Thursday, June 17, 2010
O.J.'s June 17, 1994 Car Chase: Where Were You?
I remember the summer of O.J. quite well.
I had just started as an intern at Newsweek in New York, working in the news magazine's business section. Fridays were late nights at Newsweek, as much of the week's copy was rolling in and being edited. As interns, we got to do some reporting, but we were mostly assigned to fact checking -- which meant sometimes waiting until late in the night as raw copy was finally turned into stories by the writers and editors. (In those days, reporters and writers were not necessarily the same thing.)
One of my fellow interns had decided to throw a party the evening of Friday, June 17. Although many of us were going to be late to the event, it was definitely something to look forward to as we sat in our cubicles and waited to be dismissed from our various departments.
But then came the news: O.J. Simpson was missing. And then the even bigger news: O.J. Simpson was speeding down the freeways of Los Angeles in a white Ford Bronco driven by his pal Al Cowling. Simpson held a gun to his head as he talked to a 911 operator. And it was all captured on live TV.
The fact checkers and copy editors in the business department all gathered in one of the business editors' offices. And we watched on her little TV, as that SUV drove slowly down L.A. freeways (and hundreds of Angelenos cheered him on).
Copy probably poured in to our computers, ready to be edited, but it didn't matter. We were riveted, like the rest of America. (One immediate casualty of the O.J. chase: That intern's party didn't happen that night.)
Given what was happening -- the gun, the purported suicide note, the chase from the law -- I think we all were assuming that the evening would wind up with O.J. dead. We couldn't have guessed that evening that the drama would continue over the following year and lead to an even bigger circus of a trial.
Meanwhile, as we watched the news unfold in the weeks that followed, rival Time soon got criticized for darkening a mug shot of O.J. But Newsweek also caught grief for producing too many O.J. covers, week in and week out. It was a lot of O.J.; but that's what people wanted.
A year later, when the O.J. verdict was finally revealed, I was visiting my friend Anthony in Hawaii -- and got up super early to hear the result. (But that's another story for another time.)
Just in time for the 16th anniversary of that fateful day (yes, that was 16 years ago!), ESPN's latest "30 on 30" documentary "June 17th, 1994," which aired this week on the sports cabler, looks at that fateful, busy evening.
How did you watch the events of that evening unfold?