Add me to those who are remembering those gray November days fifty years ago when President John F. Kennedy was shot. If you are old enough to have experienced the shock and sadness that surrounded then, you can't help remembering and if you aren't...well, then I suppose it's just an historical fact no different from Lincoln's assassination. You had to be there.
In the halls of the high school when the principal made the announcement. The specifics of everyone's reactions are not as clear as the words he delivered but I do remember silence. No one knew what to say or really even how we were supposed to react. Fortunately it came near the end of the school day and I remember the halls being eerily subdued as everyone exited. It was a Friday then too and while we certainly didn't live in a big metropolitan area, I remember it was as if the whole town fell quiet with the news.
In front of the family television set as the grim faces and grainy images recounted the events. There was no such thing as cable television; we got the three major networks, all filled with newsmen scrambling to tell the public what happened and what it meant. While 24-hour news coverage is old hat now, those broadcasts on November 22 and the days that followed were groundbreaking and left those of us who watched with scenes etched forever in our minds. The motorcade. The chaos. The arrest. A second assassination. A flag-draped coffin. The funeral procession. A little boy saluting a fallen president who also happened to be his father.
In the presence of classmates as we sat in the living room of the debate coach's home. While the location per se may have been unique to my personal experience, finding a group to talk through feelings and ponder what it all meant for our country and us as individuals had to be a common occurrence. No one had answers but just being together somehow made it better. I remember walking back home and looking at the gray skies and bare trees and thinking even the earth was saddened by the events of the past few days.
Times were different before November 22. We weren't naive; after all, there was a war going on in Viet Nam and many of the young men in our class would be over there fighting in it soon after graduation in May. Killing the president on American soil was something that only happened in the history books, or so we thought. The death of a young and charismatic leader opened our eyes and forced us to see the world differently.
Life went on. The Beatles kept singing; bell bottom pants, neon colors and tie-died shirts came and went and have come back again. Fifty years seems like a long time ago on some levels and yet it's all as clear as yesterday on others. And despite filling those years with investigations, books and theories, people still argue over the whys and wherefores of Kennedy's assassination. It doesn't matter. Those of us who remember will always remember...where we were, what we experienced and maybe even what might have been.