JFK remembered

0849/22nd November 2021

22nd November, 1963.

Most of us who were alive that day will remember exactly where we were and how we felt when we heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

Aged fifteen, I was deeply shocked.

At Catholic boarding school in Devonshire, I was booked to spend the Christmas holiday with relatives in New York.

Having returned the year before from Asia where life had been complicated by politics, I was certain I would not be able to make the trip to America.

But that was a fleeting thought. I was young and very naive, but it seemed to me that President Kennedy had been a respectable and honourable sort of man.

The whole dreadful scene was played out over and over on television. We had been dismissed from our evening homework. We were sent to our small chapel, then we crowded into the television room to watch the awful news.

Perhaps it was the first time such a historic event was televised around the world.

As long as I live, I will never forget Walter Cronkite’s face as he delivered the news that his president had died.

Nor will I ever forget the funeral or the stricken Mrs Kennedy’s courage as Lyndon Johnson took the oath of office aboard Air Force One.

We watched the events in total silence.

Of course, there was no reason for me not to travel to New York, just a few weeks later, although I still felt quite subdued. I wondered what to expect when I arrived in the bereaved United States.

What I found was rather stunning.

In England people seemed still to be recovering from the shock of the assassination.

Arriving the in USA just three weeks after their president had been cruelly and so publicly assassinated, I was astonished and frankly rather appalled to find people light heartedly going about the business of Christmas as if nothing had happened.

A sweeping assessment, yes, but I made it from watching television news. No downcast eyes or subdued voices here. Everyone smiled and talked cheerfully. People in the streets appeared to be carefree.

It was partly culture shock, I know. The British media were always very dour and serious. It was how I felt they ought to be.

The world news seemed to me to be a serious matter.

Perhaps not. Life is fleeting. Why not be light-hearted about it? Maybe it was right to simply move on.

But I’m still not convinced and I wonder how things would all have played out if John Kennedy and his brother Robert and Martin Luther King had not all died by the hands of assassins.

It still sickens me to remember those awful times.

And I always remember this day.

5 thoughts on “JFK remembered

  1. I was not born yet when this happened, but obviously I know about this tragedy. Here in South Africa, we also had a prime minister that was assassinated (Hendrik Verwoerd in 1966) … it’s so sad that lives are taken so easily (even more so, when it’s done place publicly).

  2. I was working near Love Field, but didn’t take off to see the President’s arrival or the parade in downtown Dallas. I was unaware of what had happened until I returned to my office after lunch and the intercom had the awful news of this tragedy on. We were sent home early and I don’t remember leaving my apartment for the next few days, being glued to the TV and trying to make sense of what had happened. I don’t think we will ever know exactly who committed this assassination. I have never thought that Oswald acted alone and may not have even fired the fatal shot. The information has been sealed once again. What is it that “they” don’t want us to know, all these years later?

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