The Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a social activist and Baptist minister who played a key role in the American civil rights movement. He was assassinated in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968.

Sources: King bio Martin Luther King Jr.

It is April 4, 1968, and I am not quite 12 years old. I am attending some kind of function requiring carpooling, and two church ladies pick us up. My friends and I pack ourselves into the back seat and barely listen as the adults are talking, but one lady says, “Well, what did they expect? You can’t keep saying things like he was saying and not expect to get killed.” Since they are my Sunday School teachers, I think they are talking about Jesus, and go back to chattering about whatever it is that sixth-grade girls in 1968 were chattering about.

Later on that day I hear more about the assassination of Martin Luther King. I have heard that name, of course, but I am not sure who he is or what he did wrong. That evening we are watching the news, and Robert Kennedy is on top of a truck talking to black people in a big city, trying to persuade them to be non-violent. He spontaneously quotes a Greek poet I’ve never heard of, but I am impressed. He sounds like courage and compassion ought to sound. And I want to know more about this man who wasn’t Jesus but who also stirred things up, and who was killed for it, right in my own country. Somehow in the next few days I find a copy of King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” I have a memory of reading it in an old copy of the Readers Digest Magazine, but surely that cannot be right? Anyway, I have been raised in a family that is at church every time the church doors are open, but I have never read such powerful and prophetic religious words. I read it again and again, and I memorize some passages. It will take me a long time to find out that I will never again be satisfied with a Christianity that doesn’t include a strong measure of social justice.

Lois Huneycutt

What memories do you have of this event? How did the people in your life react to the news?


Skylab, America’s First Space Station

In 1973 Skylab became the United States’ first space station. It continued in operation until 1979.

Sources: Skylab: America’s First Space Station. The Day Skylab Crashed to Earth

I was born in early 1978, so I don’t have too many “non-fuzzy” memories of Skylab while it was still orbiting the Earth. I vaguely remember (very vaguely) when there was some media hoopla that it would come down over populated areas in mid-1979. A certain contingent of people really believed it would impact land, even though most of the Earth consists of water. Some enterprising entrepreneurs were actually selling “Skylab reentry hats” as a novelty item. At the time, there was also a very funny Saturday Night Live sketch starring the late actor/comedian John Belushi, where he supposes the space station will land on his apartment. But Skylab landed mostly over the Indian Ocean, with some pieces coming down over Western Australia – the space station was too “strong” to come down completely over the water.

My next Skylab-related recollection came around 1983, when I was a space-obsessed Kindergartner. I remember reading a kids’ space book, and seeing a picture of Skylab – even though it had launched 10 years previously, it still had a retro-futuristic appeal with its windmill-like solar panels. I remember having a picture of it on my wall as a kid, and many copies of the October 1974 National Geographic magazine, which had a great Skylab retrospective, including a panoramic photo of all three crews. I just thought this was the coolest thing!

 So from then on, I was a bit of a Skylab obsessive, and I loved reading about America’s first space station. While I didn’t experience much of it while it was still “flying,” I do have warm memories of reading about it and gazing at pictures of it as a young child. I still have a copy of the National Geographic, and it is now autographed by two Skylab astronauts: Dr. Joseph Kerwin, and the late Capt. Paul Weitz, USN (both Skylab 2).

Emily Carney 

What memories do you have of Skylab? How did you and the people in your life react to it?

Individuals: Visiting New York City

I’ve been to New York City a handful of times, but I’ve never been able to do even half of what I wanted to do.

I have a vague childhood memory (early 1980’s?) of driving around the city in our family’s van on a roadtrip, but I’ve no idea when. Although I grew up in Colorado, I had grandparents in upstate New York so we did drive across the country several times. On that trip, we took the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty and I think we went to the top of the Empire State Building.

