Every year, the anniversaries of days gone by come around such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of a beloved President, and the first man on the moon. All of those days shaped the United States and made it the nation it is today. They range from the saddest moments to times for rejoicing. How much do you know about these momentous days? After much brainstorming and a few surveys and interviews, the nine major events that shaped the U.S. still continue to influence the nation and its people.
December 7, 1941
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, they had came to Hawaii in hopes of destroying the Pacific Fleet. They failed in the mission, but killed 2,500 Americans and injured another 1,000. Japan did succeed, however, in sinking the USS Arizona along with over 1,000 men inside it. For more information about the memorial, click here.
November 22, 1963
President John F. Kennedy was campaigning in Dallas, Texas for a second term when he was shot in the neck and head. The supposed shooter is Lee Harvey Oswald. After being shot, Kennedy was taken to Parkland Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 1:00 p.m. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in on an airplane by U.S. District Court Judge Sarah Hughes. Kennedy was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery on November 25, 1963 with representatives from more than 100 countries and millions of viewers watching.
“Kennedy was a very dynamic individual and President, and when he died the nation went haywire- riots and recessions started. Everyone cried, and they feared the country would shut down,” history teacher John Kirchgassner said about that day now 51 years past.
To read about his memorial at Arlington, click here.
April 4, 1968
Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. He had just finished his “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech where he talked about not fearing a single man. At the hotel, King was speaking with Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) colleagues when James Earl Ray shot a single bullet that hit King in the face. He was rushed to St. Joseph’s hospital where he was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m.
July 20, 1969
Even though Russia made it into space before the United States, America was the first country to land a man on the moon. Neil Armstrong took the title as the first man on the moon, followed by Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin- the second man on the moon. This achievement has allowed NASA to continue their space exploration and make many more trips to space and back.
January 22, 1973
This date marked the beginning of a court case between Norma McCorvey, also known as Jane Roe, and Henry Wade. Roe challenged Texas’ anti-abortion law saying that it restricted her rights and Wade was the defendant in favor of the anti-abortion laws. At the end of the case, abortion was legalized with restrictions made by the individual states. Since the decision was made in this landmark court case, Roe has changed sides and is now Pro-Life. To read more about Roe, click here.
February 22, 1980
Coined the “Miracle on Ice,” this event is known as the greatest moment in sports for the United States. After a tie with Sweden, and wins over Czechoslovakia, Norway, Romania, and West Germany, the United States hockey team advanced to play against Russia. Contrary to popular belief, this was not the gold medal game. As Americans around the country watched as their college-aged team played against professional hockey players from Russia, they all had a sense of patriotism. After a winning goal in the 3rd period by Mike Eruzione, the Americans watching all waved their flags and sang “God Bless America” and “The Star Spangled Banner.” This victory sent them to play against Finland and win the gold medal.
January 28, 1986
The Space Shuttle Challenger explosion rocked the United States in 1986. Just 73 seconds after launching, the spacecraft disintegrated, killing all 7 astronauts aboard. One of these astronauts was 37 year-old school teacher, Christa McAuliffe, who had been chosen to become the first teacher in space. The explosion is said to have been caused by the failure of two rubber O-rings that got too cold and brittle that January morning. To read about the memorial in Arlington, click here.
April 20, 1999
On this day in 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, 12 students and one teacher were killed and 20 more people wounded. Students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold arrived at the school around 11:10 a.m. and placed a bomb in the cafeteria to explode at 11:17 a.m. However, when the bomb failed to detonate, the two students went into the school and opened-fire around 11:19 a.m. For more information about the memorial, click here.
September 11, 2001
On that morning, four airplanes bound for the west coast became weapons in a planned terrorist attack. The first plane hit the north tower of the Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. followed by a second plane that hit the south tower just 18 minutes later at 9:03 a.m. The Pentagon was hit by a third plane at 9:45 a.m., killing 189 military personnel and civilians. The fourth plane, hijacked by the terrorists, was promptly taken over by civilians on the flight and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after they learned about the other three planes. In total, more than 3,000 American lives were lost in this tragic attack. Currently, there is a National Memorial at the sight of towers that was dedicated on September 11, 2011 as well as one in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. To read about the memorial, click here.
If you think there are big events that were not covered, please leave a comment with the event and we’ll consider all ideas for a follow-up story.