The morning of December 9th was frigid in the suburbs of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Inside a school bus, I strained to listen over the shouts of middle- and high-schoolers what the newscaster on WOWO was saying. I couldn’t hear full sentences. I barely heard the words — not with my ears anyway. But an ulcerative pit expanded in my gut as I tried to confirm.
Did he just say that John Lennon was shot? Did he die?
I pushed my face against the window. I can still smell the metal and grease from the frame that hovered just below my nose. A single tear that escaped my eye cut a clear path through the opaque frost. The tone of the broadcast rose above its words. I knew John Lennon was dead.
I walked into the school with my face down, wishing I could bury it in a scarf or behind sunglasses. But I was too cool for extra winter layers, and the sun hadn’t even risen yet. Several kids approached me. “Did you hear what happened to John Lennon?” I hoped that one would tell me that he’d survived. I had only heard that he had been shot. But, no one relieved me.
I was a preteen, deeply passionate about this band I “discovered,” but I knew I couldn’t cry. None of the teachers would excuse me to the girls room to recompose. The other kids wouldn’t understand why I was so saddened by the death of someone I didn’t really know… someone that their parents, aunts and uncles listened to, not kids in the 80s.
John Lennon was an interesting character. Many reports indicate things that make him seem not especially likable. I know that I’ve cringed when viewing documentaries, reading biographies and even hearing Lennon’s representation of himself in interviews. His talent made us pay attention. His message made him endearing to many of us. I count myself among those who miss his work. The best years may have been ahead for him, and none of us will ever experience what would have transpired had his assassination been only an attempt.
Generations are, in part, defined by markers in time like this one. Younger GenXers probably won’t remember, because they were likely too young. But, if you do, where were you when John Lennon died?