The world of television and news has changed the way that human’s experience major world events together. Whether it’s breaking stories on the news, or unforgettable interviews, every century since the invention of the television has packed its own bundle of memorable stories. “Where Were You?” moments are moments that made us pick up the phone the second they happened and call our loved ones, either to see if they are feeling the same way as us about the news, or if they were laughing as hard as we were, and before social media, a where were you moment was much easier to come by. Heck, before cable television, there were only a few channels to watch, and if something significant were on the news, it would for sure make the cut. We chose moments in history that we think would still hold their value in the 21st century. Events that are timeless in regards to their stories, and will always hold up against the tests of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I’m only 25, so chances are I was not even around for half of them, but “where were you?”
Let’s start with one of the more recent events in history, and work our way down to the 50s. No one can forget the harrowing story of the Thai little league soccer team that was trapped deep in a flooded cave in Thailand for ten days before being found alive by professional cave divers. The group stayed alive in the pitch black, by eating what it is they had on them and drinking the water dripping off the cave’s walls. Moreover, the team’s brave young coach had taught the boys Buddhist meditation to pass the time and keep their sanity. It would still take weeks to get the boys out of the cave, and news coverage of their rescue was almost constant until the last person (the coach) was rescued from the cave.
On October 13th, 2010, the last of thirty-three miners who were trapped almost half a mile underground for more than two months. The miners had been caved-in the northern Chile mine and had broken the record of the most prolonged underground human survival underground in history. The operation to bring out the miners on a 14-foot shaft literally dug into the ground took 24 hours from beginning to end, and the whole world was watching and praying for their safe return home.
On February 14th, 2005, the world saw one of the most significant disruptions in entertainment history. American video sharing website “YouTube” entered the web and made it extremely easy for anyone to simply share their story’s, in the form of videos at any length at the simple click of a button, and all that for free! Where were you when YouTube first came out? Did you post a video just for the fun of it? I wish I had!
In the year 2000, some people thought that the whole world would come to an end. That’s exactly why Katie Couric said why the heck not, and underwent a colonoscopy procedure on live television on NBC news. Imagine the phone calls people were getting. “Turn on NBC. Just do it, Katie Couric is getting a colonoscopy!”
On March 3rd, 1999, Americans turned on the TV to tune into the next episode of Barbara Walters “20 20.” Only this time the rating count for the show was an insane 49 million viewers. Why the sudden upsurge. Walters was interviewing the one and only Monica Lewinsky. Were you one of the millions watching?
On September 6th, 1997, the world watched as Princess Diana, two young sons, William and Harry were escorting their mom Princess Diana down Hyde Park, London, to her final resting place. Diana was a very loved princess not just in England, but around the world, and around 34 million people from around the world tuned in to watch the live feed of her funeral.
June 17th, 1994, the white Ford Bronco, instantly became the most infamous car in America, as 97 million people around the nation and the world were glued to the screen watching star NFL player O.J. Simpson speeding through traffic in a live televised police chase. People who had probably not yet known why there was even a chase in the first place came out with signs of support for O.J. on bridges and intersections. Were you part of the 97 million people who stopped everything they were doing to witness the highway insanity play out?
After a court verdict on the Rodney King case in Los Angeles found four police officers not guilty of police brutality, riots broke out in the city Los Angeles that lasted from April 29th all the way until May 4th of that year. The week-long riot was covered live for the entirety of the riots as Americans watched the city of Los Angeles literally burning in some cases.
Robben Island Prison was the place Nelson Mandela called home for 27 years of his life before he was released in 1990 amid growing international pressure, and fears of a civil war that could break out in South Africa had the anti-apartheid activist been kept in captivity. Four years later he would win a sweeping 68% majority in the South African elections and become the face of the new democratic nation.
On November 9th, 1989, NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw reported live from Germany on the tearing down of the Berlin Wall just hours after East Germany officials declared that citizens were free to travel to the west. It would spell out the end of the Cold War, and the much-needed demise of the Soviet Union.
On October 17th, 1989 at 5:04 PM PST, the world series game three was underway into its third game in San Francisco when a devastating earthquake hit the city in the middle of the game, cutting off live coverage of the pitch. Effectively turning the commentators of the game into the first on the scene in one of the most devastating earthquakes in the city’s history.
During what was dubbed as pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square from April 15th to June 4th, cameras caught a random, unnamed Chinese protestor stand tall and proud in front of a convey of Tanks trying not to let them through. The video was being broadcast live to the world, and the fate of the protester after the confrontation is until this day unknown.
