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Where Were You When…?
Few phrases garner as much attention as “We Interrupt This Broadcast…” Wherever we may happen to be, our lives stop for a moment, and we experience those few seconds of anxiety between the interruption and the actual announcement of what has happened.
In words and images-and on two audio CDs-We Interrupt This Broadcast brings to life the famous and infamous moments that were announced to us with those four chilling words. From the dawn of electronic media to today, from the catastrophe of the Hindenburg to the tragic events of September 11, 2001, these are the forty-three events that stopped us in our tracks and changed our world.
We Interrupt This Broadcast recounts the details of the events and spotlights the photographs that tell the stories. Accompanying the book are two digitally mastered compact discs containing over two hours of audio from the events, narrated by award-winning journalist Bill Kurtis.
These heart-stopping moments include both the famous words you remember and rare audio footage that will take you back into the magnitude of the event. Share with your friends, family, children and grandchildren your memories of where you were when the world stopped and held its breath in anticipation.
"Altogether, the book and CDs are a keeper, offering both valuable history lessons and a dramatic record of the definitive moments for generations of Americans."
"The two CDs deliver an exciting, engaging exercise…The events are all hugely memorable. The bits of historic sound are powerfully evocative."
"Newsjunkies can go in for the good stuff with this book and CD set…an impressive tome of rare photos and historical accounts.…"
-Time Out New York
"…the ability of the electronic media to capture history couldn’t be more powerful-or chilling."
Copyright © 2002 Joe Garner
All right reserved.
Note: This book is accompanied by a double-CD collection of audio broadcasts.
by Walter Cronkite
We are living through a period in history when journalism again faces great responsibilities and unexpected challenges.
This generation of journalists is faced with the heavy responsibility of recording as faithfully and honestly as is humanly possible the vast political and economic reorganization of the postwar era. That would be a demanding task even if our own profession was entirely stable and we could count on pursuing our craft with the wisdom assembled through past experience.
But that, alas, is not the case. Television has changed the face of journalism. In a time when, using the magic tube, political leaders can go over the heads of their own parties, when heads of state soar over national boundaries to address the people of other countries, the journalist's job takes on a new dimension. In broadcasting, there is need for instant analysis and the provisions of background information so that the people shall not be misled by skillful demagogues with these new means of persuasion at their command.
Such is also the need when the big stories break, and I have covered more than a few of them. Whenthe events that change the world occur, we journalists must step up with all the instant thoughtfulness and knowledge we can muster in the face of triumph or tragedy.
It is an interesting thing about newspeople. We are much like doctors, nurses, firemen, and police. In the midst of tremendous events, our professional drive takes over and dominates our emotions. We move almost like automatons to get the job done. The time for an emotional reaction must wait. Even so, we are, at the same time, very human. When something changes your life, it also changes ours.
I covered all the moon shots, but the pinnacle of all of them, and of my quarter century covering them, was seeing Neil Armstrong set foot on the surface of the moon. I believe that of all our achievements in the twentieth century, this is the one that students will read about in history books hundreds of years from now.
My reaction to the landing reflected that belief--it was goose pimples on goose pimples. When the moment came for Neil to step out of the Eagle, I was speechless.
"Oh boy! Whew! Boy!" I said, profundity to be recorded for all the ages. I had just as long as NASA to prepare for that moment, and yet, these were my words. They reflected my joy, awe, and admiration for those remarkable astronauts and for the daring and courageous spirit of humankind.
As is the nature of many events which warrant interrupting broadcasts, I also was there to report on the terrible tragedies.
Our flash reporting the shots fired at President John F. Kennedy's motorcade was heard over the "CBS News Bulletin" slide and interrupted the soap opera As the World Turns.
For the first hour, I reported sketchy details to a nation in shock. Then came the report from Eddie Barker, news chief of our Dallas affiliate, and Bob Pierpoint, our White House correspondent. They had learned the President was dead. We were still debating in New York whether we should put such a portentous but unofficial bulletin on the air when, within minutes, the hospital issued a bulletin confirming the news. It fell to me to make the announcement.
