I wrote this some years ago for an event that happened in another, more hopeful America that I think may have vanished forever on this day fifty-one years ago. That was the day John F. Kennedy was murdered in Dallas, Texas.
As I type that sentence I'm stunned to realize how much has passed since that day. For you, this is like reading about the first walk on the moon's surface or the Fall of Saigon. For me and my generation, this is a part of who we are because we remember all of these events, because and/or despite what followed them.
JFK wasn't a better person than those whom we have chosen since to occupy the White House nor was he worse-if events and circumstances make a person who will master them, then he was a man of a different time and all of us can't pretend to be able to compare and contrast then to now. We were and now we are. And those we lost along the way have only us to bear their witness. That some of then looks a lot like some of now is as much a function of perspective as it is of situations.
All my memories of the days of coverage in the aftermath of his assassination are black and white. They are not the misty water-colored memories, the song would have me believe, of the way we were but rather, grainy high contrast black and white moments stapled to special editions of newspapers and hurled at us by television stations engaged and engaging in their first national seance.
We gathered in our living rooms or those without a TV stood on sidewalks in front of appliance stores to watch over and over again the film clips as the Secret Service agent clambered up the back of the moving limo, Jackie struggled to cradle the dying man's head, and Walter Cronkite removed his glasses and gathered himself before reading the teletype news telling us the youngest man ever elected President was now dead.
Video on demand? I guess.
What we had was when Dad turned the set on, you heard the vacuum tubes humming and warming up. Slowly the picture grew larger and clearer. When it didn't, he would smack the set on the top or the side, one short, sharp blow-that was your on demand back in the day.A lot of people, perhaps one whole generation and portions of two others, did a decades worth of growing up "in winter 1963 when it felt like the world would freeze."