I’m sure there are many videos, articles, blog posts, and even conversations about the events of 22 November, 1963. All of them will be better than this one. I remember where I was on that day. When I heard that the 35th President of the United States had been assassinated.
I was sitting in my 1st grade classroom. Luckily back in those days, we didn’t have streaming news everywhere. My little school had maybe 5 black and white TVs on carts that they would move around the school (usually the upper grades used them more than the 1st or 2nd grades). So I’m not sure if any of the students were watching live. It would have been about 1:30PM when it went down (eastern time).
I do remember the announcement that was broadcast over the loud speaker about the assassination. It didn’t really mean that much to me at that point in time. I was 5. I knew what the president was, I knew his name, but that was it. I was not yet emotionally synced with the adult world. But the adults were in shock. There wasn’t much schooling accomplished that day.
The two things that captured my young mind were first; it was Friday, just like this year. And Friday meant grocery night. Even as a young kid, I have always enjoyed going to the grocery store. As the baby of the family my mom took me everywhere with her. When we went to the grocery, I felt like I had a hand in planning the meals for the week. I really didn’t, but it felt that way. Mom would ask me if I wanted a particular dish that week. No matter what I answered, mom bought what she wanted. Her queries were nothing more than to keep me occupied. But I still enjoy the event.
More importantly to my 5 year old brain was the fact that the next Monday would be my 6th birthday. That meant a party, and gifts, and food!!! Did I mention presents?!?!?!
But then came the funeral procession on that Monday. And it was on the TV in the family room. And that’s when it all hit me, and hard. I vividly remember lying on the living room sofa crying my eyes out. When my mom asked what I was crying about, all I could say was “They shot the president!”. She sat down with me and held me until it was over. And her mentioning the upcoming party made it that much quicker.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy may not have been the best president we’ve had, but he certainly isn’t the worst either. It may be the way his legacy has been passed down that I see him in such a favorable light. It is tough to disparage a leader when they’re cut down at the height of popularity. His involvement/build up in Vietnam polarized my generation and left great rifts between generations. But the social reforms he started, albeit way too slowly, are still encouraging democratic leaders today.
In some small way, I still miss him.