There are moments and days in our lives that we simply won’t forget. We remember exactly where we were at the time of events that changed history, these outrageous and unbelievable news stories that placed every media outlet – and now social media avenues – into high alert.
We all have events in our lives that we will never forget – the birth of our children, memorable childhood vacations, the deaths of loved ones and much more. Below are just a few social and historical events and dates that I recall as if they were yesterday.
May 24, 1968 – Martin Luther King’s assassination. I was attending Catholic school when the nuns started running around in a controlled chaos. Soon, the church bell sounded and we were let out. For days following his death, I watched the riots in multiple cities throughout the United States and in protest.
July 21, 1969 – Neil Armstrong walks on the moon. I was 10 years old and thought it was so exciting that a man was walking on the moon, a planet that I can see at night. Crazy.
May 21, 1981 – AIDS is discovered. Safe sex took on a whole new meaning for a young man in his early twenties.
September 11, 2001 – 911. I was walking into the University of New Mexico with donuts in hand for the coaching staff, preparing to start my day of scouting. My wife called, crying, saying a plane had hit the Twin Towers in New York City. Minutes later, I walked into the head coach’s office to find his staff staring a television hung in the corner of the room. We all watched the second plane fly through the second tower, standing in total disbelief.
All air travel in the U.S. was suspended. The next day, I started the drive back to Charlotte, N.C. – three days and 1,642 miles from my front door.
Aug. 29, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina. Massive human loss, people displaced and martial law was put into effect. It took days before the U.S. government came to the need of thousands of citizens.
Nov. 8, 2008 – Barack Obama becomes the first African-American President elected in the United States. I never thought I would see that in my lifetime.
In the sports realm, these moments were just as difficult to process:
1991 – Washington Huskies become national champions. I’m very proud to have been a part of a very special time in Washington football history as a member of a talented coaching staff. We shared the crown with the Miami Hurricanes – which started the talks about a committee to determine one champion. Several years later, the BCS was born.
June 17, 1994 – OJ Simpson, Pro Football Hall of Fame running back, rivets the country by leading police on a chase of his white Bronco down the Los Angeles freeway. The rest is history.
May 8, 1995 – My first day as an NFL scout with the Carolina Panthers arrives.
Nov. 16, 1999 – Rae Carruth hires two men to kill his girlfriend, Cherica Adams, and her unborn child in a drive-by shooting. I received the call from a Panthers executive while standing in the living room of our house in Colorado, where we lived while I was an area scout. Carruth was my first 1st-round pick from the University of Colorado, a member of the All-Rookie team with 44 receptions, 500-plus yards and four touchdowns. He was suddenly involved in an attempted murder investigation.
After Ms. Adams died and Carruth refused to turn himself in, he became a fugitive and left the state of North Carolina. He was captured hiding in the trunk of the car driven by a female friend of his in Tennessee. Carruth and the two men involved were found guilty, with Carruth receiving a prison sentence of 20-plus years.
For the Adams family it was a tragic story. For the Carolina organization, it spent years asking itself what could have gone so horribly wrong.
July 6, 2000 – Fred Lane, former NFL running back for the Carolina Panthers, was murdered on this day by his wife.
June 26, 2013 – Aaron Hernandez, former tight end for the New England Patriots, was arrested and charged with murder and five related gun charges in the death of Odin Lloyd. Further evidence makes Hernandez a suspect in last summer’s drive-by shooting and unsolved double homicide investigation in Boston.
For the Lloyd investigation, Hernandez faces the following charges: one count of carrying a firearm without a license; two counts of possession of a large capacity firearm; and two counts of possession of a firearm without a valid ID card.
When the murder charge was announced to the public on Wednesday, Hernandez seemed to carry a swagger that suggested he didn’t have much of a concern about the charges leveled against him. He currently sits in a 7-by-10 cell in the Bristol County House of Correction and Jail, gets three meals a day and receives only water from his sink to drink. He is jailed, kept from the general population because of a possible gang affiliation. Until that matter is cleared up, he won’t join the rest of the prison community for safety reasons. Hernandez pleaded not guilty to all charges, and was denied bail.
Why the Hernandez arrest as a day I will remember? I was standing in the 101 ESPN studios prior to the arraignment in Attleboro District Court, having just finished communicating with my sources in Boston – two of whom were camped out at Hernandez’s house for days.
It makes a difference when you have talked with a person accused of murder. I interviewed Hernandez in two different environments throughout the draft process. My thoughts after our conversations: He had a street-smart, tough side to his personality, but that didn’t bother me. It was not in an arrogant, disrespectful way; he was very polite, and spoke and carried himself very well. He understood the importance of what lay ahead of him.
To know that I actually had several exchanges with a person who could do what he is accused of is eye-opening. The day I stood in our studios and watched the arraignment is a day I won’t ever forget.