Even though I was still in grade school when Lennon was assassinated, I was devastated at his death. I was a huge Beatles fan since the fourth grade, when my Catholic school teacher showed us a documentary about the band. I became enchanted by the Beatles after that film, and peppered my mother and my two older brothers with questions about the group. The first album I ever bought was "Abbey Road,"and I acted out the lyrics of "A Day in the Life" for a school project, to the befuddlement of my classmates.
My favorite Beatle was John, of course. I was fascinated with the music, the lyrics, the gutsy solo career choices, and the intelligent, intriguing person behind it. But what also won me over were the glasses.
Earlier that same year, I had found out I would need to wear eyeglasses, something I wasn't crazy about, to put it mildly. But Lennon also had terrible eyesight, and he made those round National Health spectacles the most famous in the world. Although he went sans eyeglasses in the early years, and wore contacts toward the end of his life, so many of the iconic images we remember of Lennon - like the insert to the White Album - feature him with the glasses.
I also was fascinated - this was in 1977 - with how one of the most famous men in the world could just seem to disappear from the music scene like that. And how nobody knew at the time what he was up to. It made me want to be a journalist, and to write about him. I vowed one day to interview John and Yoko about what they had been doing during that time. Didn't quite work out that way, but that was my original plan.
Three years later, Lennon had resurfaced, releasing his new album "Double Fantasy" and talking about his househusband years. I loved the new album - even the Yoko tunes - and listened to it a lot. And yes, I was playing it on the evening of December 8, 1980, a few hours before he was killed.
That night, I was sitting in my brother Patrick's room, listening to John's new music and reading an interview with Lennon and Yoko Ono about the album, and about their lives. But what I remember most about that evening was my brother's remark about the album cover art. He noted that the back cover, which showed John and Yoko standing outside the Dakota, was great because it didn't have any big significance behind it. Instead of all the intricate "Sgt. Pepper"-type art, the "Double Fantasy" pic was just a simple shot of John and Yoko.
Of course, just a few hours later, that area depicted in the photo would have a lot more meaning behind it, as both the scene of a crime, and a scene of a shrine.
I missed hearing the news live - I had a ten o'clock bedtime - but my brother heard about Lennon's death via Howard Cosell on the Monday Night Football broadcast. He stayed up all night, listening to Lennon's music.
So did my blogging friend The Omnipotent Q of the Mighty Quinn Media Machine; he wrote in a very moving entry in his blog about how he heard the news live on WNEW radio and stayed up all night listening to Lennon's music on the station. Lots of other Lennon fans did the same thing, of course. But some of us, like myself, didn't hear the news until the next day.
I remember waking up that morning, heading down to the kitchen, and seeing my brother. He was wearing a red-checked shirt that morning at the breakfast table, while he read the newspapers. He looked worn-out - and very serious - when he told me the news about John Lennon. My brother, like most older brothers did, often teased his little sister. But this time, his voice was like Walter Cronkite's or something. Patrick was very somber as he told me that my idol was dead. I couldn't believe it - heck, I still can't believe it.
And when details came out about the murderer, it made even less sense to me. How could somebody ask for Lennon's autograph, get it, and then come back and shoot him? What kind of crazy person would do such a thing?
Even though I was the daughter of an inner-city New Jersey police officer, my parents had sheltered me from most of the gruesomeness and horror in the world. But they couldn't protect me from the news that my childhood hero had been assassinated. It shattered my innocence - and my view of the world.
Yankee catcher Thurman Munson had died in a plane crash the year before, and while that was also tragic, and sad, at least that was understandable to me. It was an accident,after all. But Lennon being killed by a former fan was just inexplicable to my mind.
That Sunday, my brother and I went into Manhattan to participate in the ten minutes of silence event for Lennon in Central Park. I don't remember much about the memorial itself, other than how incredibly sad it was. And after the sadness of that week, I remember being so angry that such a thing could happen.
Here it is, 29 years later, and I still feel those same emotions when thinking about Lennon's death, as I imagine I will every December 8 - and October 9, his birthday - in my life. He would have been 69 this year if he hadn't been taken from us all way too soon.