There gets to be a point in our lives where our photographs become our memories and they become a way we can tap back into those raw emotions and remember where we were at when we first experienced that event. In this series of powerful and historic images we look at this nation’s history and events that formed who we are and how we have moved forward as a country.
See the photos and feel the emotion from the first time you saw these incredible images all those years ago.
Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion
On Tuesday, Jan. 28, 1986 a crew of seven astronauts boarded the Space Shuttle Challenger to head into space. Just 73 seconds after lift off the unthinkable happens: The Challenger explodes killing all seven crew members aboard. Schools across the country had live coverage of the launch in classrooms because one of the passengers was astronaut Christa McAuliffe, a teacher from New Hampshire.
V-J Day in Times Square
This image captured the hearts and imagination of America when it was first published in Time magazine back in 1945. The word had just dropped that the war was over so an American sailor grabbed a nearby nurse and passionately kissed her as thousands jammed into Times Square to celebrate the long awaited-victory over Japan in World War II.
Rosa Parks Mugshot
Rosa Parks has become a civil rights legend after she refused to give up her seat on a public bus to a white passenger. That simple gesture cost her though and here is her Montgomery county mugshot after being arrested for act of unruly social justice. Here we see her iconic mugshot from 1955.
San Francisco earthquake
In April 1906 one of the greatest natural disasters destroyed one of America’s favorite cities: San Francisco. The great earthquake spurred a firestorm that the world hasn’t seen since; 3,000 people were killed that day and 80% of San Francisco was burned or destroyed by the great fire.
On a hopeful day in November of 1863 President Abraham Lincoln prepares to deliver his famous Gettysburg Address to a group of Soldiers on the battlefield of Gettysburg Pennsylvania.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
November 19, 1863
Flight at Kitty Hawk
On Dec. 17, 1903 Orville Wright (seen manning the controls on the lower wing) and his brother Wilbur pilot the Wright Flyer on the first EVER powered flight. Think of that. Over the millennia that people have always wondered what it was like to fly do you think they ever would believe that one day we would not only fly around the globe in mere hours but also take to space? This moment is one of the most powerful in all of human history.
The airship Hindenburg was a vessel that was almost unbelievable for the time. The giant German airship made its maiden voyage to the United States was filled with journalists, Aristocrats, MVP Zeppelin travelers, and members of the Nazi elite.
This photo is taken at the exact moment that the Hindenburg exploded in midair upon its arrival in Lakehurst, New Jersey in 1937 . The explosion and crash claimed the lives of 36 passengers and ground crew and marked the end of the era of passenger-carrying airships.
The explosion was believed to have been caused by static electricity build-up that ignited when the airship dropped its tie-lines to the ground, sending a charge of electricity that caused the explosion.
Raising the American flag on Iwo Jima
As the United States invaded Iwo Jima, the fight for the island was one that was fast and furious and the US took the island in just over one month after arriving. This image was taken as U.S. Marines and a United States Navy hospital corpsman, raised the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi in 1945 for the first time. the photo has become an icon of American tenacity and success.
Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech
August 1963- As the crowd swelled to over a 100,000 people, Martin Luther King waves to the supporters from atop the steps of the most fitting place to give a civil rights speech: The Lincoln Memorial. Here King stands, just a few moments removed from delivering his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. It has gone on to become one of the most famous moments in American history.
Assassination of President John F. Kennedy
Nov. 22, 1963- In this different angle taken during the after-moments immediately following President John F. Kennedy’s public assassination, we see Jackie reaching onto the area above the back part of the car as Kennedy slumps down dead in the backseat of his presidential limousine.
Years after this event, the Secret Service agent seen in the photo climbing onto the back of the car was asked why Mrs. Kennedy was moving towards him. He said,”She didn’t even see me, she was reaching for a piece of the President’s skull.”
Lyndon B. Johnson is sworn in as president of the United States
11/22/1963 – In the dramatic hours after the assassination in Dallas, Lyndon B. Johnson takes the oath of office and becomes the 36th president of the United States. This moment was captured aboard Airforce One and to his side, Jackie Kennedy stands, still in her blood soaked clothes still in shock after her husband’s murder just hours before.
Nov. 25, 1963- The image of a family that has lost its father, its light and the country’s guiding voice of reason, here we see the son of slain President John F. Kennedy as he salutes his father as his casket passes the White House. The country was devastated. Years later little John John would die in a plane crash in 1999 before any political aspirations could be realized.
Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston
In one of the most iconic sports photos ever taken, we see the Heavyweight Champion of the world, Muhammad Ali as he stands over the fallen body of his challenger, Sonny Liston in 1963. The moment happens in 1/100 of a second but this image captured speaks volumes about Ali and his storied career.
The Civil rights activist James Meredith lies on the ground, grimacing in pain as he tries to pull himself across a road in Hernando, Mississippi, on June 6, 1966. Meredith had planned to make a solo 220-mile walk called “March Against Fear” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. As he began his walk on his second day, he was shot by a white gunman on Highway 51 and suffered numerous wounds. He later finished his march after his wounds healed.
Jimi Hendrix, Monterey Pop Festival
1967, While Jimi Hendrix is now a household name, he was still only gaining popularity before this photo of his performance at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival blew minds and changed music forever. He died just a few months later after a night of heavy partying and drugs. He asphyxiated on his own vomit and died alone in a hotel room at age 27.
Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
April 4, 1968 – This photo was taken just a few moments after a gunman shoots Martin Luther King on a Memphis motel balcony. Jesse Jackson stands on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel pointing at where he beleives the shots were fired from. Soon officers arrest a man named James Earl Ray for the murder of the civil rights leader.
Black Power On Display
1968 – The Mexico City Olympic Games were highlighted by American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos as they stood on the winners podium wearing black gloves, holding their fists high in support of black pride and civil rights awareness. Here we see them, eyes cast downward during the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner. While the gesture was frowned upon at the time, it made a huge statement and brought much needed attention to civil rights matters in the United States.
Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
June 6, 1968 – Robert F. Kennedy had just taken three bullets from his assassin, Sirhan as we see RFK as he is comforted by a busboy at the Ambassador Hotel named Juan Romero. Sadly RFK died in the hospital a day later from his wounds and the country mourned yet another death of one of the Kennedy families brightest sons.
On Christmas eve 1968 the world got one of the best surprises it has ever received, the first picture of what our planet looks like from space. This picture shows Earth rising over the vast and barren lunar landscape as it was taken by members of the famed of Apollo 8 mission.
Kent State Police Shootings
May 4, 1970- The image of a 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio kneeling over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller shocked the nation and the world. She joined the protest at the college after running away from home to join some friends who were at the protest. Here she is just seconds after Miller was shot by the Ohio National Guard.
March 17, 1973 – Lt. Col. Robert L. Stirm was a POW during the Vietnam war and here we see him finally getting back to US soil. His loving family runs onto the tarmac to greet him at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California. The U.S. has listed that 1,350 Americans were POW or missing in action.
The Murder of John Lennon
Dec. 8, 1980 – As news spread of John Lennon’s murder in New York City, fans worldwide took to the streets to stand together and mourn his passing. there was no social media back then so people would go to bars, public squares and street corners to express their sadness. It was later found out that his murderer was also a fan he signed autographs for just minutes earlier. The man was Mark David Chapman who ambushed Lennon outside of his Upper West Side home.
President Reagan Assassination attempt
March 30, 1981- This dramatic photo was taken just moments after gunman John Hinckley Jr. fired six shots toward President Reagan. Press secretary James Brady is shown lying wounded on the ground with a near fatal head wound as agent Tim McCarthy, pictured in the foreground, threw himself into the line of fire and took two bullets to the stomach. Hinkley admitted later that he tried to kill the President so he might possibly impress actress Jodie Foster.
Berlin Wall Comes Down
November 9, 1989 -The world’s two superpowers the USA and USSR were about to end a decades old conflict that has been since known as “The Cold War.” The Berlin Wall, which was a sign of oppression to the people of Eastern Europe was about to finally come down, reuniting East and West Germany for the first time since 1961.
O.J. Simpson – The Trial of the Century
June, 1995 – O.J. Simpson was the centerpiece of a trial that captured the imagination of the world after the murdered bodies of his ex-wife Nicole and her friend Ronald Goldman were found slaughtered in a Brentwood neighborhood just a few miles from OJ’s house.
After a freeway chase and all signs pointing to him being the suspect, OJ went on trial. Here he tries on a new pair of XL gloves that prosecutors had him put on during his double-murder trial. After this, the prosecution asked OJ to try on the bloody gloves and the results were a disaster.
The gloves, once soaked with blood had shrunk and no longer fit. This turned the out to be the tipping point of the trial and OJ defense attorney Johnnie Cochran said “If the gloves don’t fit, you must acquit.” Shortly after OJ was a free man.
The Arrest of Elián González
Florida, 2000- Elián González, his mother and 12 other refugees fled Cuba in a small aluminum boat seeking asylum in the United States. During the trip, Gonzalez mother and 10 other immigrants drowned. While Gonzales survived and was staying with relatives, the order came in that he was to be forced to leave the USA. Here U.S. marshals raid a home of a relative to take Gonzales into custody as the terrified child looks on.
