Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fifty Years Later: Reflections on Assassination of JFK

The loud speaker in our Jefferson Township High School government classroom suddenly came on with the voice of Walter Cronkite announcing that the President had been shot in Dallas, Texas.  We left the classroom shortly thereafter when the bell rang.  I went to English class, where, shortly after about twenty of us seniors got another jolt when the continuing news feed from Walter Cronkite announced that the President was dead.

A couple minutes later, the radio on the speaker was turned off and we were jolted from our grief slightly when Miss True announced that we might as well go ahead and take our English test since we can't do much about the assassination of the President.

It was Friday, November 22, 1963.

I felt empty.  The next week, I took the SAT's for college application purposes.  The Army- Navy Game was delayed for a week and ended with Army confusion on the two yard line -and Navy headed for the Cotton Bowl to play Texas was played while I took the test.  I wanted to see that game on TV since I wanted to go to West Point.  But, my SAT score helped me get a nomination from Congressman Robert Taft to the Academy.  I saw the 1964 Army- Navy Game in Philadelphia wearing Cadet Gray.

I was glued to the TV for the next 3 or 4 days during Thanksgiving Week after the assassination, watching news with the tragedy and the mystery unfolding before the eyes of the nation.  We saw Lee Harvey Oswald in custody for the murder, then murdered himself on live TV by Jack Ruby.

We saw the funeral of the President.  Jackie, the widow and the two, now fatherless, children faced every TV camera in the nation, it seemed.  The nation mourned together. Thanksgiving week provided a buffer for processing the shock and grief a bit more before returning to daily routines.

The Class of 1964 is now planning its 50th reunion.  How the time flies.  Our high school was bulldozed into rubble last summer.  We have our grandchildren, retirement (or delayed retirement with the present economy), declining health, medical expenses, painful parts, etc. to focus on.

What did it all mean?  What did we learn?

Dreams can be shattered.  And rebuilt while the wounds heal.  Loss and grief happen - again and again.  They are never "resolved".  They are reconciled.  They settle into who we are.  Our shared identity includes our shared grief as a nation.  In our modern era, 9/11 sits in our hearts and brains like an anvil of loss and grief.  But we remember Miss True's lesson as much as the rest of the events of November 22, 1963.

Move on to the next test.

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