Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Ago

On the Friday before my twelfth birthday, I went to school looking forward to the weekend.  I'd hoped to get my first record player as a birthday present, and since next week was Thanksgiving, I had a shortened week of school ahead of me as well.

The day went ahead largely as planned, although I wasn't looking forward to a math test in Mrs. Albee's class at the end of the day.  But I sailed through my morning classes, and after gym class proceeded to my science class, still dreading my upcoming math test the next hour, but starting to get excited about the weekend ahead.

As we settled into our seats, a teacher from down the hall came to the door, and whispered something to Mrs. Jewell, the nice old lady who was our science teacher.  I caught a whiff of what he'd said --- "Kennedy's been shot" --- and a cold shiver ran down my spine.  Mrs. Jewell calmly relayed the news, and none of us paid much attention to the rest of class.

Next hour, Mrs. Albee told us that the President had died, and our principal made the announcement over the speaker.  I still had to take the math test, and then faced a long walk home; there, my mother was in tears:  Kennedy was a hero in our house; and those tears lasted for a long time.

President Kennedy embodied the hopes and dreams of an entire generation, and symbolized a country brimming with confidence and idealism, committed to freedom and liberty, and ready to make the world a better place.  Those dreams were shattered on the streets of Dallas that day --- November 22, 1963 --- and the country has never been the same.

In some ways, the country is a better place today.  In many ways, it is not:  in those days, the president rode in an open-topped car, to be closer to the people; the streets of Washington were lined with open monuments to democracy, rather than barricades against terrorists; we didn't need to be searched before boarding an airplane; and we were filled with hope and optimism about the future.

Time marches on; and fifty years later, America is not the same place.  Every year, the shadow of a small boy eagerly awaiting a birthday feels his heart being ripped out.  And the dreams that died with President Kennedy in Dallas continue to haunt us.

But after fifty years, the torch has been passed...and, sadly, it's time to move on. Memories fade, the human spirit heals, and life goes on.


JEFFREY CAMINSKY, a retired public prosecutor from Michigan, writes on a wide range of topics. His books include the Guardians of Peace-tm science fiction adventure series, The Sonnets of William Shakespeare, and the acclaimed Referee’s Survival Guide, a book on soccer officiating. All are published by New Alexandria Press, and are available on Amazon, as well as directly from the publisher.  
 

1 comment:

Susan Bachus said...

I was in 5th grade and we were sent home to have our parents tell us what had happened. We didn't really fully understand at the time anyway, but it was an awful walk home wondering what in the world could possibly be so horrific that they couldn't tell us. I do a little demonstration in class for my memory lecture about how much more vivid our memories are from years before in the wake of a catastrophic event than for a week earlier. For years I used the assassination for this, until I realized that my younger students didn't remember it. Then I used the Challenger explosion for years. Since 9/11 I have used that. A few weeks ago I found to my shock that many of my undergrads didn't even remember that. Here's hoping we have many peaceful years with no more universal gut-wrenches, so that I can't do this demo any more.