President Bush First News Of Terror Attack
Sept. 11, 2001 – As the President listens to children share story time he is interrupted by Chief of Staff, Andy Card. Card bends over in front of the class and TV cameras and whispers into the ear of the President explaining that the country was under attack by terrorists.
Terror At The World Trade Center
On one of the darkest days in US history, people watch as United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashes into the south tower of the World Trade Center in a brazen act of terrorism. At exactly 9:03 a.m. on September 11th 2001 the world changed when two airliners, hijacked by terrorists, ushered in a new era of terrorism and the death of over 2800 innocent people.
FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge
The image of New York City Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge being carried off by rescuers surrounded by the wreckage of World Trade Center ran in newspapers everywhere on Sep.12th. The story goes that Judge had rushed over to the World Trade Center to pray for the dead and wounded. As he got into the base of World Trade 1, the tower fell killing him as he tried to escape the rubble.
In the days following the attacks, Brooklyn firefighters raise the flag at the World Trade Center in New York. The simple act of patriotism became a symbol of hope and national pride as the country began the long path to healing.
Saddam Hussein Captured
Dec. 14 2003 – After the attacks on the US, President Bush moved the country into war against Afghanistan and Iraq. After an eight-month manhunt for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, he was found hiding in a hole by US soldiers. The man who once terrified his citizens was now looking more like a homeless person than the face of evil. After a brief trial he was hung and executed.
2005- Close to 2000 people lost their lives as Hurricane Katrina leveled the gulf coastline and specifically New Orleans. During the storm many people sought shelter in the city’s largest venue: The Superdome. As people huddled hoping to survive the night they had no idea of the destruction happening outside the walls. Katrina became our nation’s largest natural disaster causing 81 billion in property damage.
Sunset on Mars
On May 19, 2005, the world got its first real image from the surface of Mars from the little spacecraft: The Mars Rover Spirit. This incredible image revealed the remarkable sunrise from the Martian surface.
Barack Obama First Black President
2008 – As the nation reeled after the embarrassing and blundersome presidency that is forever known as George W. Bush, a new candidate spoke of hope and change. That message resonated and Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States.
2006 – Julian Assange and his “WikiLeaks” made world wide waves on July 2007 when he released 77,000 U.S. military files chronicling the war effort in Afghanistan. Soon followed an even larger stash of 400,000 war logs from Iraq. The documentation was previously unreported and the details of civilian casualties and abuse shocked the world.
May 1, 2011- Osama Bin Laden is killed in Pakistan. Here we see President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in the White House Situation Room as they watch a live feed of the attempted capture of Bin Laden. Things didn’t go as planned and Bin Laden was killed just moments later.
Dec, 2012 – The horrors of gun violence became even more real as we watched innocent small children fall victim as a gunman fatally shot 26 kids and staffers at a Sandy Hook elementary school. Since that day over 90,000 people have been killed in the USA by gun violence.
Boston Marathon bombing
April 15, 2013 -This dramatic photo captures the moments immediately following the bombings during the Boston Marathon that were perpetrated by russian immigrants. Three people died and an 264 others were injured in the blasts that sent America into another panic as suspected international terrorism was suspected.
Battlefield at Gettysburg
Gettysburg in July 1863 was a place of sorrow and pain where more than 50,000 Union and Confederate troops were killed, injured, or captured during the Civil War. In a rare photograph from the battlefield, we see the carnage and human wreckage that is left behind by war.
Ferguson Missouri | Black Lives Matter
August, 2014 – A gunned down black man named Michael Brown of Ferguson Missouri caused the nation to go down a path of renewed racial divides. While this incident brought the prevalent police violence toward African Americans to the forefront, it also spawned the saying “black lives matter.” Today tensions are worse than ever as the violence continues.
Bison skulls used as fertilizer
1870 -The sheer amount of death in this photo is staggering. What once flourished for thousands of years sustaining the indigenous people of North America was nearly wiped out in less than 40 years. These American bison were hunted in such numbers that they were near extinction by the time this photo was taken in 1870. In this picture, a poacher is seen standing on a pile of around 100,000 bison skulls.
Legalization of same-sex marriage
June 26, 2015
2016 -The nation is again on the cusp of a huge moment and this time its focusing around the polarizing figure known as Trump. While most the world takes this man as a joke and a buffoon, the Republican party has made him their leader and he has a great chance of becoming the next President of the United States.