John F. Kennedy: May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

I was sitting in my eighth grade social studies class when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I remember the teacher’s announcement, and not taking it seriously at first, continuing to whisper to a classmate next to me. I remember my friend saying to me, in shocked tones, “Kathy, this is the President of the United States!” I remember that line being like bracing, ice-cold water splashed on my face, waking me up.

I remember walking home that afternoon, feeling numb. I remember stopping to talk to a dog in a fenced-off front yard that I always passed, and greeted, on my way home from school. I have no idea what the dog’s actual name was, or if it was a boy dog or a girl dog, but I had decided she was a girl, and I called her Blondie because she had a yellow coat.

“Blondie,” I said, “you’re lucky you’re a dog today.” And then I started to cry.

3 Responses to “John F. Kennedy: May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963”

  1. BH says:

    Kathy, I was almost surprised that you had only one comment to this post, but if I may be so bold I would attribute that to the fact that most bloggers were not born when JFK was killed and he just no longer generates the resonance we were accustomed to. Obviously you were, and so was I. I was in my twelfth-grade office practice class when the news came over the PA system that Kennedy had been shot, followed up not long afterward that he had been killed. I got up and walked outside to the flagpole, meeting another senior along the way, and we silently dropped the flag to half-mast before returning to our classooms. If we said anything, it was something like “See you later.”

    That friend passed away a few years ago, and now I am a senior again, but with a different connotation to the word. Still, for most of us Baby Boomers, that day remains the seminal event of our memory. Everything that happened afterward is linked, chronologically or otherwise, to that day. The Vietnam War, the Civil Rights struggle, the examination of American society in the Twentieth Century; everything is predicated by November 22, 1963. I suspect you might agree that we are not pleased that succeeding generations do not share that reverence.

    For those generations, the modern correspondent would probably be September 11, but for George Bush and Dick Cheney’s unforgivable coopting of that event to launch the war in Iraq, of which I was an early supporter, at least until I found out that they had lied about WMD. After the first Gulf War, I thought it was inevitable that the Hussein regime, cracking under marginalization by UN mandates would indeed do something stupid before it collapsed. After all, in the last days of that war, Saddam flung missles into Israel in just so reckless a gesture. I thought that it would be inevitable that the UN would have to remove the last vestiges of the Baath party and clean up Iraq. I was a little concerned that we had jumped the gun unilaterally, but I gave it the benefit of the doubt. So did Congress, for that matter, but we were all lied to, Democrats and Republicans alike and now this administration will pass into history, deservedly, as the most hated.

    Although Iraq does appear to be stabilizing, the question now remains of whether the lives, blood and treasure we shed in Iraq was worth it. I will never accept that, and, I suspect, neither will most of our generation, although unlike Vietnam, at least our troops are not attacked when they come home for the failures of our politicians. The American public has grown up a bit since the Sixties.

    Along that line, I should say I enjoy this blog immensely, and I am a Republican. I think some of the reactionaries would refer to me as a RINO, but I would challenge them on that. It occurs to me that the party of Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, of Teddy Roosevelt, who knew why it was imperative to save our national heritage, and of Eisenhower, who sent troops into Little Rock, would be far more iconic of what the party should be. Both modern liberals and modern conservatives ignore those gentlemen, for their own reasons, and the Republican party will ignore them at its own peril, but they remain my heroes.

    But back to reasons for my post, do try to forgive all those who did not comment here. They never knew Camelot, and it never really existed anyway. Stil, it is pleasant to remember it sometimes.

  2. Kathy says:

    Kathy, I was almost surprised that you had only one comment to this post, but if I may be so bold I would attribute that to the fact that most bloggers were not born when JFK was killed and he just no longer generates the resonance we were accustomed to.

    And actually even that one comment (before yours) is a pingback to The Moderate Voice, because Joe Gandelman linked to my post at the bottom of his post about JFK. He was 14 on 11/22/63. And the reason he knew about my post was because I emailed him, after seeing his remembrance linked from Memeorandum, and told him I had written a post, too, and could it really be true that we two were the only ones who had written about the anniversary of the assassination?

    That did stun me a bit. I guess it’s a part of the distant past now — just like WWII is for me, since I was born five years after that war ended. And 9/11, which you aptly mention, will be the seminal political event for my daughter’s generation. She was 11 on that day — three weeks shy of her 12th birthday, on Sept. 30. I’m sure she will always remember where she was and what she was doing on that morning.

    Thank you for your thoughts. Definitely interesting to read.

  3. candace says:

    I also agree…most were not around…much as I wasn’t, but even I am saddened at all he tried to do for the country and how he was repaid…

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