Saturday, September 6, 2008

Where Were You When John Kennedy Was Shot?

One of the ways to begin to write about your life is to list the important historical events that happened during your life. Where were you when John F. Kennedy was shot? How did you feel? What happened around you?

I'll never forget that day. I was teaching my fourth grade students after lunch when my classroom door opened and another teacher, my friend, Betty F. said "President Kennedy has been shot" We didn't know if he had been killed. We had to wait until school was out to turn on a radio.

We had no cell phones then, and I have no idea how she heard about this in her classroom. We had no TV in the room. The balance of the afternoon is a blur. The next thing I remember is sitting on my bed in the little apartment I shared with two other young women my age, starring at the television as the hateful news filled my space and tears flowed down my cheeks. My boyfriend, Barry came in and sat beside me. Neither of us spoke.

I had been a huge supporter of John Kennedy. On my college dorm room wall, a picture of the youngest president, looked out at the world with courageous eyes, eyes that saw a grand future for our country, and I would have followed him to the ends of the earth. His death touched me as if I had known him personally. My roommates chatted on the phone and laughed over something silly while I grieved.

When I remember that time in my life, I think about the naive girl I was then. I didn't know he was unfaithful to his wife. I didn't know all the shenanigans that went on in the White House with Marilyn Monroe, but nobody could have convinced me he wasn't perfect. Looking back to that time, when I was in my twenties, I see how immature and unsophisticated I was. How easily we can be led when we are young and idealistic. People in their twenties are babies and yet, in our culture today, that age group rules. That age group is also the one that loses members in wars not of their making. Young idealistic men and women join armies to right the wrongs of the world.

The sixties were a tumultuous time and those of us who were young then saw many changes happening in our country, to our world -- war, civil strife at home, leaders killed by assassins, but nothing touched me like JFK's untimely demise. Somewhere I still have the newspaper clippings, yellowed and tattered, I saved from that era.

That brings back another memory. When I was a child, I found my sister's newspaper clippings she had saved when another president died. Franklin D. Roosevelt. How strange that both of us, fifteen years apart in age, grieved over men we didn't know. I'll have to ask her about her feelings for FDR.

If you have a moment in history that brings back a memory, or if you remember where you were when JFK was killed, leave a comment. Just click on and write in the box.


tipper said...

I wasn't alive-but my Mom has told me she remembers being at work in a sewing factory. The supervisor came in and told all the workers and everyone started to cry. I bet not much work got done for the rest of the day.

Mary said...

I was in eighth grade and my teacher, who was also the principal, went to answer the phone during class. That was unusual as the phone never rang during class time. She came back crying and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. We were all in shock, for even in southern Ontario, Kennedy was well liked.

The 60s was a decade of assassinations. We lost John, Bobby and Martin Luther King Jr. That was also the time of the massacre at Kent State. There are many things that I would like to go back to during my childhood, but the chaos of those times and the race riots is something I hope I never see again.