Today marks 50 years since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Much like 9/11, many of those who were alive at that time remember the moment they learned of the tragic murder of the president. I was four years old, so I don’t remember the exact moment, but I’m going to guess that I was taking a nap when the news hit our house. I do remember my mother crying and I recall realizing that something bad had happened. Our television set hummed continuously for four days with live coverage of the assassination updates, the replays of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald (the first murder captured live on television) and then the funeral.
What is ingrained most vividly in my memory is the steady beating of the muffled drums of the funeral procession as the caisson carried the casket up the streets of Washington.
Mom and Dad adored JFK: he was charismatic, young and, most importantly, Catholic. My father, an aspiring author, had read (and I believe owned) a copy of JFK’s book, Profiles in Courage. Soon after the assassination, my heartbroken parents hung this framed photo in a prominent place in our living room and JFK became an icon to me; he seemed more of a legend than a president, one who was respected and revered by my parents.
Since then, I’ve been fascinated with the conspiracy theories regarding his death. I do not think all the shots came from Oswald. I still wince when I see the Zapruder film, especially at the fatal shot (WARNING:GRAPHIC). I tense when I see footage of President and Mrs. Kennedy (dressed in the now famous pink suit) emerge from the plane at Love Field in Dallas and part of me wants to shout, “Don’t get in that limousine!”
50 years later, we know things my parents didn’t at that time. My mother, upon finding out about JFK’s illicit liaisons many years afterwards said, “I don’t care what he did behind closed doors. He was still a damned good president.”
His personal immoral behavior aside, no one deserves to die like that. And his death was rather a hard lesson for Americans. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor before it and 9/11 after it, November 22nd, 1963 be will forever etched in our minds as a stark reminder of our vulnerability and mortality.
While we may feel invulnerable; we aren’t. Someday we will die, perhaps suddenly like JFK, or after a long illness. Eventually, we will all have to face God and explain the choices we made in this life.
For John F. Kennedy, his life was tragically cut short by that final bullet that tore his brain apart. However, his legacy and his words live on.
50 years later, I pray for his soul: “Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. And may his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace. Amen.”
Copyright 2013 Ellen Gable Hrkach