For those of us born after the baby boom generation, June 17, 1994 was a pivotal moment in history.

Where were you when O.J. Simpson, the popular NFL Hall of Famer and actor known for his roles in the Naked Gun films, became a fugitive wanted for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman? I was at my neighborhood Catholic church in the Bronx, New York watching the NBA game between the New York Knicks and the Houston Rockets with a group of friends. But the game took a backseat as we watched the unfolding events on live television. Would O.J. Simpson kill himself on air while being viewed by millions? Why couldn’t we look away?

Earlier that day, Simpson’s friend Robert Kardashian, of the well-known Kardashian family, had read what seemed to be a suicide note from Simpson on live television. In the note, Simpson denied involvement in Nicole’s death and apologized to Goldman’s family. During the police chase that evening, Simpson held a gun to his head.

According to his family, Simpson made it back to his Brentwood estate that night at age 76 after battling cancer. But the memory of June 17th and the following years revealed changes in American society while forever altering the national psyche.

One impact was an acceleration of reality television. Shows like MTV’s The Real World introduced the format earlier in the decade, but the extensive coverage of Simpson’s chase took it to new heights. Everyone was watching.

Simpson also intensified American obsession with celebrity culture. Widespread interest in prominent figures from his criminal trial, like prosecutors Marcia Clark and Christopher Darden, defense attorney Johnnie Cochran, and witness Kato Kaelin, provided opportunities for new 24-hour news outlets like MSNBC and Fox News to cover “the trial of the century.”

Debates emerged from the loud discussions about Simpson across television and the emerging World Wide Web. His 1995 not-guilty verdict thrilled many African Americans but angered whites, as strong DNA evidence placed Simpson at the crime scene. But Simpson’s defense, led by Cochran, argued Simpson could have been framed by the racist Los Angeles Police Department. The strategy created enough doubt for the majority-black jury.