Remembering JFK

We all know how quickly and easily the days and weeks continue to slip by. . .and then, suddenly, somehow, another month is gone. The calendar is flipped, electronically or manually, the process starts all over again, and then we’re a little surprised that another year is history.

And yet, somehow, it is hard to believe that it has been fifty years since President John Kennedy was assassinated. It’s a half-century since that unforgettable day that changed us-and our country-forever.

The buzz question circulating now is: Where were you when JFK was shot? I was just a junior high girl, yet of course I remember. I was denied the experience of my classmates, though, because I was out sick from school that day. My mom took me to the clinic that morning, then we stopped back at my school because flu shots were being given that day. We must not have had the radio on in the car, because that was where we heard-from the local registered nurse administering the vaccinations in that old cracker-box gym–that our president was gravely injured.

That was long before the days of minute-by-minute television coverage of national tragic events, the kind we have today where network and cable stations believe it is necessary to wring every possible remote detail about a tragedy and broadcast it to the masses. Still, the black-and-white TV set in our living room stayed on for much of that weekend so we could all follow what was happening to our nation, to the Kennedys, and so, to us-this farm family in the middle of the country in the middle of Iowa. No one could understand it

The next evening there was a special service at our church, which I got to attend in spite of my bronchitis, but I stayed home from church that Sunday while the rest of my family was in town. Lounging in the living room, I had the TV tuned to yet more coverage of the situation. As most 13-year-old girls would be, I was only idly interested that policemen were at that moment escorting Lee Harvey Oswald through the police station in Dallas. Until a shot rang out, that is, and Oswald’s face contorted in pain as he slumped down. And I saw it live, never considering until years later just why the suspected killer of the president of the United States was being paraded through a public area.

That shot sealed it. We will never really know the whole story of Kennedy’s assassination. I had been rather caught up in the romance of Camelot, the handsome young president, his lovely young family, and the feeling of promise that he brought to our country. Even to this Iowa farm girl.

In fact, when Kennedy was elected just a few short years earlier, my grandpa took me and my best friend out one evening for a soda in the caf downtown. It sounds like nothing now, but that was something we never did before or after that event.

It’s funny how the memory of that simple little celebration stayed with me over the years. It’s sad we never had much else to celebrate about that Kennedy presidency. And there was so much hope and promise.