Every generation seems to have at least one "Where were you?" event -- something that freezes into people's memories in such a way that the circumstances of what they were doing when they heard about the event are forever intertwined with the event itself. For Baby Boomers, obviously, it was John F. Kennedy's assassination. For Millennials there's Sept. 11, although that one really belongs to all of us. For my own Generation X, it's probably the Challenger shuttle explosion, although the first "Where were you?" incident that I actually remember is one that happened 30 years ago today -- the murder of John Lennon, which remains particularly vivid because the next night it prompted my parents to do the unthinkable and wheel the TV to the dinner table so we could keep up with the whole senseless thing as it unfolded. And of course yesterday was the 69th anniversary of what I imagine is the Greatest Generation's defining "Where were you?" moment: the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Why do we ask each other where we were when something big and terrible happened? It's probably as simple and profound as the need to feel connected to one another, even years and years later, and the reality that we're defined not just by the things that happen to us but also by the things that happen around us. We own them, and as bad as they are, we wouldn't give them up. Rest in peace, Mr. Lennon. I was 10, home with my family, eating dinner, when it really hit me.