Here's what we were planning to do 24 years ago tonight. We were going to focus on the possibility that Soviet troops might be about to intervene in Poland.
I was off at dinner when the executive producer called and told me to get back as fast as I could. John Lennon had been shot. We had less than half an hour to change the program; and frankly, we were scrambling.
From Nightline, Dec. 8, 1980:
TED KOPPEL: Good evening, if you've been anywhere near a television or a radio these past few hours, you already know that John Lennon of the Beatles is dead. He was shot late this evening in front of his apartment building in New York City. Apparently, he was killed almost immediately. The man who shot John Lennon, walked up to the musician as he was leaving his limosine. According, to eye witnesses, he said 'Mr. Lennon" and then fired at him, point blank at least 5 times. Standing by now, in New York, is ABC's Lynn Sure.
LYNN SURE, ABC News: John Lennon's body was immediately rushed in a police car, here, to Roosevelt hospital, just 13 blocks away from his apartment in upper Manhattan. He was dead on arrival. They tried resuscitation and they tried transfusions, but nothing worked.
KOPPEL: John Lennon was shot at a well known New York apartment building, the Dakota House at West 72nd street, and ABC's Rita Sands is standing by at the Dakota, now. Rita, what have you been able to learn since the shooting? Awkard pause. Go your on from background.
RITA SANDS, ABC News: Ted, what we know about the suspect at this time, is first of all his identity: 25 year old, Mark David Chapman. He comes from Hawaii, police tell me he's been in the New York area about a week. And began to hang around the Dakota apartment, over the weekend asking about John Lennon.
KOPPEL: Chapman, asked John Lennon, or simply said Mr. Lennon, and then pulled out a gun and pumped 5 shots at point-blank range into John Lennon. The singer was killed almost instantly, he was pronounced bed, dead upon arrival of Roosevelt hospital, in New York.
The end was actually the second version of the program we did for the west coast. By that time of the morning, hundreds of John Lennon fans stood out in the dark and the cold, holding candles and singing Beatles songs.