The Day I Heard That President Kennedy Was Shot

It was a nice November day, and the playground at my elementary school was filled with the sounds of rambunctious children set free.  My friend Susie came over to me.  I was swinging.

“The President got shot,” she said.

“No, he didn’t,” I answered, very sure of myself.  “That can’t happen.”

We went about the rest of our playtime as usual, then filed back into our third grade classroom.  Soon we were herded as a group with several other classes into a room with a TV, perhaps the only TV in the building,  where the news confirmed what my friend had tried to tell me, and my eight- year-old ears were too naïve to believe – the President had indeed been shot.  Not only that – he was dead.

Crowd listens outside radio shop at Greenwich and Dey Sts. for news on President Kennedy, Image Credit: World Telegram & Sun photo by O. Fernandez

We stayed in that crowded TV room for what seemed like a very long time, our teachers unable to pull themselves away from the news feed, unable to cope with the rest of a normal day at school when the whole world seemed to have come to a standstill.

Everything was surreal for the next several days.  From choked-up news anchors to endless lines at the Capitol’s rotunda to quiet streets in town and quiet meals at home – everyone was mourning in one of  the most bipartisan events in our country’s recent history.   A horse drew the wagon that carried the casket as a tiny boy saluted his fallen father, and the nation cried.

My mother let us watch the most television ever that week.  Usually we were rationed to brief snippets at a time, but the tube stayed on for hours as coverage continued.  Dad was watching when Jack Ruby did his deed.  We all saw the flags, the black veil, the lighting of the eternal flame.

Such a loss should teach us something.  Such a loss should change us.  But when I compare our country then with our country now, I’m not sure that it has.  We should be more loving and kind, more forgiving, more aware that each day is a gift.  We should understand that a hand across the aisle is a welcome thing, something to embrace, to encourage and celebrate – and a thing that should be so common that we don’t even think twice about it.  A good idea is a good idea, no matter who thought of it. 

So on this fiftieth anniversary of one of our country’s worst nightmares, can we come together to seek solutions?  Can we come together to encourage cooperation?  Can we find the same common ground, birthed in grief so many years ago, to make our nation flourish again?  May God help us.

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

Nancy Lou

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