My emotions were doing fine until it was necessary to pronounce the words: "From Dallas, Texas, the flash--apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. central standard time--a half hour ago ..."
The words stuck in my throat. A sob wanted to replace them. A gulp or two quashed the sob, which metamorphosed into tears forming in the corners of my eyes. I fought back the emotion and regained my professionalism, but it would be a few seconds before I could continue: "Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded. Presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly, and become the thirty-sixth President of the United States."
The potential of journalism today is greater than it has ever been. Today, news people in general are far better educated than ever, many holding advanced degrees. With strong academic backgrounds, they have been far more aggressive in covering politics, business, and the social movements of our time.
At the same time, this potential is often nullified by the problems facing the journalistic profession, problems which impact the core of our democratic society. Today's journalists face continual pressures from corporate ownerships and stockholders to dramatically increase profits. This requirement often means less reporters, writers, and editors covering more territory. It can also push good journalists in the direction of the sensational, the entertainment aspects of the news. The end result is a press lacking a sense of public service, which is the vital, fundamental component the press contributes to the nation's welfare.
Press freedom is essential to our democracy, but the press also must not abuse this license. We must be careful with our power. We must avoid, when possible, publicity circuses that make the right of a fair trial a right difficult to uphold. We must avoid unwarranted intrusions upon people's privacy. Liberty and, no less, one's reputation in the community are terribly precious things, and they must not be dealt with lightly or endangered by capricious claims of special privilege.
Above all else, however, the press itself must unwaveringly guard the First Amendment guarantees of a free press. The free press, after all, is the central nervous system of a democratic society. No true democracy, as we understand the term, can exist without it. The press may be irresponsible at times, obstreperous, arrogant, even cruel when innocent individuals are caught in the riptide of damaging publicity. But a free, unintimidated, and unregulated press is democracy's early-warning system against both the dangers of democracy's own excesses and the approach of tyranny. And inevitably, one of the first signs of tyranny's approach is its heavy footstep on the threshold of press freedom.
The preservation of our liberties depends on an enlightened citizenry. Those who get most of their news from television probably are not getting enough information to intelligently exercise their voting franchise in a democratic system. As Thomas Jefferson said, the nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects what never can and never will be. We can bring that up-to-date and amplify it a bit: the nation whose population depends on the explosively compressed headline service of television news can expect to be exploited by the demagogues and dictators who prey upon the semi-informed.
The secret of our past success as a nation may be traced to the fact that we have been a free people, free to discuss ideas and alternatives, free to teach and learn, free to report and hear, free to challenge the most venerable institutions without fear of reprisal. The First Amendment, with its guarantees of free speech and a free press, has been at the heart of the American success story. It must be guarded zealously if we are to gird for the challenges of the new century ahead.
by Joe Garner
My passion for radio and television has been lifelong. With the exception of an occasional time-out for projects like this book, I've been fortunate to make a career of it.
As early as five or six years of age, I would sit in front of the TV at my homemade "set" which consisted of a couple of empty toilet tissue rollers, with a string attached for a microphone, Scotch-taped to the top of a TV tray. My mother was a great microphone maker. I sat there imagining that I was the host of the game show, a panelist on a talk show, then the anchor of the afternoon news. "Welcome ladies and gentleman" and "we'll be back in a moment" were as much part of my developing vocabulary as "What's for dinner?"
I recall how thrilled I was a few years later when the mailman finally delivered the set of records I'd ordered through a television offer, titled The Golden, Days of Radio, presented by the Longines Symphonette Society. The five-record set contained excerpts of old-time radio serials that I couldn't wait to hear, like Burns and Allen, Fibber McGee and Molly, and The Shadow. The special bonus record contained the original broadcast of War of the Worlds. I still have those records.
But television and radio made sure that growing up in a small midwestern college town was no protection from the turbulence of the 1960s. The Vietnam War, assassinations, and the violence of the civil rights struggle came into our home just as it did into homes in much larger cities all across the country. I became keenly aware at an early age of another broadcast term, one that brought our household to silence as we waited to hear the news that followed. If you think about it, few other phrases in our language can cause the same split-second, heart-stopping anxiety as "We interrupt this broadcast."
