Every so often, there is an event so catastrophic that people can tell you to the moment what they were doing when the event happened. If you live long enough, you may be unfortunate to have survived more than one of those life altering moments. I can think of a couple during my lifetime: 911, the Challenger disaster, and the assassination of President John Kennedy.
President Kennedy was our 35th president and was visiting Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. I was nine years old, attending La Mesa Elementary school in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Our school did not have a cafeteria, and if you didn't bring a lunch to school, you had to go home to eat. Luckily I lived only two blocks from the school. My mother and I lived in a small, u-shaped apartment complex of about 10 homes. The woman on the end often looked out for me since my mother worked full time at a bank.
|President John F. Kennedy riding in an open limo with his wife, Jacqueline, and the governor of Texas and his wife, John and Nellie Connally, on November 22, 1963.|
When I came home for lunch that day, my neighbor took me aside and said that I probably ought not go back to school that afternoon. Obviously, I was curious, and she explained that the President had been shot. What does that mean to a 9-year-old but a day off school? However, I sat fascinated in front of the TV with my neighbor, and later with my mother, as the pictures rolled in.
There was the cavalcade coming around the corner, people's heads turning at the sounds of the rifle shots, Secret Service men leaping into the open limo. Later, we saw photos of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald, the alleged assassin, was being transferred from the police station into a waiting police car. Even later, forever etched into my memory, thanks to Life Magazine, is the image of Caroline and John Jr. bravely standing in the line for the passing of their father's horse drawn coffin. Caroline became an attorney, married, and had children of her own. She is almost four years younger than I am. Sadly, John Jr. lost his life at the helm of his private plane in 1999.
|Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of President John Kennedy, stands with her children, Caroline and John Jr., along with the president's brothers Robert and Edward, during the funeral procession.|