Friday, November 22, 2013

My generation's lost innocence

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, our nation's 35th president. And, unless you have gone on a personal boycott of consuming any form of media, the various outlets--from networks to cable channels to print to all things in between--are re-hashing the events of that fateful day.

I was nine on November 22, 1963 and in fourth grade at Salt Creek Valley elementary school.  A very serene, lovely lady--Mrs. Smith--was our class' teacher and we dutifully sat in her classroom after lunch on that seemingly normal fall day the week before Thanksgiving.  I immediately knew something was wrong when Mrs. Smith opened the door to our room and entered with our school's principal.  It was obvious that she was crying and struggled to speak--I can't remember her exact words but she uttered that "something terrible" had happened to our country and that our president was dead.

What happened next is cloudy--I know that we were excused and sent home with parents fetching us, all of which I'm sure struck us as odd but an unexpected benefit of the events of the day.  I do know that my realization of something terribly wrong was later that day when my father and uncle huddled in a corner of our home's living room, talking quietly with concern etched on their faces.  It was a rare moment of very serious, private talk for these two and it hit me that something truly was not right.

On Sunday, our normal routine of church in the morning was maintained.  However, on the way home we learned via a news radio broadcast that Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's accused assassin, had been shot and killed in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters.  I remember my Mom gasping and saying "what is going on!?"

Just as my parents had Pearl Harbor and my children 9/11, I and my Baby Boomer brethren had Dallas.  Watching the retrospectives this week and last, I've been mesmerized by the grainy black-and-white footage and photography that attempts to piece together the events of that day.  And, the memories of that time have flooded back, reminding me of how three gunshots forever altered the course of our country and our generation.