THE DAY KENNEDY DIED

November 10, 2009 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

MEMOIR

November is the month of thanksgiving, when the weather no longer bounces between summer and winter, when the chill of fall sets in with a vengeance preparing us for the hard cold of winter. It is also the month John F. Kennedy died at the hands of an assassin.
During November 1963 I was a junior at East Side High School. I already had a deep interest in science and forfeited my study hall to work in the school biology lab. I designed an experiment to study Medallion heredity. The experiment required two black and two white mice, which I purchased, and began mating the mice in all the various combinations possible, trying to predict the color of the littermates. I soon ran out of space in the cellar where I was keeping my mouse colony and asked permission to move my many mice to school I pressed on, until I began seeing litters with brown siblings, something I had not anticipated. This brought an end to my experiment and an introduction to the unpredictability of science.
It was while I was working in the school lab one November Friday afternoon that someone came in and said that the president had been shot. I recall reacting to the news with horror and disbelief. The emotions of I felt will always stay with me, the sense of experiencing a moment that defied all logic, the vitality of our young president in jeopardy. I sensed that the world had changed; this quiet November afternoon would become a milestone in history. All I knew was that the president had been shot; there was still hope of survival as I headed home from school that day. But as I walked the mile and a half home from school, I saw something I shall never forget, something that dimmed my hope. On my way, I saw clusters of people standing on corners and most were crying. The residents of Newark are not known for their emotional displays so this sight was disturbing. It was the first signal I had that something was extremely wrong, that the world had changed, and not for the better.
When I reached home, my father was already there, not unusual for he began work early in the morning and was home before me most of the time. I would find him sitting in the kitchen with his beer and paper, but today he was in the parlor watching the TV and he was crying too, something I recalled seeing only once before. The last time I saw my father cry was when my mother lost a baby girl shortly after birth. Ironically, my sister died almost the same time the Kennedy’s lost their third child and also for the same reason, underdeveloped lungs. As my father sat weeping before the TV, he told me that the president had died.
The days that followed were surreal. Long before the age of cable and satellite dishes, there were only three major networks and a few independent New York stations broadcasting to Newark. All normal broadcasting ceased; TV carried nothing but news and insight into the assassination. On the radio, all normal programming came to a halt. The radio played nothing but somber music and news of the assassination. Everyone watched the news all weekend, watching history unfold before our eyes. Shortly after Kennedy died, Oswald was captured. The nation viewed live, the instrument of their sorrow. We watched Oswald’s murder at the hands of Jack Ruby, adding confusion on top of the misery. Everyone’s thoughts were in turmoil as these historic events concluded with JFK Jr. saluting his father’s casket.
The day Kennedy died; I learned something of the unpredictability of life.

Entry filed under: memoir. Tags: , , .

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