I think when you're a kid, you rarely see your mom or dad cry. Sure you'd see them laugh at your silly jokes. You'd see them all excited Christmas morning watching you open gifts from Santa. You'd see them angry after you dropped an ice cream cone on the rug. But crying? That hits you really hard. It's then that you realize something is very wrong. It scares you and makes you feel helpless and the image may stay with you for quite a while.
When I was eight, all of my relatives were alive and well. At that point, I had never been to a funeral and thankfully everyone was fairly healthy and stable. There were no horrible accidents and not much sadness to speak of from what I remember. My folks rarely fought in front of us. They only yelled at us kids, not each other. Everyone was upbeat most of the time. I had never seen my parents cry. I guess we were lucky.
It was almost three weeks before Christmas when it happened and for some reason I'll always remember it.
John Lennon was shot on the evening of December 8, 1980. I don't think we found out until the morning of the 9th. If that was the case, it was a Tuesday. I remember hearing it on the old clock radio near my parents' bed while we were getting ready for school. I think at this point in my life, it was one of the worst news stories I had ever heard. It was a year before Ronald Reagan was shot and six years before the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded killing teacher Christa McAuliffe.
Eerie photo of Yoko & John in front of the Dakota in 1980 taken by Allan Tannenbaum.
I was never a serious John Lennon or Beatles fan, but my mom was. She had tickets to see them but her folks wouldn't let her go. They were really strict, old-school parents. She had all of their albums. Other than The Beatles, my mom wasn't a big music fan from what I remember. Sure, she liked music, but she wasn't fanatical about any particular group or celeb the way I was.
To this day, she'll say something like, "I really like that song they keep playing, by that guy... he sings about being 15 and having 100 years to live." She loves the iPod I gave her filled with hits from the '60s through the early '90s. She just wasn't someone who had an extensive record collection or talked about how hot Robert Plant was - the way my mother-in-law does. But Mom just really loved the Beatles. I remember when I was small and looking through all of her Beatles albums -- the sleeves and covers were literally falling apart from being handled and played so often.
The news of John Lennon's murder was such a shock to me at that age. Of course I realize today kids deal with a lot more devastation than the murder of a legendary musical icon. From 9/11 to Katrina to the war in Iraq we'll be fighting forever it seems like.
There's just something about witnessing or hearing about an assassination that knocks the wind out of you. I can't explain it and maybe I'm alone in feeling that way. I mean, bad news is bad news, I know. Our parents had the shock of Martin Luther King and two Kennedy assassinations. With an assassination, the person didn't have a chance. It wasn't like some gun-toting loon knocked on their door and they chose to answer it. These are people who were just trying to get home or waving to fans or getting into their limo. They were totally unaware.
Mom cried that morning. I think she even stayed home from her teaching job that day. Something she never did. She cried over "the senseless death of the most peaceful man" I believe she called it. I cried because Mom cried. I cried because someone hurt someone so badly that it made my mom cry. I couldn't believe a man was shot with a gun for no real reason. Little did I know, people are shot down every day for no real reason. But whatever, I just remember that morning as the very first time I saw my mother cry. As we near the 29th anniversary of John Lennon's death, I wonder if my mom will remember that day the same way I remember it.
Thanks for listening.
Yoko & John leaving the Dakota, so depressing if you think about it now.