Friday, November 22, 2013

In Remembrance

Posthumous official portrait of President Kennedy by Aaron Shikler
On this, the 50th anniversary of that terrible November day, I set down some of my thoughts about JFK's assassination:

This 50th anniversary has special meaning for me: my first instance of political activism happened to be going door-to-door campaigning for JFK at the ripe old age of 8 in the summer of 1960. He visited the SF Bay Area during his campaign and I actually saw him from afar.

The morning of November 22, 1963, I was in my 8th grade classroom at St. John the Baptist Parochial School in El Cerrito, CA when the announcement was made. I don't really remember the sequence of events at school, other than our solemn recess in the schoolyard under very grey skies. The weather certainly fit the occasion!

My most vivid memories are of the following days when we were glued to the television set. These are just a few of the images that will remain with me as long as I have a memory: Walter Cronkite reporting in a choked voice and close to tears; Jackie in her blood-stained raspberry outfit standing silently by LBJ's side as he took the oath of office; little John-John bravely saluting his father's coffin; the riderless horse with the boots turned backward in the stirrups; and Jack Ruby shooting Oswald that Sunday.

It might not have been the end of innocence for the country, but in a way it was the beginning of the end of my innocence. Only five years later, in April 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated. And I will never forget that dreadful June morning in the same year when my father came to wake me for school and told me that Bobby Kennedy had been shot! My high school graduation, which should have been a joyful event, was overshadowed by the sorrow of this loss.

No matter what we have learned about him in the five decades since his death, JFK will always be, for me, a source of hope, someone who was confident that our best years lay ahead, who was energetic and charismatic, a leader. I still miss him, and probably always will.

Requiescat in pacem.

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