Sunday, November 22, 2015

Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

Certain days will always reverberate through history and on November 22 at 12:29 Dallas time when the motorcade comes into sight nothing ever changes. It has become immutable no matter how much I want it to change that certain slant of light in the Zapruder film each time it's played...

    Click. The Presidential limousine glides though a Houston street making a sharp left turn onto Elm.
    Click. The President is smiling and waving.
    Click. Mrs. Kennedy looks at him with concern.
    Click. The president reaches for his throat and slumps toward her.
    Click. The Governor of Texas in the front seat falls forward.
    Click. Mrs. Kennedy rises and reaches across the back of the limousine.
    Click. She is pushed back into the car by a Secret Service agent.
    Click. The limousine disappears from view beneath an underpass heading for Parkland Hospital.

President's draft schedule for today 1963

Attending an Episcopalian school in Marietta, Georgia during a Spanish bazaar, the principal announced that President Kennedy had been shot. Ready to dance in a long red silk dress. It's from Spain, I whispered to best friend Sally. Narrow black lace trimmed the neckline and the bell sleeves, while wide black lace defined the two gathered tiers of a ruffled skirt. The princess bodice was lined and closed in back with a long red ribbon. The black lace mantilla trimmed with a red satin rose; fit under my hair. Altogether a muy bonita senorita.

School was immediately dismissed.

This is Daddy's boss and of course Dad is gone and the country is on high alert. It isn't uncommon to wake up in the morning and find he had left to places unknown, but I could pretty well guess where and why.

I sat on the church steps and cried until a neighbor picked up my sister and I. A few days later, school was closed as we watched President Kennedy's funeral. It is still hard to watch Jon Jon salute his father's casket. A man named Lee Harvey Oswald had shot him from the Texas Book Depository. Feeling an odd connection to these events in a strange sort of way since at that time all the books used in public schools in the United States, as well as American ones overseas came from that building. I had always noticed, even looked for the words Property of the Texas Book Depository stamped inside the covers of all the books I studied from no matter where I lived. Some sort of security was ripped away that day.

Two weeks later the school burned down; the President dead and Dad gone, it was very frightening to a young girl in grade school. John F. Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963 for reasons that remain largely unexplained to this day.

That film runs fifteen seconds. And an eternity. Looking back, it seems as if it was a point where it all started to come apart it would take decades to overcome. Nothing changes except those who watch, they watch a generation of Americans who would never be quite so young again. After that nothing was the same...

    Click. Vietnam.
    Click. LBJ announces he will not risk running again.
    Click. Robert Kennedy in a pool of blood after his victory speech in an LA hotel kitchen.
    Click. Another president resigns in disgrace.

Never again, I thought each time, would I take my country so lightly, my institutions for granted. But time passes, marriage, children; fortune smiled on me in this most blessed nation I found it easy to forget, become complacent... hubris is the child of forgetfulness...

    Click. Jetliners strike the World Trade Center again and again, and as much as I would like to blot it from memory I cannot and I am jerked to wakefulness, once again reminded how fragile this society is and understand that familiar feeling, that my way of life is not a machine that is run by itself, but one that requires daily heroism.
    Click. The sentinels change but the uniforms that watch over us while we enjoy our freedoms do not.