Where were you when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded? Similar to Kennedy’s assassination, or 9/11, this is a question that millions of Americans who witnessed this tragedy can answer in vivid clarity. For me personally, I was sitting in my high school Geometry class watching the launch live because our teacher was so proud that high school teacher Christa McAuliffe was onboard and would have been the first teacher in space. I’ll never forget how quiet the room was and how shocked we all were when we truly realized what we had just witnessed.
On June 5, 1989, an unidentified man bravely stands alone on Cangan Blvd. in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square blocking a convoy of Chinese military tanks. Just one day earlier, hundreds to thousands of people died the day before when Chinese troops fired on civilians who were participating in peaceful anti-government protests in the square.
In October 1987, millions of Americans were glued to their TV sets for three days watching Baby Jessica, an 18-month old baby who fell into an abandoned water well in her aunt’s backyard. After being trapped 22 feet underground for three days, “Baby Jessica” was rescued on October 16, 1987.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall… On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came down five days after half a million people gathered in East Berlin for a mass protest.
Every American who was alive in May 1980 remembers when Mount St. Helens erupted in Washington state resulting in the deaths of 57 people. The eruption was triggered by an earthquake and blasted more than 1,000 feet off the top of the volcano.
I will remember watching the “Miracle on Ice” until the day I die. On February 22, 1980, the U.S. Hockey team made up of college and amateur players defeated the heavily-favored Soviet Union team in the semifinals of the Winter Olympics. Sports Illustrated recognized this moment as the #1 sports moment of the 20th century.
What an amazing moment this was! On January 20, 1981, American hostages were released from captivity after being held hostage for 444 days at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran. In the photo above, David Roeder, one of the 52 Americans held hostage, is ecstatic upon being released!
On March 24, 1989, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Alaska’s Price William Sound and spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in the surrounding waters. The oil slick spread as far as 500 miles from the crash site, and the area is still filling the effects of the spill to this day.
On August 1, 1981, MTV made its debut, and world of music was changed forever! I spent more hours watching MTV during the ’80s than watching anything else. The original five VJs were Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, JJ Jackson, Martha Quinn, and Alan Hunter. Watch the original broadcast here!
On March 29, 1981, photos were released of Diana, who was engaged to Prince Charles at the time, dressed in a red coat and crying while looking out of a window as Prince Charles boarded a plane for a five-week royal tour to Australia.
The world was touched by what seemed like a “touching farewell” that brought on tears, but Diana revealed years later that those were tears of sadness due to Charles’ relationship with Camilla Parker-Bowles. According to Diana, something “awful” had happened right before he left. “I was in his study talking to him about his trip,” she recalled, “The telephone rang, it was Camilla.” “I thought I’d be nice, so I left them to it… And it just broke my heart.”