Sunday, November 22, 2015

November 22—For Those of a Certain Age All I Have to Say

Moments after the President was hit, Jackie crawled on the hood of the limousine seeking help from  the Secret Service in what became an iconic image of that day. 

November 22.  For the members of a couple of generations, at least, I don’t have to say or write anything else.  You know.  The date and the event are etched in your mind.  If you were sentiment in 1963 the moment when you heard THE NEWS is so solidly etched in your memory that you can recall every detail—the cast of the light through the window, the muffled sobs or wails, even the smell of that autumn day.
November 22, 1963 was, of course, the day President John F. Kennedy was shot while passing the Texas School Book Depository Building in an open car with his young wife, resplendent in pink, sitting beside him. 
I am not going to relate the details.  You know them.  Nor am I going to sort out the 1,354 various conspiracy theories which have been put forward.  Most of them are ridiculous.  Some are compelling.  The official Warren Commission Report was as full of holes as Swiss cheese and the Congressional investigations since then have at best given us a glimpse “trough a glass darkly.”  The absolute TRUTH, if any such thing is possible to know, will probably always elude us.  

Many of those who were at home or who had access to a TV set, got the news from Walter Cronkite on CBS.  While summarizing what little was known at the time, he was handed an AP news flash straight of the the teletype.  He read it, took his glasses of as if to compose himself, and said,  "From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: "President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time'" He glanced at the clock and added, " 2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago."  He put his glasses back on and visibly shaken continued to report as information trickled in.

It is enough to know that a young President, in whom many of us had invested great hope, was killed because some vague THEY wanted him dead and that hope, merited or not by the flawed individual, crushed.
It is the stuff of legend.  Two hundred years from now operas, epic poems, or whatever form that heroic art takes shape then, will imbue the events with magic and dignity.
Yet right now, this is still peculiarly our day, it owns us inescapably.  
In Times Square shocked New Yorkers grab newspaper Extra editions rushed to print.
But for my grown children it is only a historical event.  Their stomachs do not flip with the remembrance.  They acknowledge it without understanding it the way we acknowledged December 7, 1941—the central stark moment in our parents’ lives.
And for my grandchildren…well it is just another day on the walk-up to Thanksgiving. They hardly know who John Kennedy was.  They never heard of Lee Harvey Oswald.  If reminded, they may grunt a foggy awareness.  But it is no more real to them than the Peloponnesian Wars. 

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