Tuesday, November 22, 2011

November 22

Photo by Stan Stearns - UPI.com
I saw no mention of it anywhere today but President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas on
this date in 1963. November 22 is a date I used as an example for my writing class of moments in history you experience and will always remember where you were when you learned about it.

I was in an elevator at City Hall in Buffalo, New York, when two people entered it and were talking about the shooting. I had been sent there as part of the job at the Buffalo Evening News to pick up some materials for a reporter. I listened to the two people intently and when the elevator let me debark I raced back to the paper to find out if it was true. A newspaper during such an event is something to see, something between a madhouse and a group of people totally focused on only one thing,amid the chaos, get this news out correctly as fast as you can. I remember my father calling me there (he never called me) to ask if it was true also and I told him it was.

We got the paper out that day but it was by no means the end of the experience. That day holds another special memory and the two are so intertwined I cannot separate them. It was a day I planned to share with my first real love, we had such plans. This is the woman I wrote about earlier whose family introduced me to sailing on the Niagara River. I wrote also that we had fallen in love with the Beatles singing in the background. I drove to her house and I recall walking up her sidewalk with a dozen roses in hand and a necklace with a tiny diamond in it in my pocket because this is also her birthday and it was the first one we would share. I had no idea what to expect; it certainly didn't feel like a day to celebrate. When I went into the house I found the whole family seated around the black and white television as the news unfolded again and again. The roses were laid on the table ignored, the necklace stayed in my pocket until we had a private moment later and I sat with her on that couch for the better part of two or three days. Tears welled in our eyes constantly though not to overflowing as we watched Walter Cronkite barely able to contain his own emotion as he tried to make sense of that day and the ones that followed.

We saw Jackie so regal and holding in her grief in order to show the nation courage and strength. We saw Lynden Johnson sworn in as president. I think we might have seen live Jack Ruby shoot Lee Oswald, I can't remember for sure; it was played over and over again. It all seemed so otherworldly holding hands almost trembling as we watched and wondered what was happening to our nation. Many young people saw Kennedy as our president, young vibrant living in Camelot, he was the new generation and we were part of that, and now he was gone and the man who replaced him came from the old school. Just for example Kennedy was the one who said we would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade and we did (the day of the landing, incidentally also one of those when we remember where we were). America had such promise and now it seemed that promise had been snuffed out.

How we moved on from those days I don't recall vividly. We watched the funeral with the riderless horse and the boots backwards in the stirrups and little John John saluting. I see that salute picture today and it still raises some emotion.

And, to a certain extent every November 22 I lose myself for a time in the memory of that event, the assassination, the first love, the birthday, the music and all the emotions they engender. One year on this date long after we had gone our separate ways, I sent her a dozen roses just to mark that anniversary. Today driving to work I listened to all the Beatles music I could in the lonely hour it took to travel that "long and winding road" to work at another newspaper.

COMMENTS FROM FACEBOOK NOV. 22, 2016

Marian Nattrass:  It is true that we remember where we were and what we doing on that devastating day. It was on our news today
Doug Nattrass: Kindergarten. Berwyn Elementary. My teacher started to cry
Tim Jones: I think that speaks a lot to how etched that event is in our memories, that you carry one from kindergarten
Jan Wiliams Simone:  6th grade. I still remember that my classmate Danny was the one who told our class. He was sitting near the door and could hear teachers crying in the hallway. After school I went on a visit to a nursing home with my Girl Scout troop and I can still hear the sad voice of an old man talking about "our young president". Only a few years ago I discovered that Danny and I are distant cousins.
Laurie Hanley Konefke: Sitting in a Graphic Design class at Univ of Buffalo. Hello to you Tim.
Peter Leitzke: Physics quiz section in Sterling Hall with Mr. Coker - instructor, grad student from U of Maryland. Bill Brooks burst in breathlessly and told us that Kennedy was dead.
Betty Sederquist Truly poignant writing. My own remembrances are much more pedestrian. No great love stories, as I was a geeky, shy 16 year old. I was in gym class trying to do gymnastics, disastrous in my case, dreadingly walked into the room that held all the gear, and my fellow PE students were clustered around a couple tiny transistor radios listening to the crackling news. I too remember Cronkite crying on the air, remember the Ruby shooting.

3 comments:

  1. Wow. Just...wow.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Of all the blogs you have written, this is my favorite. Other than that, what Suzy said.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Still hard to think of those days. When idiots would talk about wanting to see President Obama assassinated, I would seethe inside and think, "If you only knew, dumbass..."

    ReplyDelete

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A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

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One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

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