I had started Kindergarten a few months earlier and I was getting myself acclimated to my new school in New York City. Since both my parents worked and it was my grandmothers who took turns being at the house after I arrived to take care of me and my brothers, I walked to and from school with a babysitter.
On that day, it was after lunch when the principal came on the speaker system and declared that the President had been shot and school would be let out early. I remember my teacher started to cry and myself and my classmates really didn’t know what was going on. It was my first experience with death.
Before I knew it, my babysitter found me and I was walking home with her. What I do remember distinctly and can picture in my minds eye so well is all the people who were out on the streets in the middle of the day running around, gathering children, and the elevator ride when I arrived in our apartment complex.
Since I was so tiny, I was surrounded by very tall adults in that elevator car, both men and woman, all of whom were weeping. But no one said a word. Usually at that hour, the elevator was empty but that day it was filled with mourners who were all in shock just as I was.
My next memory is sitting on the sofa watching the television with my grandmothers and later on with my parents. I didn’t thoroughly understand it all, but I knew at the tender age of 6 that something major had happened.
I remember watching the funeral and thinking that President and Mrs. Kennedy had children the same ages as myself and my brothers. Caroline and I were born the same year and “John John” was my brother’s age. For some strange reason, I tried to feel what it would be to lose a father, as they did, at that young age.
And as I watched them I seemed to emotionally connect with Caroline from that point on and as the years went by, I would often think of her and how difficult it must have been growing up without her Dad, regardless of his position in the world.
That was the first death that truly impacted my life and I found myself glued to the television. I can’t believe it’s been 50 years since his death, but even now, I can still see myself in that elevator looking up at all those tear-stained faces.
What do you remember about the Kennedy assasination? Share your thoughts below.
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