As we approach a new millennium, I thought it important to assemble a compilation of these famous and infamous moments of this century, beginning at the dawn of electronic media, that stopped us in our tracks. They are the moments that have come to define our lives. They are the sudden catastrophes, the horrific beginnings and sometimes victorious ends to war. They are the senseless acts of terrorism, cold-blooded assassinations, and triumphant achievements of the human spirit.
While paging through a sample of this book, a veteran evening news anchorman for a major television network was overheard to say sarcastically, "I've interrupted a few broadcasts in my day, but that was back when they meant something." Today, the emergence of the twenty-four-hour cable news networks, the fierce competition among broadcasters, and the technology to beam it live from anyplace at anytime, has created an insatiable appetite for news. The results include never-ending debates over what constitutes a real news event, and the birth of a new broadcast term: "tabloid television."
Although it has become a popular pastime to criticize the media, this book is a tribute of sorts to radio and television and its journalists. Often, as you will read and hear, these events caught them as much by surprise as they did us. Yet, under stressful, sometimes dangerous circumstances, they skillfully performed their task with professionalism and compassion.
The events contained in this book were selected because they have stood the test of time. The sounds and images have become part of our very memories. We remember where we were when they happened and how we felt when we first heard the news. Each event is presented as it occurred, allowing you to be in the moment again, or perhaps for the very first time. Prepare to relive the events that have changed our outlook on the world forever.
From the moment he delivered his stirring inaugural address on the bright cold day of January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy exuded a contagious spirit of freshness and vitality. As president, Kennedy had his share of frustrations and failures, but as a symbol of a generation, he was an unadorned success. Handsome, well-educated, and a decorated war hero, he seemed to symbolize America's optimistic image of itself.
As a politician and leader, television became his great ally, and he used it at every opportunity. Kennedy frequently held televised press conferences, where his spontaneous wit and ready charm were broadcast into the homes of millions. But none of John F. Kennedy's thousand days as president would transfix the nation so dramatically as the one he spent in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
Aside from the fact that Kennedy personally enjoyed making public appearances, the Dallas trip was meant as a political fence-mending mission to help shore up his chances for re-election. As an added measure, he decided to bring his vice president, and influential Texan, Lyndon Johnson along on the trip.
The original plan called for Kennedy to spend one day in Texas, visiting Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, and Houston. But two months prior to the trip, the White House decided to extend his visit from the afternoon of November 21 to the evening of November 22, ending with a political fundraising dinner in Austin. The White House also planned a motorcade through downtown Dallas in the hopes that it would evoke a demonstration of the President's personal popularity in a city he had lost in the 1960 election.
Prior to the trip, standard precautions were taken to check with the Secret Service's local Protective Research Section for any potentially dangerous people who might want to harm the President during his visit. The search turned up no one in the Dallas-Fort Worth territory who could be considered a serious danger.
Air Force One touched down at Love Field in Dallas midmorning on November 22. The picture-perfect day allowed the President and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy to ride through Dallas in an open-air limousine. Their hosts, the Governor and Mrs. John Connally, rode in the jump seats in front of them. Driving the president's limousine was Secret Service agent William R. Greer, and agent Roy H. Kellerman sat in the front passenger seat. The press vehicle, normally placed ahead of the President's car, was lined up last. Consequently, this prevented any official footage or photos of the tragic event that would take place.
The motorcade left Love Field at approximately 11:50 a.m. destined for the Trade Mart where Kennedy was scheduled to speak at a luncheon in his honor.
Proceeding at eleven miles per hour, the motorcade crawled through the streets of Dallas which were crowded with excited onlookers. By the time the President's car had reached the corner of Houston and Elm Streets in Dealey Plaza, Kennedy had stopped twice to personally greet well-wishers. The motorcade proceeded into downtown Dallas, and into the shadow of the Texas School Book Depository, a seven-story office building and warehouse. Agent Rufus Youngblood, who was riding in the Vice President's car, noticed the clock atop the building read 12:30 p.m., the time the motorcade was scheduled to have arrived at the Trade Mart.
