Most of my friends today were not alive 50 yrs ago. Most of you will probably hear something this week about the 50th anniversary of the assignation of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Few of you will have a good idea of who John F. Kennedy was to his family, the people of this country and to the world. In my humble opinion he was our last real democratic President. Some will say he was the worst president of the 20th Century. I am not interested in debate, just memories for now.
I am old enough to remember the day he was killed. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard the shocking news our president was dead. The young, much loved leader of our country and father of Caroline and John John was gone.
The first family was special for many Americans. Kennedy was the youngest president ever elected, was married to beautiful young woman and they had two very young children. Caroline was just three years younger than me. She and John John living in the White House gave me something to identify with. They gave me a feeling of ownership in a way that is hard to describe.
The 1960 election campaign had electrified the country. There was much about this besides Kennedy’s age that sparked a fire in us. An economic recession had hurt the republicans and Kennedy promised to get us moving forward again. For the first time n history, television would play a big part in an election. Kennedy’s campaign was well organized and well funded and he used all these things to his advantage. When Kennedy won the election on November 8,1960, and 17 days later when the world got the news John Jr. was born, Washington D.C. suddenly seemed less daunting and far away from the average man, woman and child. Not only did the Kennedy family welcome a new child to the family, the whole country did. There was a feeling of hope among the people that seems to come with children.
Three short years later, one week before Thanksgiving, at 12:30 pm CT on Friday, November 22,1963 all that would change in a flash; the flash of a gunshot. About an hour and half later Eastern Time I was standing outside my elementary school waiting for the bus that would take me home. I was standing in a line with my school mates talking and laughing. We were all excited it was Friday.
Suddenly we heard our school Principal’s voice over the loud speaker. I remember being quite surprised hearing an announcement that late in the day. He gave us the news our President had been shot. My heart sank and my eyes welled with tears and I thought of Caroline and John John.
My bus arrived a few minutes later. I think I rode it in near silence home to where my mother and younger siblings were waiting on me. I think the TV was on when I got home. I remember hearing Walter Cronkite and saw him cry a bit as he announced what I already knew in my heart, the President was “officially” dead.
That weekend the television played constantly. We watched film footage over and over and saw the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald who was charged with the assignation. Walter Cronkite’s voice rang all weekend too. I didn’t seem like he ever slept.
There was no school on Monday. That day the whole country mourned. Many places closed that day besides schools and governmental offices. I think anyone who could get close to a TV was watching one.
Today those memories are strong. I remember thinking then, at nine years old, we were not getting the whole story. There are still unanswered questions about what took place in Dealey Plaza the day JFK was killed. I remember hearing many months or maybe even years later that all the information was not going to be released for 75 years. This was so all parties involved would be dead and unable to be prosecuted or harmed. Most of them are dead now. Perhaps we will learn more soon?
For anyone interested: