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December 8, 1980

Updated: Dec 9, 2023

By Joe Johnson

Forty-three years ago today me and a housemate were driving to work at the GM plant in Tarrytown when we realized that the Christmas tree lighting would be happening that night at Rockefeller Center.

And so we said screw work, and that's exactly where we quickly ended up going.

As the festivities 'round the huge, now brightly-lit and festooned tree outside 30 Rock were winding down we began to hear folks murmuring in the thinning crowd, something about John Lennon getting shot outside of his apartment at the Dakota.

It took a while before we or anyone else thought that the former Beatle might actually be critically injured.

And so we headed up to the apartment building on West 72nd Street and joined in with a sizable crowd that had already gathered into a vigil with candles and song being passed around.

When it came over the radio that Lennon had died there were shrieks of disbelief and horror, and strangers began hugging strangers, sharing tears and seeking, offering comfort.

The gathering outside of the Dakota had become a wake of sorts, with people sharing their memories about John as a member of the Beatles, a solo artist, and human being.

And songs, many songs were sung by groups of people who, despite not knowing each other, perfectly harmonized together while knowing every single word to Imagine, Give Peace a Chance, Happy Christmas and more.

It was a moment in time of people coming together for each other that I recollect so vividly each and every December 8.

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