This is my answer to the prompt “It Happened When…”.
A day I will always remember is December 10th, 1980. My family was just finishing our first year on the island of Guam in the Pacific ocean. My dad was stationed at the Naval Hospital but we lived on “Big Navy”, the largest of the half a dozen or so bases on the island.
I had just turned 15 a few months earlier. I was at that age when I wanted adults to see me as an adult but still enjoyed the ignorance of my youth. I was finding myself and enjoying every minute of it on a tropical island. We did everything in groups back then because only a couple of us had cars and the rest were just under 16. We’d hang out at the Bowling Alley playing the new video game, Pac-Man, go swimming at the base pool or pack a sack luch and stay at the beach all day listening to music. Music defined us at that age. I always found ways to relate to the lyrics about love, life or dancing (seems those were about the only topics for popular music back then).
We all listened to Donna Summer, Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Air Supply, Diana Ross, Styx, Kool and the Gang, Dr. Hook, Kenny Loggins, and more — I can think of a song from that time and am immediately taken to a memory from that 15 months we lived on Guam.
That particular day, I remember walking with my brother and his girlfriend to her house. We were listening to the local radio station on my sisters little boom box as we walked. They played “Imagine” by John Lennon. I sang every word along with John. I wasn’t totally sure what it meant but to me it was a beautiful song filled with hope.
When the song ended, the DJ came on and said it was a tribute to the “late, great John Lennon”. Then he said something like, “John Lennon was pronouced dead at Roosevelt Hospital at 11:15 PM, Monday, December 8th, 1980 after being shot while entering his apartment in New York.”
I was stunned. I stopped walking and just stood there. No way. I heard him wrong. John Lennon can’t be dead!? I love his songs, his music, his voice. I ran all the way home, locked myself in the room I shared with my sister and cried for hours.
To this day, his songs from my teen years make me happy and sad at the same time. He used his music to promote messages of peace, freedom and love. Today, when I hear “Imagine” I sing every word as the tears well in my eyes. We haven’t made it yet, John, but we’re working on it.
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…
You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one
I’m a dreamer. Always have been and proud to be one.
*Note John Lennon was shot and killed late evening on December 8th, 1980. Guam is over the international date line, therefore it was December 9th, 1980 for me. I learned of it the next day on the radio.