Saturday, November 22, 2008


There are events that are so clear in my memory it seems they happened yesterday. Forty five years ago today is an example. I was in the third grade. The school I attended was new and the public address system did not work well. A crackly, unintelligible announcement was made and our teacher sent Lesli Andrews to the Principal's office to find out exactly what had been said.

Lesli returned bursting into the classroom with the words "President Kennedy has been shot!"

Miss Conklin, a brand new teacher, who knew everything, at least in her own opinion and in most of ours, shook her head, "No, no, Lesli. The President of the United States is a very important person. He travels with Secret Service men to guard him. There is no way someone could possibly shoot the President," she assured us.

No sooner were the words out of her mouth, than Mr. Bailey, the school Principal entered the room. Shaking his head, he looked at the floor rather than face us as he said, "Yes, President Kennedy has been shot and he is dead." By this time some of the older kids were in the hall crying. School was going to be dismissed early. We were to wait to be called to the office when our mothers arrived. I remember walking out into the bright sunlit afternoon, seeing the American flag at half mast and feeling that the world had changed a great deal in the few hours that I had been inside.

Since that time I have talked with my father about how he learned of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He returned home from a Boy Scout camp out to hear the news. For him that day is also frozen in time. My sons seem to have the same type of recollection for the details of Tuesday morning September 11, 2001, another "day that will live in infamy." All of us had our sense of awareness heightened by the occurrence of seemingly impossible events.

Today, I have wondered what this day forty five years ago much have been like for the first lady. Jacqueline Kennedy arrived in Dallas as the wife of the most popular and powerful man in the world. She left a few hours later a widow, journeying home to tell her two young children that their father was dead.
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