Time keeps moving on, and so do we

It was 20 years ago today."

Yes, I went to a Web site. I clicked on the "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band" album cover. You remember albums. Or maybe you don’t. I copied the opening line from the title song.

And yes — gasp — it was 20 years ago today. Make that 20 years ago tonight.

My name was Julie Ahrens. There were no such things as Web sites.

I was sitting in my tiny rented house in Pendleton, Ore., not watching Howard Cosell on "Monday Night Football."

A guy I knew and liked — his name was Jim Muhlstein — called from his tiny rented house. He was watching Howard Cosell. And he was very upset. He said he was going to the office.

The office was the East Oregonian, a newspaper where we both worked.

Always, this Jim Muhlstein cared about history. And always, he was a packrat of the first order. At the office that night, he stood by the Teletype machine.

Twenty years ago today, Associated Press wire stories did not come to newspaper offices in Eastern Oregon via computer. Stories came clattering in on an ancient-looking device that printed in wide-spaced type all manner of news onto reams of narrow paper that were stored in a big box beneath the AP machine.

Jim stood there and read what had happened, how John Lennon had been shot to death as he entered the Dakota apartment building in Manhattan.

"BULLETIN" begins the first of the stories he snagged that night. I have that thick stack of paper. I found it while going through my late husband’s things shortly after he died in 1998.

After the bulletin came details as the unbelievable news took shape. "Driving force behind the legendary Beatles … Upper West Side … Mark David Chapman … emptied a .38 revolver … St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, where he died."

That it has been 20 years is also unbelievable. Ten years, maybe that I’d believe. But 20?

Yet when I think of the life I was living on Dec. 8, 1980, I feel those 20 years. Almost nothing is the same.

I had moved from Seattle to a dusty, rural place where it snowed by the ton. There was no way of knowing I’d return to green, rainy Western Washington.

My best friend was a young teacher who longed to get the heck out of Pendleton and go back to Portland, Ore., where she’d grown up. Friends who mean the most to me now I hadn’t even met.

I was unattached enough to skip the country and spend three weeks in Ireland without giving a thought to kids. What kids? The people I care most about today hadn’t been born.

I had a vague sense of where I was going, maybe with this Jim person. Raising his three children as a widow, wow, who’d have thought of that?

What is this column about? John Lennon? How we go on? How time passes, cruelly stealing those we love but kindly bringing us new people to care about.

All that, I guess, and this: Everything changes. Nothing is forgotten.

"Well we all shine on."

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