A day that continues to live in infamy for those of us that were there

As I write these few words it is November 22nd and for people my age and older, the date is not one that has to be guessed at in terms of significance: We all know it is the day that JFK had half his head blown off by a crazed assassin as he passed through Dallas on that autumn day.

And, of course it is one of those days of infamy in which I, as a young adult, remember exactly what I was doing when I heard the news. I’d just finished a weight-training session in a gym at the University of BC and was on my way to a medieval history class.

A student said to another on passing: “Did you hear that the president was shot?” “What, somebody shot Macdonald? Really” The president of the university at the time was a chap named John Macdonald and the students had taken to disliking him for some reason that is now lost in time. The other student then said it was the US President John F. Kennedy.

I can still picture exactly where I was physically at that moment. Since most of you don’t know the place I needn’t elaborate because it would be meaningless.

Following that students gathered in the quad and loudspeakers broadcast what was going on. We were, because he was young and dynamic and before we knew all the Kennedy revisionist shit that was to come later, we were shattered.

Classes were cancelled and people headed out to dorms, rooming houses or home and watched TV. Watched and watched those black and white images over the next couple of days. We saw Cronkite wince, and we saw Oswald wasted. And it all got surreal and we wondered what was going to happen and who was behind it. Was there going to be a war – with somebody.

So many images: Jackie in her pink pillbox hat, the black Lincoln open limo, LBJ taking the oath on Air Force One. And then later the funeral cortege and the horse, with the riding boots turned backwards (and damn it, even as I typed the bit about the horse my eyes misted up) and John-John with his little salute as the procession passed by.

And then we got on with it. And then there was Bobby assassination, and Martin Luther King’s and all the other bits of beastliness that make history and tragedy that eventually left one feeling jaded about life and the turns of history.

The only time I came close to that feeling again was on 9/11 and the worst part of that is that I was literally thousands of miles from home when it happened. I wanted my home, my room and my bed. It was a self-protective impulse and need.


8 responses to “A day that continues to live in infamy for those of us that were there

  1. I was two when it happened, so I’m sure I just continued on playing with whatever two year olds played with at the time. Other than 9/11, the one event I remember in vivid detail was the announcement of the first gulf war. I was in a drugstore, buying mascara. Even today the details are crisp and clear, down to the fact that I was hesitating between Great Lash and Revlon. Funny how you remember some things…

  2. For my contemporaries, it was the space shuttle explosion. Eveyone I’ve ever asked can tell you exactly where they were when they heard the news. We had already started taking it for granted. Space was ours. We owned it. The setbacks of the ’60s were long gone. We thought of space as our birthright as Americans. And then…we were reminded of the truth and given a harsh lesson in hubris.

    I had gone to English class early after lunch and walked into the classroom. My teacher, Mr. Claus (seriously ~ he was an English teacher) told me. It was just the two of us. We just stood in the middle of the empty room, holding hands, unable to comprehend what had just happened.

  3. I was going to Arden Elementary & had a piano lesson with Roxie Ellis across the road on the corner of Webdon & Lake Trail Rd. She cancelled my lesson that day. It’s clearer in my mind than what happened yesterday (or even today)!

  4. There is little doubt that our generation will forever have the details of that event Imprinted in our mind. I was in Grade 5 at the time and a nun delivered the news to me while I was the nurse’s room at school. I cried and remembered thinking that life was never going to be the same. This past summer, my husband and I spent a few weeks in Dallas. We visited Dealey Plaza and stood on the grassy knoll. I had the feeling that I was standing on sacred ground. Nothing has been changed in that location. They have preserved it, as though frozen in time like our collective memory.

    • You know, Debra, the most telling point you make in your thoughtful response is your belief (even in grade 5) that life was never going to be the same. Well, I think for us who were there it never has been the same. I think Nov. 22 tainted our future idealism to a degree. Intriguging that you went to the site.

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