11-22-63 – ASSASSINATION OF A PRESIDENT

THE END OF INNOCENCE, THE BEGINNING OF THE NIGHTMARE


72-Cemetary-Flag-Autumn-Uxbridge-GA_036

Today is the day. Fifty-four years later. I remember it. Do you?

It’s weird watching the documentaries commemorating events I remember. It’s the Kennedy assassination this month. Just about every station, network and cable, are doing specials on John F. Kennedy. For us, it’s a trip down memory lane. Or nightmare alley.

I was 13 when Kennedy was elected. I watched the inauguration on television, the first of many inaugurations I would watch. It was the greatest inaugural speech. I was naïve enough to believe he wrote it himself. And I was impressed by his hair, the best hair of any President before or since. Especially after 8 years of President Dwight D. Eisenhower who was very bald.

John-F.-Kennedy

In 1963 I turned 16 and started college. Kennedy was shot in November and the world changed. I’m sure every person old enough to know what was going on remembers where they were the day they heard the news. The assassination of John F. Kennedy was a landmark event, a turning point in history, a turning point in our personal histories.

I was in the cafeteria at school. I had a cup of tea in my hand and was about to sit. The public address system in the cafeteria went on. There was a lot of noise, but gradually it grew quiet. A news report. It took a few minutes to recognize what they were saying, to form a context. Someone had shot the President.

A few minutes later, everyone fell silent. Hundreds of undergraduates, sitting, standing. No one moving, no one talking. I stood at the table. Frozen. I never sat. I stood in the same spot for over an hour. Clutching that cup of tea, cooling in my hand. Until the voice on the loudspeaker said “President Kennedy is dead. The President is dead.”

Gradually, everyone drifted away. Subdued or silent. I found my boyfriend and we wandered around for a few hours. We didn’t do anything. Just roamed the campus, dazed. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen, not in the United States. Eventually, when it was dark, I went home. My mother wanted to know where I’d been and I said “Just wandering around.” She didn’t believe me. She should have.

LBJ Sworn In As President

Kennedy was “our” president. He looked good. Young, attractive, different. I hadn’t been old enough to vote for him, but I was old enough to know what was happening. I watched the debates. My friends and I discussed it. It was exciting. My mother kept referring to him as “such a young man.” At thirteen, a 43-year old guy didn’t seem so young. Those were the days, eh?

For the better part of the next week, all the channels on television — there were only seven — 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 13 — had wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral. Endless replays of the assassination. The subsequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. The beginning of the conspiracy theories that still swirl around this piece of history, though at this point I don’t care whodunnit 50 years ago. There are a many unsolved crimes in history. Just add this to the long list.

I went to hang out with a friend. We took long walks to get away from the endless, morbid reiteration of the life and death of John F. Kennedy.

Gradually, life returned to normal, whatever that is. Lyndon Baines Johnson was in office. It was all about civil rights and Vietnam. I finished college, got married, wound up in the hospital and had my first near-death experience. There would be a lot more assassinations in the near future. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X. I never got used to them, but I stopped being shocked. Which is shocking.

The 1960s were not about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. This was the decade of war, the draft, anti-war protests and civil rights. When flunking out of college meant you were going to Vietnam and maybe you wouldn’t come back. Strange how quickly we forget, replacing history with mythology.

November 22, 1963 was the end of political innocence for everyone, Democrats, Republicans, everyone. An abrupt turning part. The beginning of the road we find ourselves on today.

A president — our president — had been assassinated. Kennedy wasn’t the only U.S. President to be assassinated, but he was the first in modern times. The first TV president. A young, handsome guy. Especially important to my generation, a symbol that the torch really had passed to a new generation. We took that call to arms seriously.

It’s hard for me to look at politics today, see how petty we’ve become. Kennedy’s assassination was an end and a beginning. He was the last President to get a pass on his personal life. The first president to use electronic media to win an election. It was the beginning of a political divide that keeps getting deeper with each passing year.

Politics isn’t about real issues anymore. It’s insinuation, innuendo, and rumor. How narrow-minded and hateful we’ve become. It will pass I suppose. All things do. But when? For more than half a century, we’ve been marching down this ugly road to which I see no end.

36 thoughts on “11-22-63 – ASSASSINATION OF A PRESIDENT

  1. How moving! I was 3 when he died, but I remember my mother weeping and us going to Grandma’s house (we had no TV) and my small self thinking “Why all the fuss? THERE he is!” from seeing him on the television and giving a speech or something. I am going to share this blog with my readers too, I think some of us were impacted that day. In ways that we didn’t realize and which changed our world.

    Liked by 2 people

      • We are all remembering where we were and what we were doing 55 years ago today, scratching our collective sense memories. I was 21, a newbie in the news world and, I believe, working on program logs at our college radio station, Hofstra’s WVHC-FM. The news bulletin was loud on the station’s speakers. I heard the words but they didn’t immediately register. A few people gathered. We were stunned and speechless.

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Where were YOU…? | sparksfromacombustiblemind

  3. It was the day of our junior play. We were sitting in study hall waiting to be dismissed for lunch or to get ready for the matinee (since I was a junior) and Harvey Dietrich, our Science teacher, came out of our principal’s office and stood on the platform, as it was raised up above with stairs down to our communal study hall, and said, “Students, the president of the U.S. has just been shot.” We were all in shock. I believe they released school and we wandered up town and watched on a TV in the window of the local hardware store. Hardly anyone came to the play. I watched the funeral a few days later at a friend’s farm/ranch. We rode horses, then came in to watch. Stunned for days.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It was my freshman year at college. They played the story out over the loudspeaker in the cafeteria where I’d stopped, with friends, to have a cup of tea. We stood there, for an hour and a half, while they did everything and finally told us he was dead. Then we too wandered around town and finally went home. It was an awful day.

      Liked by 3 people

  4. Pingback: 11-22-63 – ASSASSINATION OF A PRESIDENT — SERENDIPITY | paddypicasso

  5. I was a senior in high school. I was at the top of a ladder hanging Thanksgiving decorations in the gym for an upcoming Thanksgiving assembly when the announcement came over the PA. There was silence throughout the school. The only sounds that could be heard were the sounds of people — students and teachers — sobbing and sniffing. It was an awful day.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I was working at my part-time job in the receiving dept of Orbach’s Department Store in Westbury, Long Island. It’s one of the more vivid memories I have as, suddenly, our superhero, JFK, was no longer leaping tall buildings in a single bound. How was this possible? The Vietnam war was in progress, a war few of us understood, or agreed with. The world was falling apart, much like today. Well, it didn’t quite happen then, and if we’re lucky in this, so called, democracy.., this too will pass, and “we shall overcome.”

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I remember it well. I was sent home from school. Every channel covered this horrific event and I honestly never felt more compassion and empathy for anyone as much as I did that fateful horrific day. It resonates with me still. I doubt that will ever change.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. President Kennedy was assassinated about a week and a half before I was born, so I know exactly where I was – in my mum’s womb! But surely it must have been 54 years ago, not 55? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I was a student at a Catholic high school serving as a tour guide for potential new students. The announcement came over the intercom, we all dropped to the floor on our knees and recited the rosary together. Then there were the days of black and white coverage on a loop. This day, like 9/11, is one you never forget where you were. Every day, I think politics can’t get uglier or more embarrassing, and every day I’m wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judy, so true and so very, very sad. Our daily news brings yet another chapter of evil. What’s the legacy for our young people and their children? We, at least, had a brief time in Camelot.

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