Wednesday 22 November 2023

JFK: Sixty Years Ago Today

   I was 15 years old.  It was a big day for me--No classes!  As a member of North High School’s Concert Choir, I was among those in the choir who were traveling up the big city of Indianapolis to give a series of concerts in some high schools there.  I don’t remember anything about the concerts, but I will always remember that when we arrived at one of the schools ready to give an afternoon concert, we were told by some of the students there, that President Kennedy had been shot.

    I didn’t believe them.  I figured those big city kids were just trying to put something over on us country bumpkins, but as the day progressed, I kept hearing news of the killing from different sources and I finally began to realize that maybe it had happened.  Before we left Indianapolis in the evening,  I managed to buy a newspaper (above) and seeing the news in print, erased any doubt in my mind about the event.

   During the 1960 presidential election my parents who had always been Republicans, voted for Nixon instead of Kennedy.  Taking my cue from them and being politically naive, I thought myself as a Republican also, so when the election results came in, I had been disappointed that Kennedy had won the presidency, but like most of the nation, I quickly fell in love with the Kennedy, and I too, began to admire the man and the freshness that he brought to the office. 

    My growing idealism made me support the many of the Kennedy programs, like the Peace Corps, and the actions he took to try to end racial segregation in the South.  It was a terrible shock to me when he was murdered.  I think the fact that I still have this newspaper shows how much his murder effected me. 

    Every time I see that clip of Walter Cronkite, the news anchorman, glance up at the clock, then try not to choke up as he tells the world that President Kennedy is dead, after all these years still causes me to choke up myself.

    Decades later after moving to Canada, I watched a television show about Kennedy, and was again shocked upon seeing how articulate, witty, and intelligent he was when answering questions, compared to the string of mediocre presidents the US had elected at the time.

    I have always been touched by a couple of songs that refer to the event.  The Byrds on their “Turn, Turn, Turn” album did a song called, “He Was A Friend of Mine”, and more recently I discovered the Billy Joel song, “We Didn’t Start the Fire” where Joel frantically lists all the big news events of the fifties onward, and when I first heard him end one of the verses with “JFK blown away, what more do I have to say?” I was really struck, it summed up for me just how crazy the world was.  

    The Kennedy assassination has always spawned conspiracy theories, because the official explanations had been so shaky.  Within the last month or so, Paul Landis, the Secret Service agent who threw himself onto the back of Kennedy’s car, trying to protect the First Family after the gun shots, while Jackie tried to pick up pieces of John Kennedy’s brain off of the trunk, confessed to finding a bullet lying on the car’s convertible top cover. 

    He stuck the bullet in his pocket, afraid it wouldn’t get lost, as the car sped to the hospital.  Then later, without telling anyone, put the bullet onto the gurney that had been used at the hospital.  The Warren Commission didn’t know about that fact when they investigated the assassination.  It changes the whole “magic bullet” explanation, so the assassination story isn’t yet over.

    November 22 has always reminded me of that jarring day, back in 1963.  The events of that day, still sadden me these sixty years later.

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1 comment:

  1. I always thought Mrs. Kennedy was trying to give the agent a hand to get up onto the back of the car to them.