The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world and will most certainly be a moment in time that we talk about for years to come. To give perspective to ECU students navigating education during this challenging period, alumni shared recollections of other monumental moments in history that intersected with their time on campus.
By Erin Ward
I was a freshman at ECU during the 1967-68 school year. I was very involved with the campus radio station, WECU. On the evening of April 4, 1968, I was working at the station when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. I remember the old ticker tape machine going crazy printing out the news of the shooting and the resultant riots that occurred all across America on that night and for weeks afterward. I was at the station all night monitoring the events. On June 5 of this same year, Sen. Robert Kennedy was shot and killed in Los Angeles while campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. More unrest followed his death. In August 1968, the Democratic Party held their convention in Chicago. There were many violent protests against the Vietnam War at the convention. I often think about 1968 and how it compares to the riots and protests going on now across America. In many ways they are very similar some 52 years later.
April 4, 1968
I was an ECU nursing student spending six weeks at the Oteen VA hospital in Asheville for a coronary care experience when man walked on the moon. We were all away from home and we huddled around one small television to see it. My then boyfriend, an ECU grad actually, drove down there to see it for himself.
July 20, 1969
I was a rising sophomore when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I was at home in Rocky Mount working my summer job and, because I had to get up so early the next morning to go to work, I missed “One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” That said, I can still say I was a proud Pirate when Apollo 11 accomplished maybe the greatest feat we humans have ever undertaken!
July 20, 1969
I was a senior living in Jarvis dorm when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. I had just come back from an early morning class and turned on the TV in our room. The shuttle lifted off and just a minute or two into the flight, it exploded into a ball of fire and a trail of smoke falling from the sky! I remember the disbelief. I went running out into the hall and started telling everyone about the tragedy. I have never forgotten that day!
Jan. 28, 1986
I was standing in the McDonald’s at the corner of 10th Street and Charles Boulevard when the Challenger shuttle exploded. Everyone there at the time saw the tragedy unfold before our eyes on the TVs in the dining area.
Jan. 28, 1986
Everyone remembers the infamous swim test in PE, right? Well, that was what I was doing the morning of 9/11. I was a freshman at ECU and heard about the attacks on a bus riding from Garrett Dorm to Minges. As we took the test, it was all everyone talked about. When we did the five minutes of required wading? Yeah, that was the topic. It’s certainly not a wild story, but it’s absolutely where my head goes when I think about that day.
Sept. 11, 2001
I was on campus in a computer lab printing out an assignment for class when everyone’s phone was ringing and people started saying that the World Trade Center was blown up and that the White House was next. I remember grabbing my Nokia phone at the time and trying to reach my parents and could not get through for some time. I went on to class and a professor walked in and started teaching and stopped a couple of minutes in asking where everyone was (he had a very strict attendance policy). A student in the class raised his hand and shared that there was a national incident and perhaps people were shaken by that and I remember he just kept teaching. My following classes for the day were canceled. Where my parents lived was about an hour and a half drive away so I went back to my apartment, packed up an overnight bag and went home for a few days after that. Ironically, the World Trade Center is now in my front yard in NYC which is likely why that memory sticks so close for me.
Sept. 11, 2001