doing for over half of them. I can’t remember what I was doing when I heard about John Jr. but I remember going home on the day JFK was shot and Mom was laughing. I also don’t recall where I was when I heard about Anna Nicole.

    When Armstrong did his thing I was at a church camp kissing a girl from Catalina or Rincon, can’t remember which.

  4. 1 thru 6 and 8, sure. 7, 9 and 10 — you gotta be kidding! Those were hardly newsworthy events and something I barely even remember happening. In fact, without some research I didn’t even know who Anna Nichole Smith was, let alone when or why she died.

  5. Somehow I knew you’d say something like that, Richard. But it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want.

  6. Gee. I don’t think I deserved that! Please, write whatever you want. I enjoyed remembering 7 of the 10, and even you said #10 was not a top 10 event. As for #9, I’d venture that a small percentage of Americans living anywhere besides Phoenix would remember that one either. JFK Jr. was just not high on my radar. I do remember it happening and some details about it. It just wasn’t one of those kinds of things that rises to the level of the others, at least in my opinion. And that’s what blogs and blog comments are all about — opinions. Thanks for sharing yours.

  7. Unless you can update your blog more often than since Jan. 15, be nice to your sister, and compliment hers instead of finding fault with it.

  8. I’m pretty much with Richard. I vaguely remember the Diamondbacks winning the Series, but I don’t remember the other two events (7 & 10) at all.

    How about the Berlin Wall coming down? Demonstrations in Tian An Men square? The start of the first Iraq war? Those could replace 7, 9 & 10 for me.

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