The news of John Lennon’s death, 28 years ago today, was heard around the world that evening.
Most of us remember where we were when the news of Lennon’s death consumed us like a bad dream. For some it was a news bulletin that flashed across our televisions, interrupting the tail end of a football game. Phones rang back and forth across cities, states and countries with more details from friends, from families, from those whose teenage years were consumed with Beatlemania.
John Lennon had been shot to death late Monday night, December 8, 1980, outside his apartment building on Manhattan’s upper west side.
For many of us, that same gut wrenching, nauseous emotion consumed us back in 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Schools closed and children were sent home to be with their families. And again in April, 1968, while standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Martin Luther King was assassinated at the age of 39 by a sniper’s bullet. Then later that same year in June, we were struck again by news of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, a political leader who felt strongly about the withdrawal of troops from Vietnam.
But Lennon’s death was different; it didn’t involve political influence or the controversy of whether we should be at war or peace. This time, someone had crawled out of a dark place, lifted a gun and killed an artist. This was something new. And it happened in a city where this artist was seeking privacy, a place of refuge from “a hard day’s night.”
Flash forward 28 years later.
How would media coverage change and by what means would the word travel of this most heinous crime?
Photographers and news reporters would send constant updates via their iPhones and Blackberry Storms. Twitter would be a frenzy of news sharing and 140 character memories. Pictures of Lennon would be posted everywhere on Flickr, MySpace and Facebook, along with messages of disbelief. YouTube’s homepage would be stacked with video footage of John Lennon’s life, and possibly of his assassination. Fans who snapped digital photos or took video of Lennon that night would cherish those digital snippets of his last moments, or sell them on eBay to the highest bidder.
Online technologies would have changed media coverage and how we shared our reactions to his death, but the grief would be the same. Fans would still remember, as they do today, the songs that touched our lives.