In the Shadow of November 22
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
November 22, 1963
From the speech he would not live to make
I clearly remember being dropped off at the bus stop on the corner of South and Green Streets. The walk from there to the house I grew up in was brief, even for a five-year-old. I distinctly remember that in Goshen, New York on November 22nd, 1963, it was unseasonably warm for a late-Autumn day. I had just gotten home from Mrs. Annabelle Peavey's kindergarten class at Scotchtown Elementary School. My father, thirty-three at the time, had only pulled into the driveway moments before, He was returning from upstate New York, near Binghamton, where he had that morning put in an estimate for a marble restoration job on a piece of property that was owned by Joseph P. Kennedy of all people. How's that for irony? I can remember what he was wearing when he told me, "The president's been shot."
For those of us who were old enough - or even barely old enough - to remember that day, the murder of President Kennedy cast a pall over our young lives that forever ended the carefree innocence of childhood. That this handsome and popular man could be murdered - in cold blood - left more-than-a-few of us feeling just a bit more vulnerable. I remember a few months after Dallas, riding in the back seat of an open convertible through the streets of some city, possibly New York. Looking up at all of the open windows that looked down upon the car gave me pause. Would some twisted freak try to have a pop at me I wondered? I laugh now in hindsight at the memory of my childish paranoia, but at that moment my fear was real and not-so-lightly dismissed.
Nothing would ever be the same again. America's psyche never fully recovered from the trauma of November 22nd, 1963. The three explosions in Dealy Plaza emanating from Lee Harvey Oswald's cheap, mail-order rifle a lifetime ago still reverberate across the decades.
NOTE TO THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS:
You may have watched a handful of forty-minute-long, exploitation documentaries on the "History" Channel or Fox "News", but I have devoted ("wasted" is the better word) years of my life researching this subject. Forgive me for sounding a tad arrogant, but I am in a better position than you to make an educated judgement on this matter. If there existed a molecule of credible evidence that a confederacy of sinister forces came together on that day to end the life of Jack Kennedy, believe me, I would be the first one raising hell about it. No such evidence exists. Oliver Stone may be a great filmmaker, but he's a lousy historian. Lee Oswald acted alone when he killed the president. Jack Ruby acted alone when he killed Oswald. End of argument. Sorry 'bout that but it needed to be said.
Yeah, I know what you're thinking and I agree. It's hard to accept the scenario where a demented little freak like Oswald is able to bring down so decent and beloved a leader - but that's the way it is, folks. We do need to move on.
Today is a day we need to take note of. Keep your eyes on the recollections in the media of those who remember and took part in the events of that day. On the next, significant milestone anniversary of the Kennedy assassination (the seventy-fifth) eternity will have caught up with them. Twenty-five years from now, "Camelot" will have receded into the unreachable mists of history. Time has a way of making even the mightiest of us disappear. Have you ever noticed that?
"Let the word go forth from this time and place - to friend and foe alike - that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans...."
John F. Kennedy's Inaugural address
20 January 1961
Something wonderful ended on November 22nd 1963, not only Jack Kennedy's life, but our sweet optimism. My generation still has faded memories of that America, but we were so young that it seems to us now as a ghost-like dream, a mental daguerreotype. By the time we came of age a decade or so later, this place was damaged - cynical and jaded. Maybe one day the United States will recover from what happened on November 22nd 1963, but I suppose it won't be until the last survivor with a conscious memory of those four dark days passes from the scene.
2013 has been a year filled with so many half-century milestones that it is difficult to keep track of them all. 1963 was indeed a year of historical landmarks - beautiful and not-so-beautiful. You know you're starting to get up there in years when you can clearly recall events from fifty years ago. I would only come to appreciate what a historical year 1963 was as I got older. From Civil Rights on earth, to the exploration of the heavens, President Kennedy's murder on the streets of Dallas, Texas fifty-years-ago today was merely the curtain closing on one of the most monumental years of the American Century. Wasn't that a time?
He still matters. Fifty years later, Jack Kennedy refuses to go gently into that good night.
Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye
by Dave Powers and Kenny O'Donnell
A great and funny read by the two men who knew Jack Kennedy better than anyone. Reading this will remind you that he was - HANDS DOWN - our funniest president - privately and in public.
by Gerald Posner
Posner not only makes a good case - but offers irrefutable proof - that the conspiracy theories offered up by people like Mark Lane and Oliver Stone are bunk. If you believe them, this very well-written book might possibly change your opinion on the matter. I hope that it does.
The Day John Kennedy Died
by Lou Reed
One of the fringe benefits of being Irish Catholic is that we get to refer to the late president as "Jack". So there.