Monday, November 23, 2009

My Youngest Sister's Third Birthday

My Mom had planned a typical low-key family party for my youngest sister’s 3rd birthday that Friday. She couldn’t have known that before the morning was over, that day would become one of those flashbulb memories in which most everyone living remembered where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard the dreadful news.

My 4th grade class went out for recess that morning and when we returned Mrs. Hammill broke the news that President Kennedy had been shot. To 9 and 10-year-old 4th graders, the news was hard to comprehend. Children were generally more sheltered then and news was less readily available for everyone. At lunchtime the tragedy was discussed at the tables but the meaning was still unclear. At least we kids knew who President Kennedy was, but why anyone wanted to shoot him was beyond our scope. Some of the kids even expressed the thought that God wouldn’t let him die.

As we gathered in our class room after lunch Mrs. Hammill’s tears told the story. I walked home that afternoon expecting to find out the news had been in error. But the television was confirming the tragedy, and several neighbors were at our house discussing the implications. I recall the famous photo of Jacqueline Kennedy wearing her blood-stained suit witnessing President Johnson’s inauguration aboard Air Force One. Several days later we watched the stirring State Funeral on television. And Oswald’s murder, also on live TV. We thought my Dad was having a heart attack yelling for us to see what happened.

I guess Nancy’s birthday, and the weekend following, had the atmosphere of a wake and no one felt like having a party.

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