21.  JFK ASSASINATION

Anyone who was there knows where he or she was when they heard the news of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I had gone to school like every other weekday. It was cold but dry and I was looking forward to Thanksgiving the following week. St. Margaret’s was beginning to plan on the decorations and hymns that would enliven Advent in preparation for Christmas. We had been excited about the Kennedy Presidency, not so much because of his Catholic faith but by his youthfulness and sincerity.

We had been in class for a few hours when the principal, Sister Norbert, came in and whispered in the teacher’s ear. With a trembling voice, our teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, announced abruptly that school was suspended for the day and without further explanation we were directed to collect our things and head straight home. No one complained of having the rest of Friday off and I duly donned my jacket for the long walk home up Dravus Hill.

I expected my Mom to be surprised that I was home early but saw that she was sitting in the TV room staring quietly at the television. This was highly unusual in itself. With all mom’s activities of running the household, it was unheard of for her to be just sitting and watching the TV in the middle of the day. “Hey Mom” I said, “What’s goin’ on?” “Shh”, she said. “Come here”. I went and sat down next to her and looked at the screen of our black and white set. The scenes kept switching from one reporter to another and then back to the anchor desk. “President Kennedy has been shot and killed today,” said Mom, just like that. A thousand questions popped into my mind but I thought it best to keep quiet and stared at the TV along with her and gradually pieced the story together.

Nothing made sense any more. I thought everyone loved President Kennedy. He had a glamorous wife, two precious young children about my age and the country seemed satisfied as far as I could tell. It felt like I was watching a movie, a drama that would be right back after this word from our sponsor.

“We must do everything we can to fight evil in the world”, Mom said, as she put her arm around my shoulder. “How are we supposed to do that?” I replied. She looked at me with moistened eyes, “With love”.

A “lone nut assassin” had been identified and apprehended and reporters were scrambling to get the latest information from eyewitnesses and official announcements. I had a distinct feeling that everyone in the world was doing the same thing as we were, experiencing an historic moment that might determine the future of our lives. “Maybe you better go and deliver your papers”, said Mom finally. “Right”, I said with bewilderment, confused about how anything could go on as usual after such an upheaval.

The paper truck was just dropping off my stack of Shopping News as I came out to the alley that was otherwise devoid of activity. On the cover of each paper was a black and white photo of President Kennedy, his eyes just slightly askew, and a quote from the Bible, John’s Gospel, that I had heard before: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.