Friday, November 22, 2013

Looking Back -- November 22, 1963

We haven't yet been back a month, and have been busy unpacking and cleaning the RV and getting ourselves back in "Texas Mode."  

As soon as we returned, we began to see newspaper and magazine articles as well as TV programs precipitated by the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963.  I have watched with interest to see how history depicts the late president and the events of that day, and how those accounts compare with my own recollections.

In November of 1963, I was a new bride living in an apartment in Houston prior to my husband and I returning to Austin to finish school at The University of Texas.  Since I was not working at the time, a neighbor and I often met in one of our apartments to have lunch and watch the long-running soap opera, "As The World Turns."  That is where I was at noon on November 22, 1963.  I remember vividly the announcer breaking into the program to say that shots had been fired in Dallas and that the president had reportedly been hit.  Then not long after came the news that President Kennedy was dead.  

I went home, shaken by what had just happened, but even more by my neighbor's reaction. When she first heard the news, she said, "I hope they killed the son-of-a-bitch."  I don't remember her name, but I will never forget her words.  They say our country lost its innocence that day.  From my perspective, that is true.  I know I did.  The unthinkable had happened; the country had lost someone whom many regarded as a champion who appealed to the best in our nature.  I had also learned that someone I thought to be just a "regular person" with little or no interest in politics could have the fervent hope that a man she didn't know at all would die from an assassin's bullet. 

History will continue to be fascinated by President Kennedy, and the world will have differing opinions about what kind of president he would have been if he had served out his term in office.  And I wouldn't be surprised if, on the one hundredth anniversary of his death, people were still arguing about whether or not he was killed by a lone gunman, or if one of the 100+ conspiracy theories might be accurate.  

I expect that we will never know the answers to those questions, but I do know that, as Pearl Harbor was a defining event in my parents' lives, the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the horrors of September 11 have been defining events in my life.  Each changed me in ways I could not have anticipated.  I am not nearly so innocent or naive as I was in 1963, or on September 11, 2001.  

History has revealed that President Kennedy was by no means a perfect man.  However, I do think he tried to appeal to the better side of our nature.  Perhaps we remember him not because of what he did, but of what he encouraged us to do and be.  History may judge him harshly in some ways, but I will continue to measure our country's leaders and my fellow citizens by his words, "...ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."      

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