Today marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. While I was not yet born when the horrific events in Dallas transpired, through the recent media coverage leading up to the anniversary, I have watched the interviews of many individuals who were present that day. These “living connections” to an event that shocked the nation are eye opening to say the least. Even 50 years onward, the death of a President has left a lasting and emotional impression on so many.
The passage of time has eliminated the “living connection” to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. While books and articles provide us with the written words of the nation’s grief, hearing those words spoken with the cadence and emotion of one who lived through those days is something that cannot be duplicated. Being so far removed from Lincoln’s assassination gives us the benefit of objectivity, yes, but it also naturally diminishes the impact.
So today, as so many reflect on the events of 11/22/1963, I can’t help but think of the past generations who reflected on 4/14/1865 with the same shock, the same confusion, and the same grief for their fallen leader.
The death of JFK made me — and I am certain many others — fully realize,understand, experience, and appreciate the depth of emotions people felt when Lincoln was shot. I remember not crying about any of it (altho, of cs., I was stunned for days) until the soldiers began folding the flag over JFK’s coffin, as the Marine hymn was being played in the background. That’s when the tears started gushing. From that day on, whenever I hear that song played, the tears well up and I can’t speak — just like Pavlov;s dog and the bell.
I just finished reading James Swanson’s End of Days on the Kennedy assassination. It was like re-living crucial days of my young adulthood. I had just turned 20 the month before and was a junior in college. Like so many others, I had been mesmerized by the young and dynamic family in the White House who was telling us that Americans were great and could be even greater. It seemed that all that was taken away in less than a minute.
James’s book is written so well that I might as well have been sitting in front of a TV for those four days in November of 1963 as I turned the pages. What I appreciated the most was the fact that he presented no conspiracy theories – just intimate details of what the cameras did not catch at that time. Comments and tributes from that time are heart-wrenching.
Perhaps it was just my youth, but I have never again felt confidence in my country as I did from the election of 1960 to November 22, 1963.