Thursday, September 06, 2012

JFK assassination

A friend in Fort Worth started a Facebook thread by asking,"Where were you when you learned that JFK had been killed?" In Fort Worth, that question has particular poignancy because Kennedy's last speech, last public appearance was here. The response has amazed me in its sheer numbers but also by the similarity of so many answers. With few exceptions, respondees were in school, from elementary to high school. Some had been to the Hotel Texas with their classes to see Kennedy or stood on the highway to watch the motorcade. Most can remember what teacher's classroom and what subject. A very few seemed out of school, and a similar low number were either infants or not yet born.There are whole generations that didn't respond to this, and I'm curious about why one age group--granted wih a twenty-year span or so, answered in such heavy numbers.
I was twenty-five years old, living and going to school in a small town in Missouri. I was also working for an osteopathic medical school, and one of my jobs was to do a 15-minute radio show once a week at the local station interviewing physicians on problems of interest to the general patient. Sort of, "Tell me, doctor. If I have a pain in my side, is it appendicitis?" The station was, well, casual in its organization. So on November 22 I was driving through town in my old VW with the local station on when the announcers seemed to lose it--there was obviously confusion, an utter inability to know what to do. I heard mumbles and mutters, the shuffling of  papers and incoherent phrases. And I laughed to myself. "Those guys can't ever get it together." Of course in a minute, they did get it togther, and I hard the awful news. I remember going back to the office and saying to my boss--not my favorite of men--that the president had been killed."President?" he said sharply. "What president?" Did he think it was the president of the school?
The friend who originally posted the question was right. Those of us who lived through that day will never forget where we were when we heard the news. Nor will we forget that riveting weekend when we all stared at the TV without break. I remember I had stepped away on Sunday just long enough to miss Jack Ruby shooting Oswald. My brother called and said, "You better turn that TV back on." Of course, we saw re-enactment after re-enactment.
This struck me as strange timing, since the thread appeared during the Democratic National Convention, the first at which the Kennedy legacy wasn't a large presence, principally because of the death of Ted Kennedy. Yes, there were tributes, and we saw Patrick Kennedy and Caroline, but it wasn't the same electric presence we'd come to expect. I missed it, and I feel lucky to have lived through the Kennedy era and on to treasure the legacy, no matter how tarnished. Camelot existed, however briefly.
No I won't ask where you were. I don't want to answer that many memories. But do think about it

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