Suddenly, the terrifying sound of gunshots ripped through the air. Governor Connally was struck in the shoulder, wrist, and leg. President Kennedy was hit in the neck and back, and finally suffered a massive fatal wound in the rear portion of his head.
The entire attack lasted six to eight seconds. Stunned shock turned to panicked chaos in Dealey Plaza as crowds scattered, running for cover. Agent Greer immediately accelerated the presidential car. Agent Clint Hill, riding on the running board of the follow-up car, jumped onto the back of the limousine where Mrs. Kennedy, stricken with terror, had desperately climbed. Fearing further gunfire, Hill pushed her back into the rear seat, and covered the wounded President and his wife as they raced to Parkland Memorial Hospital four miles away.
Within minutes of the shooting, reports began trickling into radio and television stations. Ron Jenkins from radio station KBOX in Dallas was in Dealey Plaza and one of the first to report that "something has happened in the motorcade route." The networks interrupted programming with bulletins of the attack and unconfirmed reports on the President's condition. It was midafternoon, and while most Americans first heard the news on the radio, the bulletin that became synonymous with the event came at 1:40 p.m. eastern standard time when CBS interrupted its daytime drama As The World Turns with only a graphic that read, "CBS News Bulletin." Walter Cronkite reported, "In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting." Less than an hour later, an obviously more emotional Cronkite reported the horrible news, "From Dallas, Texas, a flash, apparently official. President Kennedy died at 1:00 p.m. central standard time, two o'clock eastern standard time, some thirty-eight minutes ago."
While television was a relatively young medium, it grew up quickly over the next three and one-half days. Beginning at 1:45 p.m. that fateful Friday afternoon, the three television networks broadcast without interruption for more than seventy hours. The nation watched in collective grief as the slain President was laid to rest.
When John Kennedy died, the optimistic spirit of the "New Frontier" seemed to perish with him; yet, his stature grew to near-mythic proportions. And the turbulence that marked the rest of the 1960s had only just begun.
Astronauts Escape Disaster
After two successful lunar landings, first by Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969, and then by Apollo 12 in November of that year, moon flights were beginning to feel routine. But the dramatic voyage of Apollo 13 would remind the world that space exploration is risky and disaster can strike at any time.
Apollo 13, with astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise Jr., and Jack Swigert, lifted off from launch pad 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center at 12:13 p.m. eastern standard time. Some fifty-five hours after launch, the crew finished a television broadcast featuring a tour of the lunar module and demonstrating how the crew lived and worked in weightlessness. Apollo 13 was enjoying a trouble-free flight and its crew and mission control in Houston had settled into a comfortable routine.
Shortly after the broadcast, while still stowing the television equipment, the crew heard a loud "bang" and felt an accompanying jolt. Swigert saw a warning light illuminated and informed Lovell that problems existed with the spacecraft. Lovell immediately contacted mission control and reported, "Houston, we've had a problem." Lovell went on to report that there was a low voltage reading on a main bus. Warning lights came on, signaling that two of the three fuel cells had stopped functioning. They soon noticed that one oxygen tank appeared to be empty and the other seemed to be losing pressure. Thirteen minutes after the explosion, Lovell glanced out one of the windows and told mission control that the spacecraft appeared to be venting gas. By one hour after the explosion, pressure in the remaining tank was clearly dropping and it would be empty shortly. The accident investigation eventually concluded that one of the oxygen tanks had exploded, which either broke a line on the other tank or made a valve leak.
Apollo 13 was in serious trouble. It was two hundred thousand miles from Earth on a course that would take it to lunar orbit rather than home. There had been an explosion and the extent of the damage was as yet unknown. The main oxygen supply was gone. The fuel cells that supplied power and water depended on that oxygen. Without power, the command module would be completely inert, without air, light, heat, communications, or any ability to navigate. The cooling system necessary to keep on-board electronic systems at safe operating temperatures in a weightless environment used the water made by the fuel cells. If the cooling system failed, the on-board computers and control systems would go down one-by-one and Apollo 13 would effectively shut down. The command module's batteries would only power it for ten hours, a reserve intended only for final approach and re-entry.
The first step was to shut down the command module and take refuge in the lunar module. The lunar module had been intended to support two people for a little over two days but, by shutting down all non-essential systems, three could live in it for about eighty-four hours. Apollo 13 had to be put on a course that would return it home before power and water reserves were exhausted. The only propulsion system available was the one aboard the lunar module. The lunar module's rocket engines were designed to take it down to the moon's surface from orbit and bring it up again. It had never been intended to provide thrust for the much larger Apollo spacecraft. Even if the lunar module's engines were up to the job, the usual procedures for doing mid-course corrections were not practical with the command module shut down. An alternative procedure would have to be devised that did not rely on command module systems.
The immediate need was to alter course so that Apollo 13 would swing around the moon and head back to Earth rather than enter lunar orbit. After extensive calculations, mission control ordered a thirty-five-second burn of the lunar module engines five hours after the explosion. Apollo 13 that would return it to Earth, but on its present trajectory it would arrive with practically no reserves of power or water.
Mission control discovered that it would be possible to reduce Apollo 13's travel time by almost ten hours, but it would require substantial additional use of the lunar module's engines. The engineers who had designed the lunar module's propulsion system were consulted and confirmed that the lunar module had adequate capacity for the proposed burn. Meanwhile, the crew of Apollo 13 was engaged in the intricate job of ensuring that the spacecraft was correctly aligned. Alignment was usually done with a computerized version of the old naval sextant. Because a cloud of debris from the explosion surrounded Apollo 13, it was not possible to use a star sighting, so the sun was used as an alignment star. Two hours after Apollo 13 rounded the moon, the lunar module's engines were fired for five minutes and Apollo 13 was on the way to a mid-Pacific splashdown.
Mission control and the Apollo contractors turned their attention to the complicated business of creating a new mission plan for the return home. A detailed timeline had to be established that ensured that necessary course corrections, maneuvers, and command module power-up were done in a way that used as little power and water coolant as possible. Many of these maneuvers were novel. Mission planners had never needed to consider the consequences of separating the service module from the linked command module and lunar module or separating the command module and the lunar module only an hour or so before re-entry. Teams of experts explored these issues and hundreds of others for most of Apollo 13's return trip, finishing in three days a job that usually requires three months.
Apollo 13 was heading home, but the trip was not a comfortable one. Because of the critical shortage of water, each crew member was allowed only six ounces a day. Between dehydration and an understandable lack of interest in food, Apollo 13 astronauts lost more weight than the crew of any other mission. They were also cold. Apollo 13 was stuffed with heat-producing electronic equipment that by itself kept the cabin at shirt-sleeve temperatures. With most systems powered off, temperatures dropped to as low as 38 degrees Fahrenheit and most surfaces were covered with condensation. Sleep or even useful rest is difficult at such temperatures and the crew's fatigue was becoming obvious. The lunar module's equipment for removing carbon dioxide was overloaded and the crew worked with mission control to make an impromptu repair.
An hour before re-entry, the lunar module, which had been their lifeboat, was discarded. Mission control bid, "Farewell Aquarius, and we thank you." Lovell's benediction was: "She was a good ship."
Clear of the lunar module, command module Odyssey followed its course to a precise landing, splashing down just three and one-half miles from the recovery ship, the carrier Iwo Jima, after a harrowing mission of 142 hours and fifty-four minutes.
Apollo 13 was followed by four further Apollo missions, all with successful and scientifically fruitful lunar landings. The last Apollo astronaut stepped off the moon on December 14, 1972. No one has announced plans to return.
