50 years ago today

Posted by on November 22, 2013 in Essay | 0 comments

50 years ago today

Most adults will have as part of their makeup some memory of dramatic, tumultuous events that they can narrate to the finest details as the answer to the question:  “Where were you when….?”

Over the recent years such events include 9/11, the Columbia disaster, and here in the San Francisco area, “the earthquake.”

For my generation, though the “…” becomes “…Kennedy was shot?”

Fifty years ago this hour as I write this, I was in the first grade. One of the older kids in her traffic guard outfit (kids, if you don’t know what that is, ask your grandparents), came rushing in shouting “he’s been shot! He’s been shot!”  “Who?” we shouted out in our little first grader voices. “The President!”

Classes were closed for the rest of the day, mom came and picked me up, and we stayed mesmerized at the TV for the next four days. I remember very few specific moments from then except for two: Oswald killing and “John John” Kennedy giving his famous salute as the funeral precession silently flowed by.

Nearly every family is likely to have at least one copy of their home newspaper from that horrific day. Besides our own, a few years ago I acquired this set of the Houston Press. What makes these interesting is that the paper was updated every 30 or 40 minutes. People would stand in line to get a copy then immediately get back in line for the next edition. I have the rest, but couldn’t find them. But it’s fascinating to read in the first edition a tiny blurb about Kennedy being in town that day. Each edition, the news took more and more of the front page.

The events that serve as history’s pivot point are almost uniformly tragedies that consume a date on the calendar never to release it for as long as we are around. November 22 is one such date, December 7 another, September 11 a third. Perhaps one of the very few truly good events that “owns” a date is the moon landing, with July 20.  Oh, and my birthday, but that’s another story.