Do You Remember Where You Were When…

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant triggered some vivid memories I have from early in my life. How about you?

Isn’t it interesting how our brains are time-stamped when something traumatic or monumental happens? It doesn’t necessarily have to be something that happens to us either.

We remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when these events happen. Sometimes these are referred to as flashbulb memories.

And a lot of times it’s a tragic event such as the death of a famous person. But that’s not always the case. The recent death of Kobe Bryant triggered some vivid memories I have from early in my life until today. Some are sad while others are very happy. Please consider with me the following memories.

Maybe they will trigger a memory for you.

Kobe Bryant

The recent death of Kobe Bryant triggered some vivid memories I have from early in my life until today. Some are sad while others are very happy.

Sunday, January 26, 2020, is a day my 14-year-old son Andrew will always remember.
He knows exactly where he was when we heard the news about the helicopter crash that killed former NBA star, Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna. At the time we didn’t know the identities of the other victims but they all have families and friends grieving for them too.

They are, baseball coach John Altobelli, his wife, Keri, and their daughter Alyssa. Mother and daughter Sarah and Payton Chester. Mamba Academy basketball coach Christina Mauser and pilot Ara Zobayan. Lives lost way too soon. 💔

I asked my son if he had any memories similar to the Kobe one from this week. Aside from his stolen blanket when he was four, he struggled to come up with an answer. Trust me though, the stolen blanket was HUGE!

For me, I have multiple examples. Below are some of them.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The two men pictured below are forever linked in my mind as the first famous people I remember who were assassinated.

It was a few days before my 6th birthday, April 4th, 1968. My Mom, brother, sister and me were next door visiting my Aunt Ruth. I remember Dad and Uncle Jack walking into the living room with the news that Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been shot.

At the time, I didn’t know who Dr. King was. It would be years later before I became aware of his “I Have a Dream ” speech or understood the Civil Rights movement he championed. But this was the first time I remember the assassination of an important person.

The innocence of my childhood took a major hit that day and sadly it was rocked again a few months later.

Senator Robert F. Kennedy

It was Presidential candidate, Senator Robert, Bobby Kennedy who announced the death of Dr. King to an audience in Indianapolis, Indiana. I didn’t hear that speech then or know who Bobby was until later that summer.

June 1968, my family was vacationing with my Grandma in Oklahoma and Texas. I remember seeing buffalo for the first time in Oklahoma as we drove to Texas. While we were in Dallas, my Grandma got a phone call from home that her brother had passed away. I remember taking her to the airport in Dallas so she could catch a flight back home to Indiana. This was the first time she had ever flown.

At the airport, I remember my younger brother Mark clinging to her as she left to board the plane.

But I also remember seeing the chilling image of a man on the front page of the newspaper. It was a picture of Senator Robert, Bobby, Kennedy. He had been shot the day before in Los Angeles. That image is still haunting today.

Rather than show that picture, I would rather think about the image below. The simple cross marking his grave in Arlington National Cemetery. I had the privilege to see that several years ago.

Apollo 11

I don’t want it to sound like all of my childhood memories were related to tragedies. As a young boy, I LOVED the space program.

It was July 20th, 1969. I remember staying up late that night to watch Astronaut Neil Armstrong take mankind’s first step on the moon. We had a black and white TV. This is the video I remember from that night.

On the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing, I watched in sheer delight as the real-time events unfolded all those years ago. I was like that 7-year-old boy again.

I also remember this photo when President Nixon welcomed the crew home. Even as a young boy, I could feel the excitement our nation felt. Years later, I would feel the National heartache when tragedy struck the Space program.

Space Shuttle Challenger

I was in college when the Shuttle program began. I remember waiting anxiously for that first flight to take place. I still had the space bug from my youth. Just a few years later when Shuttle flights seemed routine, I once again was reminded how dangerous these missions actually were.

It was January 28th, 1986, I had graduated from college and was working at my first job. One of my coworkers came upstairs in the room I was working in and said the space shuttle just blew up! I remember the total disbelief that something like this could happen.

I can’t believe it’s been 34 years since the Challenger tragedy. Rather than dwell on the footage of the explosion, I prefer to remember the crew from this photo and President Ronald Reagan’s moving tribute to them.


September 11th, 2001

I was sitting at my drafting table in an office I shared with my boss Mark. The radio was on like it usually was when the program we were listening to was interrupted with the news of an airplane hitting one of the twin towers in New York City. I remember thinking this had to be a terrible but freak accident.

We kept working until the report came that another plane had crashed into the second tower. It was then we realized this was no accident.

Downstairs, a tv was on with a live feed showing the towers on fire. It was unimaginable! We watched in horror as both towers fell.

Even though we’re almost 20 years removed from that terrible day, 9/11 still haunts me. It forever changed our nation and our world.

I never want to forget those images or our nation to forget those images so that we will remain vigilant in this war on terror.

But there’s also another image I wish our country would never forget. Immediately after the attacks on 9/11, I remember all the flags on display. They were everywhere, on cars, on mailboxes, and homes. We came together as Americans united to comfort one another

I pray our nation can come together again as we did then.

I could go on and on with other examples, like the O.J. Simpson car chase, the murder of John Lennon or even the loss of the Crew of the Space Shuttle, Columbia. But in conclusion, I would rather share one of my happiest memories.

April 18th, 2005

Monday, April 18th was like any workday for me but it was also my Dad’s birthday. I was in the office sitting at my computer when my wife Mary Beth called. She couldn’t speak! Oh no, I thought something had happened to one of her parents.

She couldn’t speak because she had just gotten a call from our lawyer that they had found a baby for us. Four years earlier, we adopted our first son, Jonathan, and for the past two years, we had been trying to adopt a sibling for him but nothing was happening.

Those were two very frustrating years for us. In fact, while we hadn’t said it to each other, we were both thinking about giving up on ever adopting again.

Until the call came. Finally, Mary Beth managed to say “we have a baby boy.” The only catch was he had already been born and we needed to leave to get him ASAP. That’s when I turned to my boss Mark and said, “I’ve got to go get my son!” And off I went.

It was too late in the day to get him on Monday so we drove to a hotel close to the hospital so we could be there first thing in the morning. On the way to the hotel, we went over names because up until a few hours ago we haven’t even thought about names. Andrew Seth is what we chose.

The picture above is the first time I held Andrew. Big brother, Jonathan is looking at the camera. What a great memory!

How about you?

What’s your earliest memory? Do you have memories from any of the examples I shared? If so, please share them in the comments. Thanks so much for reading.

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