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Those who believe that "9/11" will always stop traffic should note how little is said of its predecessor date of significance, the date on which the President of the United States was murdered in Texas.

I was eleven years old then, in sixth grade. That morning, my class had a brief discussion of "current events" (the ruling outlawing the payers which had started the school day was only a few months old and teachers used it as a way to get us to think about the world around us---a daunting task in sixth grade). We knew who the President was (and living in New Jersey I was proud that the President came from the same state as the one where I was born: Massachusetts), that he was much younger than President Eisenhower was, had a sense of humor, and seemed eager to get us motivated to do something: what it was was quite unclear to me.

By the end of that day I joined the Planet Earth as an independent person. There has not been a day since then that I have not read a newspaper and worried about how the rest of the world impacts on what happens to the people closest to me.

The reason his death was so meaningful to so many of us has been well documented elsewhere. All I can add is that both Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy meant something to a little boy as sort of a symbol of greatness of what someone can achieve and, especially in President Kennedy, hope.

I have never felt the same since. It is a day I remember precisely and with a sadness that comes every year on November 22, a date I can only look at with the same horror as it held in 1963.

Last year, at about this time, Pete Fornatale played the Byrds (or Roger McGuinn's) version of these lyrics on the radio a year ago. They have had extraordinary meaning for me since I first heard them in the mid 1960s:

He was a friend of mine, he was a friend of mine
His killing had no purpose, no reason or rhyme
He was a friend of mine

He was in Dallas town, he was in Dallas town
From a sixth floor window a gunner shot him down
He was in Dallas town

He never knew my name, he never knew my name
Though I never met him I knew him just the same
Oh he was a friend of mine

Leader of a nation for such a precious time
He was a friend of mine

He was, and continues to be a hero to me: the greatest American to have lived during my time on this planet and his presence in this country remains extremely strong today.

The postscript to this essay from a year ago comes from the same passage of the most famous inaugural address we have ever heard, that has been quoted so often since November 4, and today:

   Let both sides seek to invoke the wonders of science instead of its terrors. Together let us explore the stars, conquer the deserts, eradicate disease, tap the ocean depths, and encourage the arts and commerce.

   Let both sides unite to heed, in all corners of the earth, the command of Isaiah -- to "undo the heavy burdens, and [to] let the oppressed go free."  And, if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor -- not a new balance of power, but a new world of law -- where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved.

   All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days; nor in the life of this Administration; nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.

    In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

    Now the trumpet summons us again--not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need--not as a call to battle, though embattled we are-- but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, "rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation"--a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.

    Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

    In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility--I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it--and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

Yes, we can.

Originally posted to Barth on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:14 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thanks for sharing your memories (8+ / 0-)

    there are several other diaries on this subject


    and one by slangist


    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:17:01 AM PST

  •  Thanks but i wish you'd delete (0+ / 0-)

    but I understand that you won't. I don't even like to THINK about this these days, though did stare at the date on the newspaper this morning.

  •  I Was in College (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We were in the dorm between classes. All I remember is that my mother was the first phone call to reach our floor after we heard. The day is a blur.

    I went to Lafayette Square to watch his caisson go by.

    We had never imagined such a thing could happen. It was a loss of innocence and nothing was ever the same again.

    Joe Biden: Get up! Al Gore: Pray, and use your feet! Harriet Tubman: Keep going!

    by JG in MD on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 06:57:13 AM PST

  •  In 7th grade (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I was in 7th grade - Catholic school watching our French lesson on tv - yeah, pretty progressive for '63 - tv in the classroom. I guess it was the equivalent of PBS?? They broke in with the report from Dallas and we watched in real time. Saw Walter Cronkite make the announcement. We of course stood to pray as anyone who went to Catholic school would remember. Other nuns came into our room crying. We were all just sent home after a fashion and we walked home in a surreal daze. In those days parents weren't notified or anything we were just cut loose. I remember everything about that day. Then I was watching tv with my Dad and we saw Oswald get shot live. Another memory emblazoned in my psyche. RIP JFK.

  •  I was born that day. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, Barth, snazzzybird

    The Crosby Stills & Nash "Cathedral" song always creeped me out, what with the lyrics:

    "And the day he died was a birthday, and I noticed it was mine."

    I knew my birthday was a day or great sadness for the nation, before I knew why.

    Sigh.. maybe I'm him reincarnated?


    How we know Daffy Duck is Republican: "It's mine, understand? Mine, all mine! Get back down there! Down down down! Go go go! Mine mine mine! Mwahahaha!" --BiPM

    by rhetoricus on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:22:25 AM PST

  •  How little is said? Are you joking? (0+ / 0-)

    There are countless books, documentaries, even feature films about the Kennedy Assassination.

    (-8.00, -7.18) I got my country back!

    by Arken on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 07:38:40 AM PST

  •  The date of Kennedy's assassination (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Barth, john07801

    wasn't used as an opportunity to cancel civil rights, raid the treasury, cause the deaths of thousands more people, trash the Constitution, and become a talking point for every idiotic and illegal scheme the bush administration pushed.

    November 22, the tragedy was what we lost.
    September 11, the tragedy was what we got.

    -7.25 -6.77 "A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman, of the next generation." - Eubie

    by Lovo on Sat Nov 22, 2008 at 08:11:13 AM PST

  •  I was 11, too... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

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