Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering JFK

My aunt's campaign button

One of my earliest childhood memories is of me keeping a running tally of state-by-state presidential nominations during the 1960 Democratic convention. Not only was this a good math exercise for an intellectually precocious 6-year-old, it also indoctrinated me early into my family’s political beliefs.

My family adored John Fitzgerald Kennedy. He was young and charismatic. But most importantly, he was a Democrat.

I was in fifth grade the day Kennedy was shot, 50 years ago. I no longer remember how my classmates and I were told the sad news; but I do remember fetching my sister, who was in third grade, so we could walk home early together. We were both very worried about our grandmother, who had heart problems and would, we feared, be very upset by the president’s death.

In those days, our family treated death very respectfully and somberly. There was no play or music that weekend until after the funeral on Monday. We mourned JFK’s passing as if he was one of our own.

The world changed that day and I still can’t think about it without crying.

P.S. I asked my sister what she remembers of that day and this is what she said:

I don't remember much.  However, I think the announcement may have been made while I was on the playground because I remember standing there frozen while numerous people broke into tears.  I now think I was too young to realize what it all meant, other than the fact that Gramma, especially, would be affected.
What I learned this week from watching the clips was that Jackie stood by the Johnsons as he was sworn into office, wearing the same blood-splattered pink suit she had on earlier that day.  I had probably noticed that before, but this time, to me, that is just ominous and a glaring testimony of how rapidly all the events took place.  Such a life-altering day.

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