Friday, November 22, 2013

The JFK Assassination: Memories 50 Years Later

It doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years; my memories are still as clear as the day it happened. I was 8 years old and in the third grade at a Catholic school in a suburb of Cleveland. An announcement came over the public address system that President Kennedy had been shot, and quickly thereafter, that he was dead. The school closed and all students were sent home.

Despite being only 8 years old, I knew who President Kennedy was. I didn’t have a full understanding of all the political things going on at the time, but I knew he was president of the entire country and a very important man. I also thought he was as a very handsome man with a beautiful wife and lovely kids, and even at that age, I felt like the life of a Kennedy was out of reach for someone like me.

When I got home from school that day with my older sisters, I recall my mother crying. It was upsetting and it made me cry too as I knew she felt sad, and maybe even a little scared. I know I was crying too, partly because I could not believe someone would want to kill a man like him, and partly from fear.. If someone could kill a man like him, could they hurt my own father and mother?

The television set stayed on for 4 days straight.. Over those four days, we and we all watched as the news anchors continued to tell report on the shooting, and later, the swearing in of a new president and his speech. As the days progressed, we watched as Kennedy lay in state, and then saw the cortege as it marched down the streets of Washington D.C. with the constant beating of drums in the background, all the way to Arlington Cemetery. It was hard not to cry, seeing Jackie Kennedy and her two children, who were just a little younger than me.

In the middle of all this, Lee Harvey Oswald, while being held for the assassination at the Dallas police headquarters,  was shot by Jack Ruby. It all happened on live television. It was surreal, even for an 8 year old.

Fifty years later, conspiracy theories abound about Kennedy’s assassination. In this current day and age where every little move someone like the President makes is photographed or is on video,  it’s hard for people to imagine how little footage there is of the Kennedy assassination. And what there is available from that day, people still debate what happened. There’s the lone gunman vs. multiple gunmen (another at the grassy knoll) issues, Oswald being part of a larger conspiracy by organized crime or other governments, and even our own government cover-ups. Even the motive of Oswald’s shooting is still a matter of debate. The Warren Report did not inspire much confidence. I suspect that we may never know the real answer.

I still have the newspapers from those days, and I pulled them out to read the press coverage from that day. It still seems very surreal. All I can hope is that we have learned enough from this tragedy to never let it happen again.

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