For our parents it was the moon landing, the assassinations of President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. But each generation has huge political, social and cultural moments that will remain forever ingrained in our minds. Check out these moments, so iconic, that we remembered where we were when we heard that they’d happened.
… I first heard Confessions
This may seem like a trivial way to start off this list. But let’s be honest, Confessions.changed.the.game! Everything lined up perfectly for this album. We were still buying CDs, there was a shortage of R&B singers and Usher was fresh off of a breakup with Chilli. We just assumed he was going to tell the messy story on his album. Who knows how much of that album was actually about Chilli. (Years later, J.D. came forward and said the title track was actually about his own indiscretions.) But once we heard the songs, it really didn’t matter who or what they were about. It was (and still is) hot fire. I remember I first got the album from a girl on my volleyball team. From there, I spent the next several weeks listening to the album in my sophomore journalism class. (Clearly, it was an unstructured environment.)
I remember I was a middle schooler, laying in my bed on a Saturday morning when my sister busted in my bedroom to tell me that Aaliyah had died. I can only say that my first reaction was complete disbelief. How would Aaliyah die?! It would later come to light that it was a plane crash. And then even later than that we learned it was issue with too much baggage on the plane. Being around 12 at the time, everyone who was in their twenties seemed super old. But now, realizing that Aaliyah died at just 22 years old… So tragic.
…on September 11, 2001
This is a biggie. I’d bet most Americans over the age of five during Sept. 11th have strong recollections about this day. I was in my friend’s mom’s car on my way to school when I heard that the attack on the World Trade Center. I remember the tone of the reporting wasn’t that serious. And I didn’t know how serious it was either. I always knew the World Trade Center as the Twin Towers so the gravity of the situation didn’t hit me until I listened to my teachers talking about it throughout the day. And then it really hit me when I got home and actually saw the planes flying into the buildings.
…the O.J. verdict was read
I was in elementary school the day the O.J. Simpson verdict was read on October 3, 1995. I personally don’t remember it; but my sister, who is a year younger than me, does. Even though I don’t recall, I know eyeballs were glued to the television. According to Wikipedia, an estimated 100 million people were watching. Long distance call volume declined, trading on the New York Stock Exchange decreased and water usage decreased as people avoided using the restroom. Productivity slowed so much that folks estimate the verdict cost $480 million in lost productivity.
…George Zimmerman was acquitted.
It was the weekend and I don’t believe the networks were live streaming the exact moment when George Zimmerman was acquitted. But I know my sister and I were watching a movie when she looked at her cell phone and suddenly gasped. I had heard that the verdict was going to come back that day, so I had been waiting for the news. Immediately, I knew that she was gasping about George Zimmerman. She told me that he had been acquitted and I couldn’t believe it. I logged on to my computer to verify and lo and behold she was right. Learning that Zimmerman would walk away scott free for killing Trayvon was and still is devastating to say the least.
…President Obama was elected.
There’s a portion in the new movie, The Butler, where they show the announcement that Barack Obama was the President-Elect of the United States. I’ve seen the movie twice and every time, I cry. That moment was so beautiful. For black people in America, and perhaps even worldwide, it meant so much. It meant that America was ready to at least begin letting go of the prejudice, discrimination and racism. It meant that barriers were falling. And it validated, once again, or for the first time that black people can do anything.
…Michael Jackson died.
In the very back, in the recesses of our mind, we know that everyone is going to die. But it’s hard for us to imagine musical legends, icons passing away. So when they do, it makes an impact. I remember I was in the Dairy Queen drive thru when my friend texted me saying that Michael Jackson had just passed. My friend is often the one to break celebrity death news. But even still, I didn’t believe her. For a while TMZ was the only outlet that had reported his death. Finally, CNN, the LA Times and then the television stations confirmed it. Being that Michael was just 50 years old and was set to go on tour, it was so unexpected.
…Whitney Houston died.
Call me naive, but I really believed that Whitney was working on her sobriety at the time of her death. So I can honestly say I was shocked to hear that she passed. She seemed to be gaining weight, was starring in the movie Sparkle and was trying to do the whole comeback thing musically. Like with Michael, I was completely shocked. When Whitney passed, I was already working with MadameNoire, so I immediately checked to the site to see if we needed to write about it.
…Beyoncé announced her pregnancy.
When Beyoncé announced that she was with child at the MTV VMAs, it was literally the most tweeted about moment in history. I wrote about why Beyoncé’s pregnancy was so important to so many people; but for the sake of brevity, we’ve kind of “watched” Beyoncé grow up, her relationship seems like a fairy tale and babies are pretty awesome. Needless to say, it was huge moment for pop culture.
What other moments were so big you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard about them?