Not Just Another JFK Story
Today marks the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s death. People all over the world are taking time to remember the man who was known as Camelot to those who loved and revered him. Fifty years ago I was three-years-old, and unlike the older children and adults in my life, I can’t tell you where I was the day an alleged lone assassin took the life of our president—an act of terror that brought the citizens of our good nation to tears and to their knees in anguish and prayer. I can’t tell you what I was thinking that day, what I was wearing, or what I had eaten for breakfast on November 22, 1963—a day of infamy. I can only imagine that day.
My three youngest siblings were not born yet. My two older sisters would have been five and nine and my mother would have been twenty-four. I don’t even remember where we lived. Perhaps we lived in Oakland, California where I was born. I do know that my mother was very aware and socially conscious, so most likely, she, like the rest of America, was watching television news that broadcasted endless accounts of the president’s demise. Now that I reflect, we may not have had a television. I think we did and of course it was black and white. Color television hadn’t hit the market yet and we wouldn’t have been able to afford one if they were available.
I imagine my mother’s tear-filled eyes riveted to the screen, wondering who and why someone would commit such a despicable and evil act. Like today, November 22, 1963, fell on a Friday—a school day, so my sisters would have been at school. That left me home alone with my mother. Most likely she nestled me comfortably in her arms while I watched her tears fall. Did I say anything? I don’t know. Probably not. One of my aunts said that as a child I rarely spoke. In fact, at one point they thought I was a mute. Boy have I made up for lost time. Maybe I said, “Don’t cry, mommie.” And perhaps she said, “Baby, the president is dead.” And then I probably scrunched my little face, wondering who the president was and what it meant to be dead.
I imagine that in my three-year-old mind, I believed that whoever the president was, he must have been important and special—better than Santa Clause and whatever dead was— it wasn’t a good thing because it made my mother and all the people who were inside our little black and white TV sad. And what if right at that moment, pictures of John-John and Caroline, flashed across the screen? That would have gotten my attention because they were kids like my sisters and me. My mother probably would have pointed them out and said, “Those are his kids. This is going to be hard for them.” I probably nodded wondering what would be hard for the little boy dressed in the fancy shorts and shirt and the little girl dressed in a pretty dress sitting on the lap of the man my mother called the president. In my three-year-old mind, they looked fine and happy and the man holding them did, too.
Today on this 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s death, I’m glad I wasn’t of age and I’m glad I can’t remember that horrible day or the day the little girls were bombed at the Birmingham church or when Malcolm X was slain. I can barely remember Dr. Martin Luther King’s and Bobbie’s Kennedy’s assassinations. Unfortunately, I have since acquired my own memories of atrocious events and acts—the Guyana tragedy, The World Trade Center bombing, and the countless workplace and school massacres. Man’s inhumanity to man. If I had the power to end violence I would do so right now so that every three-year-old child that grows up to be an adult will have memories void of violence. Wouldn’t that be something!