Excerpted from We Interrupt This Broadcast with CD (Audio) by Joe Garner Copyright © 2002 by Joe Garner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Foreword by Walter Cronkite
The Hindenburg Explodes: May 6, 1937
Pearl Harbor Under Attack: December 7, 1941
D-Day: The Normandy Invasion: June 6, 1944
President Roosevelt Dies: April 12, 1945
V-E Day: War in Europe Ends: May 7, 1945
Atomic Bomb Destroys Hiroshima: August 6, 1945
Japan Surrenders: WWII Ends: August 15, 1945
Truman Defeats Dewey: November 3, 1948
General MacArthur Fired: April 11, 1951
Sputnik Launched by Soviets: October 4, 1957
John Glenn Orbits Earth: February 20, 1962
Marilyn Monroe Dies: August 4, 1962
Cuban Missile Crisis: Nuclear War Threatened: October 22, 1962
President Kennedy Assassinated: November 22, 1963
Lee Harvey Oswald Assassinated: November 24, 1963
President Johnson Declines Re-election Bid: March 31, 1968
Martin Luther King Jr. Assassinated: April 4, 1968
Robert Kennedy Assassinated: June 4, 1968
Apollo 11: Man Walks on Moon: July 20, 1969
Apollo 13: Astronauts Escape Disaster: April 13, 1970
Kent State Massacre: May 4, 1970
Munich Olympics Tragedy: September 5, 1972
Nixon Resigns: August 8, 1974
Saigon Falls: April 30, 1975
Elvis Dies: August 16, 1977
Iran Hostage Crisis: November 4, 1979
John Lennon Assassinated: December 8, 1980
President Reagan Shot: March 30, 1981
The Challenger Explodes: January 28, 1986
Berlin Wall Crumbles: November 9, 1989
Operation Desert Storm Begins: January 29, 1991
Rodney King Verdict Incites Riots: April 29, 1992
Waco Standoff Ends in Disaster: April19, 1993
O.J. Simpson Saga: June 13, 1994 - February 4, 1997
Oklahoma City Bombing: April 19, 1995
Flight 800 Explodes Over Atlantic: July 17, 1996
Atlanta Olympics Bombing: July 27, 1996
Princess Diana Dies: August 31, 1997
The Impeachment of President Clinton: December 19, 1998
Tragedy at Columbine High School: April 20, 1999
John F. Kennedy Jr. Dies: July 16, 1999
The 2000 Election: November 7, 2000
Attack on America: September 11, 2001
Posted December 21, 2002
I enjoy books of this nature and their accompanying CDS or DVDS. There have been several of these offerings in recent years and they're all marvelous, and I recommend them all. Want to briefly mention something regarding one of the events recalled in this book (the RFK assassination) or, more specifically, the Andrew West recording. Over the years, many people have misinterpreted this audio recording made at the Ambassador Hotel on June 5, 1968 by KRKD Radio news reporter Andrew West for the Mutual network. Many have incorrectly assumed the recording features West interviewing Senator Robert F. Kennedy at the moment RFK was shot. Actually, West was nowhere near Kennedy at the time of the shooting in the kitchen pantry. Instead, here is what actually happened... When RFK finished his remarks at the podium in the Embassy Room, West (in eyeglasses and holding a microphone while standing next to the podium to RFK's right) asked the Senator a question about Hubert Humphrey. When you hear Bobby's voice in the West recording answering this question, what you are actually hearing is Kennedy answering it while still standing at the podium. As soon as RFK finishes his answer to West's question, West hits the off button on his tape-recorder's microphone and the Senator turns around to leave the platform and head for the kitchen area. West remains behind at the podium to gather up his equipment. When RFK is shot in the pantry, West is not with him nor is West's tape-recorder taping anything at that crucial point. West hears the commotion and races to the pantry, where he switches his microphone back on to resume taping. So when we hear this famous recording of the RFK assassination, we need to understand there is actually a substantial gap of time that West did not record; and that untaped gap of perhaps a minute or more exists between the moment Bobby finishes answering Andrew West's question while both men are still standing at the podium and that awful moment later when West arrives in the pantry after the shooting has already taken place to frantically describe on tape the immediate assassination aftermath scene.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.