On February 20th hip hop group Salt n’ Pepa came out with their hit single “Push It.” The song was so successful that it peaked onto the Billboard charts ranking of #19. Do you remember yourself dancing in the club to Push It, or maybe hearing it in a couple of action movies too?
The 80s was also the time where the world began to say goodbye to vinyl records. A new technology called the CD came out and disrupted the way humans listen to music forever. One CD could hold many songs and be inserted in your car, or boombox, without having to flip it over or worry about it wearing out. That is unless you scratch it. 1988 was the year that more CD’s were sold then vinyl. Did you know that even though it was cheaper to produce, the CD was much more expensive than the vinyl just because it was new!
On April 26th,1986, the world watched in horror as they saw on live television the horrific effects of a nuclear winter after an explosion leaked tons of nuclear radiation into the big city of Chernobyl in Ukraine. It was a manmade disaster that changed the way the world regards nuclear energy.
Apple is one of the if not, the most successful tech companies in the world. Despite things looking good on the surface though, the 1980s was a very volatile time for the company’s survival. Despite the release of their products being hyped up, their computers (like always) were way more expensive than they’re competitors. Steve Jobs was a man of vision, and as the company was losing money, his vision was sidelined forcing Steve Jobs to leave the company, only to come back in 1997 after the ousting of CEO Gil Amelio.
On June 18th, 1983, young women around the country were given hope and inspiration by a female astronaut by the name of Sally Ride. On that day, Sally became the first American woman to ride on a shuttle, and into outer space.
On October 13th, 1983, a company by the name of Ameritech (now part of AT&T) launched 1G or the first commercial cell phone network in history. Making it possible for people around the globe to make phone calls on the go and increase human production tenfold. Since then, the impact of the phone has grown even stronger. If in 82 you had to wait to get to the office or use a payphone to make a phone call, today, you can make a presentation while sitting on the train into the city.
If you were alive and conscious on December 2nd, 1983, you for sure, remember where you were when you first heard the pop song “Thriller” by Michael Jackson! The song, accompanied by a very long dramatic intro video was spooky and exciting, the dancing was something out of this world, and the song itself was such a catch, that it is still sure to bring down the house even a thousand years from now. Thriller made the world of pop music more competitive then it could have ever imagined being before 83.
On February 28th, 1983, the hit show produced by 20th Century Fox that follows a team of doctors in South Korea during the Korean War had its last episode. The last episode of M*A*S*H would be its two hundred and fifty-first.
On July 29th, 1981 750 million viewers from across the world tuned in for the live broadcast of the Royal Wedding between Lady Diana, and Charles Prince of Wales at St Paul’s Cathedral, London. A view count like this proves that even though the British Monarchy did not have power in the modern world, it still seems to have lots of influence and fans.
Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005. In 1981 he made international headlines after going so far as to forgive his would-be killer after an assassination plot was uncovered against him.
1981 is also the giant computer manufacturer IBM came out with their first rendition of the IM-PC or personal computer giving wake to a brand-new competitive computer industry that is still, believe it or not, in its humble beginnings. If in 2019 we have ultra-thin laptops with high-speed processors, and it has only been 48 years, then just take a second to imagine where we will be in another 100.
Yes, since Mount St. Helens 1980 eruption, there have been many more other eruptions caught live on television. The St. Helen eruption is more unique due to how big the eruption itself was, and the fact that this is one of the first times in history such a cataclysmic event was captured on live television for the world to see. Had Richard Pryor established CNN a month earlier, a bit more early then June 1st then maybe they would have been in on the media frenzy as well.
The first Daytona 500 televised live from the beginning to end happened on February 18th, 1979. The event was considered a seminal moment for the popularity of the NASCAR franchise, but its best remembered by Americans as the day when drivers Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison got into an on-camera fist fight boosting the ratings almost instantaneously. Were you around for the show?
On June 16th of that year, “Grease,” starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John had been released to movie theatres across America. It was at the time, the highest grossing live-action musical in the history of the nation. Anyone who had a heartbeat had come out to see the movie, and it was the talk of the nation for generations to come. Where you in line for tickets on day one?
On September 11th, 1977, Atari launched the world’s first TV gaming console, the Atari VCS (Atari 2600) console. At the time of its launch, there were only nine game titles that could be played on it, but that did not stop every young child in America from tugging on their parent’s shirts to buy one for the holidays. Did you find one under your tree as a child?
Probably one of the biggest and best things to come out of the 70s was May 25th debut of the first of many Star Wars. Americans went so far as to camp outside the movie theatre to get a chance to be one of the first to catch on the big screen. Were you tail gaiting the ticket booth too?