In high school (1989), our orchestra was invited to play at Carnegie Hall as part of the summer youth series. We saw Cats on Broadway. We ate pizza in the basement of a Sboro’s with windows looking at the subway station. We walked through Greenwich Village in the early evening after dress rehearsal, wearing our matching black formal dresses and oblivious to how out-of-place we looked. We had a taxi driver take us on a joyride and we paid him anyway.

I spent two years (1991-1993) as a nanny only an hour’s drive north, but only took the train into the city a couple of times. Another nanny and I saw the Rockettes’ Christmas Show at Radio City Music Hall. Afterwards, we had to ask for directions several times to find our way back to Grand Central Station. The final time we asked, the police officer looked at us funny and pointed behind him. We were standing right by the entrance, but it was just a rather unremarkable set of doors in line with many brightly-lit storefronts. Neither of us recognized it!

A decade later, my husband and I went on a school trip to NYC, driving down from VT. We visited the American Museum of Natural History, of which the most memorable part was the Rose Center for Earth and Space. It’s a huge globe in a glass box. We followed our guide through the streets, walking so fast we could barely breathe and there was no chance to stop and take in the environment or even snap a photo. Our guide was a native New Yorker and he wanted us to experience what it was like to walk like a real New Yorker.

Once we had kids, we intended to take them to the city. It was only an eight hour drive, but paying for a hotel and meals and everything else we’d need was more than we could afford. I still want to visit the 9-11 Memorial. I want to go to the top of the Statue of Liberty. I want to do all the things I never did on all the other trips.

We live in Colorado now, so a trip to NYC would be much longer than an eight-hour roadtrip. It’s still on the list.


Tell me about your experiences visiting New York City.

Ronald Reagan is Shot

On March 30, 1981, John Hinckley Jr. shot President Ronald Reagan, seriously wounding him and several others.

Sources: Ronald Reagan is Shot by John Hinckley Jr. 

Wikipedia. Attempted Assassination of Ronald Reagan

In 1981 I was in fourth grade at Hygiene Elementary School, which covered kindergarten through sixth grade. The principal’s voice came over the intercom, interrupting us at an odd time. He announced that the president had been shot and was in the hospital. We didn’t know if he would live.

This is the first news event I remember from my childhood, but my actual recollection is fuzzy. Strangely, this memory melds with the launch of the first space shuttle. I looked it up… the two events are only about a month apart.

When we heard the news, we were solemn and concerned, but we went on with the day. I must have heard Hinckley’s name at some point, but I know that I didn’t understand the idea of him being mentally ill and trying to impress an actress until I was much older.


What memories do you have of this event? How did you and the people in your life react to the news? 

The September 11 Attacks

On September 11, 2001, 19 militants hijacked four airplanes and carried out suicide attacks against targets in the United States. Two of the planes were flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, a third plane hit the Pentagon just outside Washington, D.C., and the fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.

Sources:, 9-11 Attacks

Wikipedia, September 11 Attacks

In 2001 my husband and I were living with my parents and driving an hour to Vermont Technical College for school. I didn’t have class that day. My husband called me and told me to turn on the news. I felt shock, disbelief, sadness, and fear as I watched the reports of the first plane crashing into the twin towers. All those feelings were multiplied when the news reported on the second plane crashing into the twin towers and the plane crashing into the pentagon. Heavy, sobbing cries came when I saw that the fourth plane had crashed, that the heroes on board had found out what happened to the other three planes and decided they would sacrifice themselves and everyone on board to make sure their plane didn’t kill anyone else. Sixteen years ago, and typing those words are causing a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I didn’t know any of the victims personally, but this changed my country suddenly and permanently.

The rest of the day was confusion and fear, watching all air travel shut down and strand thousands of people all over the country. I shook my head as all kinds of theories were shared…I wanted reliable, verified information, not conspiracies and speculation. Facts didn’t come quickly. For a week, the only planes in the sky were US military. Forever after, the way we board planes has changed. When I was a kid, picking up someone at the airport meant meeting them at the gate as they got off the plane. That’s unheard of now. Changes have rippled through many aspects of life, all traced back to that event.



