Friday, November 22, 2013

Miscellaneous: 50 Years Since the Kennedy Assassination (November 22, 2013)

I imagine many of the people in the United States old enough to remember that day are thinking back on this 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. On Facebook people are asking their friends the inevitable questions--"Where were you?" and "What were you doing when you heard about it?"
People standing in line at Costco are probably doing the same thing, strangers sharing stories. Have you tweeted something about it on Twitter?

I was three years, seven months old on the day Kennedy was killed. My memories of that day are sketchy, dream-like, but November 22, 1963 is the first day in my life that I have memories of.

We lived in Brooklyn. Our six-storey brick apartment building had a small flight of stairs from the street to the front door. My mother and I had been down the street, shopping for groceries. My mother was carrying a brown bag of groceries. As we approached the stairs to the building, Sue, one of our neighbors, suddenly came out the front door. The image I have is of her lips moving, but no words come out. Sue was the mother of my best friends. Clearly, though, something she says upsets my mother. Our apartment was at the end of a long hallway. We somehow find ourselves at our apartment, although we never walk down the hall. The key is in the lock. My mother steps across the front room to the TV and turns the knob to switch it on. That is strange. The TV is never a priority. It's never on in the afternoon. She never turns the TV on the moment she enters the apartment. Next I see my mother sobbing in front of the TV, kneeling on the floor in front of the small black-and-white screen, still clutching the bag of groceries. I don't know what's going on, but clearly something is wrong.....

That's how I remember it*. Memory is a tricky thing. It may not have happened that way, but these images are nevertheless an integral part of my personal history. In the following days, I keep hearing the name Lee Harvey Oswald. It becomes as familiar as the name of a relative. Conflated are images of the eternal flame at Kennedy's grave, which for many years as a child, I mistakenly believed was somewhere in our neighborhood, at Grand Army Plaza. Beyond that, I cannot separate actual memories from what I know about the assassination as an adult.

*[I asked my mother about what she remembers. She points out that I would have been at day care when news of the assassination broke. So, the way I remember the day is impossible. She says she heard the news from Sue when she went over to Sue's apartment to give her daughter, my playmate, a birthday present. So, what I remember must have been from later in the same day.]

I believe the photo above to be in the public domain. I was unable to find an attribution for a photo credit.

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