A Difficult Anniversary

I seriously thought that I wouldn’t write about this since it would be too difficult, too sad. But I can’t let an historical anniversary pass without a mention, especially an anniversary of an event that shaped my life.
I was 16 on November 22, 1963—just 16, having celebrated (as loosely done by our small family) only a few weeks before. I was a junior in high school and sitting in Chemistry class when the announcement came over the intercom: President Kennedy had been shot to death in Dallas, Texas.
As a long-time Kennedy-follower, I was devastated, to put it mildly. As my father’s child, it was even worse. I’d left my father’s conservative and racist ideas behind many years before; what I heard from President Kennedy helped with that. Not happy with the President’s ideas for Civil Rights, my father had said, “Someone should shoot that little Napoleon.”
I will never forget the twin hurt on that day. My hero was dead and my father had wanted it. My father did call me that afternoon to tell me he was sorry about the president’s murder. I think he was trying to make amends—my father never talked to me on the phone.
I, like most of the world, spent the next few days in front of the television set. I watched everything about the funeral and the assassin. I was watching when Ruby killed Oswald. In fact I may have been the only one in the family watching it. My parents were in their usual Sunday position—sitting at the bar of the American Legion. My father could have been raising a glass to Lee at the moment the assassin was assassinated.
I am the person I am today, for better or worse, because of the lives and deaths of two people: John Kennedy and John Lennon—and how those around me connected or disconnected with November 22, 1963—or December 8, 1980.


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