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Nov. 22, 1963: Fifty-six years ago


Nov. 22, 1963 was a Friday. Nov. 22, 2019 also is a Friday. Fifty-six years separate the two dates, but we have not forgotten, and will never forget, the President who was taken from us on that fateful date in Dallas.

I saw John Fitzgerald Kennedy closeup once. I’d grown quite enamored of him as a candidate—probably because he was so handsome and charming, although I also dimly perceived that his brand of liberal democracy was similar to my own, budding politics. The campaign—JFK versus Nixon—was in full swing, and the local newspaper my parents subscribed to (the New York Journal-American) said that JFK would be giving a speech at the Concourse Plaza Hotel, which was just a few blocks from my home.

I asked my mother if I could destroy one of her brooms in order to use the stick for a poster. I bought a large sheet of poster cardboard and wrote on it, in big letters, some supportive reference to JFK (I forget the exact wording). I made my way to the hotel on the appointed date and time. There were some police saw-horses set up by the side entrance, on 163rd Street; a few police cars signified that something important was impending. But other than that, no crowd, not even a reporter. There were perhaps a dozen people, including cops, clustered on either side of the saw-horses. I bellied up to one, which would put me on the Senator’s right as he entered, and waited.

A big black car pulled up. A tall man got out from the rear: the Senator. His legs planted themselves on the pavement; he stopped to adjust his necktie. I waved my poster: he glanced at it, inclined his head ever so slightly in acknowledgement, gave me a smile, and hurried into the hotel.

When he was killed, a little more than three years later, I was in the first semester of my freshman year at college, living in the men’s dormitory. It was just before noon, I remember, that a kid who lived in the dorm came running down the hallway shouting “The President’s been shot!” This was appalling news; I stopped what I was doing immediately and sought additional information, in those pre-computer days. A bunch of us gathered in the room of one of my dorm friends who had a radio; listening, we heard the sad news: “President Kennedy died at two o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some thirty minutes ago.”

The room had been filled with a dozen apprehensive young students. We were all silent, awaiting developments over the radio. At the announcement of JFK’s death, I recall no reaction among my friends. Probably there were gasps and groans, but I experienced nothing except my own collapsed nervous system. Quietly, I left my friends and returned to my room, where I lay down in bed and weeped.

Now, death has rarely caused me to cry. I didn’t cry when my grandfather died, or my beloved grandmother, or my father or my mother, although the latter’s demise was very painful for me. I’m just not the sort that cries at death. But JFK’s death wrung tears out of me. I think I knew that it signified something definitive and horrible: the end of a certain era of innocence in America, and its replacement with something infinitely more complicated and troublesome. And so it turned out: Nov. 22, 1963, is generally thought of as the start of The Sixties, a decade wrapped in turmoil, revolutionary change, disillusionment and death. America is still reeling from the impact of The Sixties, which is to say we are still reeling from JFK’s assassination.

He was President for only 1,000 days, but he left his imprint on the presidency, and on our society, more than any other post-war President. I miss him and honor him to this day; having lived through his brief, inspiring presidency makes living through this current regime all the more awful.

  1. He wasn’t perfect, but he was the best we’ve ever had. Not a warmongering idiot. We can thank the CIA and their Mossad pals in Israel for the JFK assassination, and every nightmare since. has quite a bit to say, I’ll post the link if possible.

  2. Readers: I publish this comment by “Debbie” because when I began my blog I made the decision to publish everything, no matter how ludicrous. I don’t know who this “Debbie” is, but I think she is some kind of anti-semite, rightwing Trumper. To suggest that JFK was killed by Israel is completely irresponsible and insane. Only Jew haters would forward such an atrocious lie.

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