Monday, November 22, 2010

Rant #380: Our Bleakest Moment

It is hard to believe, but 47 years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in a Dallas, Texas, motorcade.

Kennedy was the last of our beloved Presidents, the last President whose picture hung in people's homes. Sure, we have found out that he was a surly, womanizing adulterer in the intervening years, but back in 1963, he was a "rock star" before that was acknowledged as a way that one handled themselves.

He was young, vibrant, had a beautiful wife, young kids, and he pointed to the vitality of the United States.

When he died, I think our innocence went with it. The 1950s clearly ended, and the 1960s--the years of protest, war, murders, and many other eye-opening events--truly started.

I have often told this story, and I may have even told it here, but I will tell it again.

I was in first grade in P.S. 165, a good grammar school that still stands (under a different name) in Flushing, New York. I was six years old.

I seem to remember that it was nearing the end of the day in Mrs. Gold's classroom. All of a sudden, the next door teacher ran into the room in tears and screamed, "The President has been shot!"

A few moments later, the principal came on the PA system, explained what happened (or at least, gave us an update on what happened), and we were let out of school.

We ran home in horror, and I can remember sitting in front of our old black and white Dumont TV and being mesmerized by the images I saw. I even remember calling my mother into the living room when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby on national television.

And yes, I remember John John saluting his dad as the flag-laden coffin passed him.

In the 47 years which has passed, so much has happened. John John and Jackie are gone, Caroline moves along, Ted is gone and so is Bobby, who was also murdered just a few years later ... and the Kennedys are no longer much of a force in our political scene.

I, personally, have grown from a young child to a man, with my own family and responsibilities.

But that moment--when the teacher burst into the room with the news--is something that I will never forget.

I will never forget where I was when we heard he had been shot.

It is one of the touchstones of my life, and probably for most Baby Boomers who were old enough to remember that moment.

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