"Five decades later, the assassination of John F. Kennedy remains one of the few utterly signal events from the second half of the 20th century. Other moments — some thrilling (the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall), others horrifying (the killings of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the Challenger explosion) — have secured their places in the history books and, even more indelibly, in the memories of those who witnessed them. But nothing in the latter part of “the American century” defined an era as profoundly as the rifle shots that split the warm Dallas air on November 22, 1963, and the sudden death of the 46-year-old president." (I would have added 9/11 to that horrifying list.)
|My 6th grade photo|
Because this anniversary was coming, I wrote three of my elementary school classmates on Facebook and asked them what they remembered of that Friday, when we were 6th graders at PS 25 in Fords, NJ. I was glad to see that they remembered the afternoon the way I did. We had been in our classrooms, when suddenly the teachers informed us that we were going to the school auditorium. Such a spontaneous gathering had not happened before. My class had to walk outside to get to the next building where the auditorium was. On the way, I walked next to my teacher Mr. Newberger. He told me that the President had been shot. I felt that news in the pit of my stomach. That was the craziest thing I had ever heard. It made me feel sick. When we arrived, students were seated and teachers were walking around, some with transistor radios to their ears. Everyone was quiet. Teachers were listening. We were all waiting. I remember a teacher started to cry. Then another. Finally, Mrs. Schwarick, a large woman with intense presence spoke out. She told us that the President had been killed. She told us that school was canceled for the rest of the day. She told us to go home. So we filed out of that room and took the walk home. There was a crossing guard at the major intersection at Ford Avenue. She held up her white-gloved hand, and the traffic stopped to let us cross. She fumbled with the whistle around her neck and said, "Pray for our country. Go home and pray for our country."
I didn't do that. I never pray.
I did watch the crowds go to the Rotunda to pay homage and say their farewells to the flag-draped coffin.
I did watch Lee Harvey Oswald get shot.
I did watch that horse-drawn caisson and that riderless horse.
I did cry a thousand tears.
OMG UPDATE: At dinner Friday night Roger asked me in what year 9/11 happened. I said it was 2001. OMG, that's right, 2001, not the second half of the 20th century at all. A whole new MILLENIUM! No wonder the Times writer left it out. It didn't belong there. Holy shit, my lifetime isn't the parameters of history at all.