Brian Sandford: Remember the day JFK died? We’d like to hear from you

Education reporter Teri Vance and I are the same age, and we sometimes discuss the way we reacted to various world events while growing up. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the demise of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War are among the major events we processed before turning 18.

But none affected us quite like the demise of the Space Shuttle Challenger on Jan. 28, 1986. Like many young students, Teri and I were fascinated by the fact that a teacher — Christa McAuliffe — was headed to space for the first time. As a result, Teri’s fifth-grade class watched the shuttle’s launch on live TV.

At 10 years old, we logically understood after the explosion that something really important and tragic had happened. But we weren’t old enough to understand the historical context of the disaster, that it would end up being a watershed moment in the 1980s.

“We kept thinking, ‘What does this mean?’” Teri said Thursday about her and her classmates’ reaction. I was similarly confused in 1986 about how and why something so awful could happen.

Many have said that the nation lost its innocence on the day John F. Kennedy died, and we will mark the 50th anniversary of that awful moment in our history Friday. Teri and I know plenty about Kennedy’s assassination from history classes, films, television specials and stories told by people who vividly recall that day. But nothing can substitute for having a personal recollection of where one was when the terrible news was delivered.

I recently emailed a number of readers and columnists, as well as a local lawmaker, asking what Nov. 22, 1963, was like for them. Their powerful responses prompted an idea: We’re going to run numerous recollections of Carson City-area residents in Friday’s paper.

If you’re interested in being included, I want to hear from you. I invite me to send you a description of what you were doing that day, and more important, how hearing the news made you feel. Feel free to describe how you processed grief in the days and months that followed. Please include your name and city of residence in your submissions.

The more readers we hear from, the more inclusive our story will be. I look forward to hearing from you.

Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at


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