Ron Bell, English teacher: The moon landing (July 20, 1969)
It was my 16th birthday. My family and I watched the landing on television, along with everyone else in the country.
We watched it on color television, which we had only had for a very short time, and we weren’t used to watching color TV.
Everyone was very aware that it was a major historical event, something that was changing history. Everyone sat in the room where the TV was and watched it – the whole thing. It didn’t just drop in from the news highlights – everyone watched the whole thing.
I and most other people were struck by the fact that they were actually walking on the moon. It was thought to be impossible years earlier, and to the average person it seemed like a sudden technological and scientific breakthrough.
Everybody was also very aware of the rivalry between the Soviet Union and U.S. during that time period, since it was during the Cold War.
Bruce Baird, history teacher: 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001)
The year before I started here, I was subbing in El Dorado County, but that particular day I didn’t have a sub job.
I had NPR on, and they said something had happened in New York City. I turned on the TV and watched the buildings on fire. The most shocking part was when they had the blue screen projecting the twin towers behind the news anchor, and I saw the south tower collapse.
I was stupefied because the anchor, Peter Jennings, hadn’t seen it and was talking as the tower fell. I was shouting at the TV, “Turn around!” He kept talking and talking until he eventually realized that the building had fallen.
That was the most shocking thing I can remember seeing, and I’m still amazed that I was able to see it happen.
Jane Batarseh, Latin teacher: JFK’s assassination (Nov. 22, 1963)
A defining moment for persons of my age was the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The news came over the PA at Mira Loma High School as I was descending the stairs from the classrooms down into the quad.
It was a gloomy, overcast day made much worse by the surreal announcement.
Victoria Conner, chemistry teacher: 9/11 (Sept. 11, 2001)
I was driving to the Prentice Hall offices in New Jersey when the first plane hit the towers. I remember that my boyfriend (now husband) was trying to call me to tell me about it but couldn’t get through because the cell towers on the tower were destroyed.
Once I reached the office, people all gathered around computers to watch a report of the news. It was scary because we were so close to the event and didn’t know what was happening. After the second plane hit, I decided to head home to Lyndhurst, New Jersey, which is 10 miles outside of New York City. It was on my drive back that I could see the flames and smoke. I pulled over and watched the first tower fall.
Over the next several days, the phones in New York City and near parts of New Jersey and Long Island didn’t work. The only way we could communicate to know whether people were safe was via email.
Also, since we were so close, everyone in or near the city was involved in the disaster in one way or another (We knew someone, couldn’t find someone, had something destroyed or displaced, etc.), so watching television coverage of the events became overwhelming and we all just turned off the TV. The internet is how we got our news.
There was also a massive interpersonal network that sprouted – posters of missing people were posted in subway stations and on walls and fences. It was definitely one time when actual human contact made a big difference.
Julie Nelson, director of communications and webmaster: JFK’s assassination (Nov. 22, 1963)
I was in my high-school algebra class when we were interrupted by the classroom public address system telling us that Kennedy had been shot.
When it was confirmed that he had died, they closed the school early and we all went home, where I found my mother crying in front of the TV. It seemed like we watched TV all weekend.
Lonna Bloedau, director of admission: Watergate hearings (June 1973-August 1974)
I was a political science major in college, and the Watergate hearings were like end-to-end Super Bowl viewings for me.
This was an incredible saga, chronicled in a book titled “All the President’s Men.” It was written by two Washington Post journalists, who, with their unrelenting investigation and the infamous quote “Follow the money,” uncovered the break-in scandal that resulted in Richard Nixon resigning from the office of the president.
This political intrigue of the early ‘70s lasted for a few years and included wiretapping, theft of files and paper documents, Congressional investigations and hearings, and Supreme Court involvement.
Ultimately, with the threat of impeachment, key congressmen met with then-President Nixon to seek his resignation. Some of his close aides went to prison.
The drama of this shameful cover-up was compelling for anyone who cared about honest government and truth-telling. And for the general citizenry (and especially for political science majors), it commanded reading and television attention every evening for a very long time.
—By Quin LaComb