What memories do you have of this event? How did you and the people in your life feel about it?


The Beatles Arrive in America

On February 7, 1964, the Beatles, a British rock-and-roll quartet that had just scored its first No. 1 U.S. with I Want to Hold Your Hand arrived in the United States.

Sources: This Day in History: Beatles Arrive in New York

Wikipedia. The Beatles: Beatlemania and the touring years

Note: Although intuitively would be the best source for information, the site does not contain historical details or a timeline of events.

My own childhood memories of the Beatles were larger than life. I was a baby when they broke up, but their music remained prominent on the radio my entire life. Even now, my 10 and 18 year old daughters know many of their songs by heart.

When I first heard about the Beatles’ arrival in America, it was already part of history. Seeing the screaming young women in the old film clip, I instantly knew that there was something fantastic about this particular group that set them apart from everyone else.

As an adult, I heard a theory that those women were screaming so enthusiastically because some marketing person told them to. I have no idea whether that’s true, but it does make me eager to hear the answers to this question.



What memories do you have of this event? Did your enthusiasm and that of other people in your life match the level we see in historical footage?

The Waldo Canyon Fire

In early summer 2012, a brush fire broke out in Waldo Canyon, west of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The fire grew, scorching thousands of acres and destroying hundreds of homes.


9 News Website. It’s Been Five Years Since the Waldo Canyon Fire

Wikipedia. Waldo Canyon Fire

Although I still lived back east at the time of the fire, I had many friends who lived through it, watching the smoke come closer and wondering whether or not they would have to evacuate. You can still see the scars, huge swaths of mountainside with the skeletons of trees, and underbrush that is just now coming back.


What memories do you have of this event? How did you and the people in your life feel about it?

Barack Obama Becomes the 44th US President

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. He was the first African American to hold that office.

Sources: Black History Milestones About President Barack Obama

Every four years on my birthday, our country inaugurates a president. In 2009 I was married with two young children. My political involvement consisted primarily of googling the candidates and choosing the one whose goals and ideals most closely matched my own. I was not so much amazed at a black man being elected president as I was wondering why it had taken so long to happen.


What memories do you have of this event? How did you and the people in your life feel about it?

Space Shuttle Challenger

On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, killing the seven crew members on board.

Sources: Challenger

Wikipedia. Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster

In those days, we followed every shuttle mission. I was at Longs Peak Junior High in Longmont, Colorado, and we’d just started orchestra. A few of the brass players walked in late, and when the sub asked them where they’d been they said “Watching the space shuttle blow up!” The sub told them to sit down and get ready, while the rest of us looked at each other in confusion.

At the beginning of my next class, the teacher told us what had happened and wheeled in a television on a cart so we could watch the news coverage ourselves. This was the mission with Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who was supposed to be the first civilian in space. Several of my own teachers had applied for the program.

For days after the tragedy, I waited to hear that maybe…possibly… some of the crew had evacuated and found parachutes or some other miracle to save them. Of course, that wasn’t true. Still, I hoped. In vain.

This was one of the first major events in my lifetime. I was horrified. I was already a space geek back then, and I wanted to go. Even after the tragedy sunk in, I still wanted to go. Today, at age 47, I still want to go.

Thirty-two years ago today. Ad astra per aspera.


What memories do you have of this event? How did you and the people in your life feel about it?

The End of the Apollo Missions

In 1970 NASA announced that several Apollo missions would be cancelled. The remaining missions were renumbered 14 through 17.

Sources: SP-4223 

Although I do not have a personal memory of this, the end of the Apollo missions is the ideal example of an event where people’s emotional reactions have been lost or misunderstood. I always imagined that all of humanity gasped a collective “No! This can’t be the end!” when the announcement was made. However, talking to people who remember that time, I learned that most of the public was disenchanted with the space program, and generally didn’t care.


What memories do you have of this announcement? How did you and the people in your life feel upon hearing it?