Monday, November 22, 2010

I was eleven years old...

On November 22, 1963, I was eleven years old. In sixth grade at Holy Family School. The election three years prior had been the first I had ever been old enough to take an interest in. The fact that one of the candidates was Roman Catholic probably had a lot to do with that as I attended a Catholic School. We rejoiced when JFK won the election. We loved him. We loved his beautiful wife and his beautiful young family.

On that afternoon (in the eastern time zone), an announcement came over the PA system. "The president has been shot, we will all now go in double file to the church to pray." We did. We all somberly filed out of the school and into the church. We prayed with all the earnestness of young children who want a different outcome than that which they know is coming. A while later, the priest came to the pulpit and told us the president had died. We all cried. I remember being terribly frightened. We didn't know who killed him at that point. It was terrifying to a young child to wonder what was going on. And the grief of not only losing someone, but losing him in such a brutal way. Back then we thought things like this didn't happen here - they happened elsewhere.

My family wasn't much for television. Ours wasn't in the living room. It was downstairs in a makeshift TV room. Definitely not a room you would want to spend a whole lot of time in. We didn't. But that weekend, we turned on the television set and sat transfixed watching this terrible theater unfold.

My mother kept crying "This is barbaric!" watching other people's grief. Close ups of the young widow's face beneath the veil. But we all still sat and watched.

On Sunday morning, leaving mass, we heard on the radio the killer had been killed himself.

Prior to that day, 47 years ago, I really thought that we lived in a charmed place where not many bad things happened. That notion was decimated in the days and years to follow this assassination.

Oh, I know most of you weren't born yet on that day. I know this news is so old that it isn't even commented on anymore. But it is forever burned into my memory. Just as 9/11 is seared into yours.


Syd said...

I was really young but remember the sadness. I was scared. Killing seemed so senseless. It is etched in my memory as well.

dAAve said...

I think it's wonderful to have been able to witness history. A tragic event yes, but to witness it is special.

Jeremy said...

I remember studying it in school & talking to my Mom about it afterwards, even 20 years later she was still so affected by it.

I think until 9/11 I thought much the way you did. that we as a country had outgrown those events.

shadowlands said...

"I am deeply honoured to be your guest, in the free Parliament, of a free Ireland. If this nation had achieved it's present political and economic stature a century or so ago, my great grandfather might never have left New Ross, and I might, if fortunate, be sitting down with you...... Ofcourse, if your own President had never left Brooklyn, he might be standing up here, instead of me."

part of speech
delivered by JFK, to the Irish Oireachtas (Parliament)28th June 1963. See, we're not that far apart, any of us, when you come to think about it.

Kim A. said...

I was 18 months old and playing in the den while my mother ironed. The tv was on and what I remember so clearly is not what was on the tv but how my mother's face looked for that moment. It was the first time I remember feeling a tiny bit of fear..even though I was too young to call it that. A very sad day.


Anonymous said...

Although I was not even a gleam in my parents eyes at that time, I can say I have always been fascinated by what happened that day. In high school I even did a report on it.

The other day I was recalling when the space shuttle blew up. I was home sick that day from school and witnessed it while sitting alone on the living room floor. I will never forget not quite grasping what had happened until my mother called to ask if I was Okay since she knew I was watching it.

Its amazing how things can be forever etched into our memories.

Jess Mistress of Mischief said...

There are so many historic markers of tragedy bringing the nation together.

I'm glad you shared your experience here.

I remember the space shuttle explosion and 9/11 like that.

I also remember the Iran hostage crisis with that vividness.

Anonymous said...

I remember the day vry well...11/22/63,,age in Malvern,Pa. very sad day for the U.S.I stayed clued to the t.v. all weekend..even thru Monday....Things started changing in our country then...