On the night of October 11th, 1975 Americans got their first big break from Vietnam War coverage, and nation-wide riots, and got a good taste of laughter, the debut of Saturday Night Live. The first breakout star of the show was Chevy Chase left after just one year to be replaced by Bill Murry in 1977. Where were you that fruitful night? I was not even close to being born, yet by the time I was five years old, the show was still around making me laugh just as much as it did for you!
On April 10th, 1970, after tons of previous meetings discussing the terms of their divorce, the Beatles had announced the band breaking up right before the release of their album “Let it Be.” The band left with a bang though and played one last show on the roof of their studio building in NY. The whole city came to a standstill and even fell silent, so everyone could hear the Beatles play one last time.
On August 1969, a festival that (despite all attempts) could not be mimicked took place right by Wood Stock NY on Yasger’s Farm in a small town called Bethel. Only 400,000 people were supposed to be in attendance of the festival, but there was no way that any one in America was going to want to miss out. On day one of the festival, so many people drove out to try and get in, that the NY state freeway had to close, stranding millions of cars on the road. The festival ended up hosting more than a million people on Yasgers farm.
On July 20th, 1969, Americans came together to watch Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin Jr. take the first human steps on the Moon. The mission was considered an American victory in the Cold War race against mother Russia to get a man on the Moon.
On April 4th, 1968, Americans were forced to say a tragic goodbye to civil rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. after he was shot and killed by a sniper as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee as he was gearing up to support the striking of the city’s sanitation workers.
On June 9th, 1967, the relatively very young nation of Israel was attacked on all three fronts by three massive armies belonging to Jordan, Syria, and Egypt. After their genocide in Europe not to long before then, the Jewish people were once again faced with the possibility of extermination. Yet with the bravery and courage of the Israeli Army, the world would instead watch as the Arab nations were defeated in just six days along with the reunification of Jerusalem, and a restoration of peace for the next few years to come.
Despite the NFL championship existing before it, January 15th, 1967 saw the debut of the very first Super Bowl in history. The game was played between the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs with the Packers winning 35-10.
After years of slavery and segregation, African Americans were finally able to breathe a small sigh of relief after the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the presence of Martin Luther King in the Oval Office to witness the signature being signed. The act would outlaw discrimination in public places based on race, gender, religion, or national origin, and encouraged and pushed for the desegregation of public schools.
On August 28th, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. lead the March on Washington for jobs, and Freedom, also known as the Freedom March. King Then stood in front of the Washington Monument and recited his “I have a Dream” speech to the world. The speech still moves me to this day even though I was not even there. Were you?
Actress Marilyn Monroe was known all across America and a beloved actress around the world. On August 5th, 1962, at the young age of 36, Monroe was found dead in her apartment. Her death was declared a possible pill overdose, but to this day there remains speculation about the causes of her passing.
On Feburary 1st, 1960, four young African American college students made history simply by sitting idly inside a whites-only lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. Even though service never came for the “Greensboro Four” word got out at the new form of peaceful protest, as more “sit-ins” were sparked in Southern cities in protest of the backward segregation policies of the south.
On March 9th, 1959, boys and girls around the world got their first debut of the “Barbie” doll at the International Toy Fair. The Barbie doll would keep her clout and has stood the test of time for being one of the most loved children’s toys in the history of humankind. Did you get one too?
When I was twelve years old, I got my first cellphone. I was so angry that my father did not want to get me the brand-new iPhone and instead got me a camera less Samsung flip phone. Little did I know that when he was a child, not every house even had a regular phone. Had I known that no more than 60 years earlier in time, the Russian Sputnik satellite was launched into outer space, marking the beginning of the space age, and making it possible for the dream of a cell phone even to come true!
Ever turn on the TV during the holidays and catch a couple of TBS classic movie specials? Well, the tradition had to start somewhere, and it began on November 3rd, 1956, when the Wizard of Oz became the first feature film to be broadcasted as a timeless classic movie on television. Before then, if you wanted to see a movie, you needed to go to a movie theatre, and if you missed a film before it was too late, well, then, it was too late!
On July 17th, 1955, entrepreneur Walt Disney presented to the world his Walt Disney Theme park as a “fairy tale vacation” for all ages. The park initially only cost 17 million dollars to build the equivalent today of more than 160 million dollars. I wonder how long it took to make that money back? Did you check out the park when it first opened?
April 15th. 1955, marked the beginning of the end of the slow food industry with the introduction of the McDonalds 15 cent cheese burger in Des Plaines, Illinois. Very soon after the franchise would see itself grow across the US and offer the cheap easy and filling fast food options to anyone on the go. Let’s not lie; none of us want to take this moment of history back.