January 16th is one of those dates that always makes me stop and reflect for a bit. I’m sure most of us can probably remember where we were and what we were doing 23 years ago tonight when operation Desert Shield became Operation Desert Storm.
On the evening of January 16, 1991, I was set up to broadcast a high school basketball game in Greencastle, PA. The school had set up a TV in a classroom across the hall from the gym and prior to going on the air I watched the first bombs fall on Baghdad. Of course, in 1991 smart phones were science fiction and breaking news was not instantaneously transmitted to our pockets, so the school officials there asked me to make the announcement to the crowd that our boys were in the air in the skies over Baghdad. I did so right before they played the National Anthem and there was a stunned silence, with the exception of the audible gasps when I said the war was finally underway. I say “finally” because if you remember, the start of the first Gulf War was anticipated for weeks and months following Iraq’s move on Kuwait on August 2, 1990.
I’ll never forget the tears, the looks of concern or that heavy feeling of history in the gymnasium that night as the National Anthem filled the air. The game itself seemed like an afterthought as we spent most of the broadcast focusing on what was happening half-a-world away from Greencastle, PA that night.
Of course, I’ll also never forget going home to watch the first-ever live television broadcast of a war as Peter Arnett, Bernie Shaw and John Holliman nervously reported from Baghdad.
January 16th…it’s just one of those dates that sticks with me.
(Brad Christman is the News Director for Radio PA in Harrisburg)