I am too young to remember the assassination of John F Kennedy but I have relived the moment every year since it happened through television, magazines, books and stories from my mother. 50 years seems like yesterday. It is a “where were you when…” moment in our country and our history. We have had Presidential assassinations before- Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley- but none were in the camera eye brought to our living rooms in color. From the heartbreaking announcement of anchor Walter Cronkite to the Zapruder film, every horrible moment of that day has played over and over again for 50 years.
We were a country in transition in the 1960’s. We were exploring space. We were fighting the evils of segregation and the threat of Cuba. We were keeping our watchful eye on the Russians. We were exploring the medium called television. We believed our enemies lived across oceans and spoke foreign languages. If you told us that an American would kill our beloved President, we would have never believed it. That all changed on November 22, 1963.
From the moment the shots rang out on that fateful day, our innocence died. The world watched 2 days later as Jack Ruby took the life of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television as the accused assassin was being taken to jail. There was no hiding or make believe and our sense of safety and security was shattered. We became weary of our neighbors and even more weary of people we didn’t know. The world would never be the same. Killing leaders was no longer something that happened somewhere else. It happened here on our soil too. All our hopes were shattered. The sadness of business left unfinished was felt by every American.
In the years since the assassination, we often ask ourselves what if Kennedy had made a different choice that day and skipped Dallas? Would we be different? What would our country look like today? What frontiers would we have opened? What would have happened if we has the chance to ask what we could do for our country? How would our subsequent leaders make decisions if they had the counsel of John Kennedy. Sadly, we will never know.
They were Camelot and like King Arthur, JFK fell. Jacqueline Kennedy was quoted as saying “There’ll be great Presidents again but there’ll never be another Camelot again … it will never be that way again.”
As we remember this dark day in our history, I wish that you continue to Rest in Peace Mr. President… You are left us too soon..