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30 Years Ago, 6 Million People Held Hands Across America

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

If you were listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED 30 years ago today, this is what you would've heard.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

STEVE FUTTERMAN, BYLINE: To the shores of the Pacific they came to hold hands with the Queen Mary hold hands. With the Queen Mary and a clear, blue California summer sky as a backdrop and the mood clearly celebratory, thousands came to form the western end of Hands Across America.

MCEVERS: Reporter Steve Futterman standing at the western edge of the largest human chain in history, as far as we can tell - over 6 million people from coast-to-coast holding hands and singing songs. In New York, NPR's Margot Adler captured the moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

MARGOT ADLER, BYLINE: Most people I talked to said they felt goosebumps. There was a lot of singing, holding hands, and generally people enjoyed a beautiful day in New York City.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

All to raise money for hunger and homelessness. Some NPR listeners shared their memories of that day.

MELISSA WEBSTER: It was just big. It was exciting to think we were going to reach across the whole nation.

MCEVERS: That's Melissa Webster. She was a young intern in Washington, D.C., at the time - and scheduled to work.

WEBSTER: I was kind of disappointed because I thought, well, I'm not going to get to do Hands Across America. But literally the day of the event, it went right in front of us on M Street. And so my boss at the time was kind of stern, but that day, I was kind of excited, and she probably just saw the look on my face. And she said, you can go be a part of it. So I ran out the front door and joined hands, and I think I was probably holding hands with a lot of Japanese tourists.

MCEVERS: Vic Acosta was in Boston. He joined in with his girlfriend and best friend.

VIC ACOSTA: I just recall it was one of the funniest and oddest and most fun moments because we got to just meet so many people.

MCEVERS: And he says it was a moment to remember. He doesn't think it could happen today.

ACOSTA: We were all more - either in our ignorance or our innocence, we were much more hopeful than the feeling today.

MCEVERS: But some listeners try to share that moment with the next generation. Every so often, Zoey Banaly (ph) drives on the New Mexican highway, where she held a rope back then. There weren't enough people in the area to hold hands.

ZOEY BANALY: Sometimes I - when we're cruising down that road, I, you know, tell my kids, you know, that's what we did. We were over there (laughter). They have no clue what I'm talking about.

MCEVERS: For those of you who might be too young to remember or who just don't remember, here's one to take you out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.