Today is the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and we’ve been reminded about it the past couple of weeks between TV shows and magazine or newspaper articles. It was one of those few events in life that everyone of a certain age remembers where they were when they heard the news. Although I’m a baby boomer, I’m not quite old enough.
What I know about President Kennedy’s life, presidency, and assassination are all from books, movies and television programs. That’s not surprising considering I was only four when he died. What may be surprising is that my earliest life memory is of John F. Kennedy’s funeral.
It was Thanksgiving week and my parents had driven to my grandmother’s home in Kansas with three small children and one on the way for the Thanksgiving holiday. They all gathered in the living room to watch the funeral on my grandmother’s black and white television set.
I don’t remember why we were there; I learned that later. I don’t even remember who all was in the room other than my mom and dad. I remember the funeral for two reasons:
1. All the adults were incredibly sad
2. There was a horse-drawn carriage
If you think about it, those are two important things to a little girl. My parents being upset was very unsettling. Plus, I wondered why they were sad while watching the horse parade.
In the years since, I’ve learned a lot about the man who was the last president to die in office. Some of it admirable such as his war heroics and some not so much (womanizing). He clearly was a complex person and we’ll never know what could have happened if he wasn’t killed in Dallas.
One of my favorite quotes is from Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20, 1961. I find the words inspiring and timeless. Thank you, JFK.
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”
Note: I’m participating in a blog hop with the women of Midlife Boulevard. We are sharing our thoughts about and memories of the assassination of President Kennedy on this 50th anniversary of that sad day. Enjoy their great writing below.
Isn’t it amazing how much television plays a part in our memories? And how this shared experience brings us all a little closer. I really enjoyed reading your perspective.
Nancy Hill says
“I wondered why they were sad while watching the horse parade.” That captures your first brush with mortality and the disconnect between reality and religion. Perhaps not my first memory, but a very early memory is of my mother telling me her mom, Grandma, had died during the night. I didn’t understand why she was crying if Grandma was with Jesus. I remember bewilderment that must have been similar to yours during the “horse parade.”
Lori Lavender Luz says
My memories of the event are very similar to yours. It was crushing to see my parents crushed so. Such a loss of innocence both small-scale and large.
Connie McLeod says
Kay, I was six. Our memories were very similar. I also remember being unsettled by the adults in my life crying. It still is such a sad event to remember.
Karen D. Austin says
The photo I see the most are of John John in his little blue coat. I don’t remember the horse-drawn carriage. Thanks for that detail — in word and in image.
Renee Baribeau (@PracticalShaman) says
Remembering the horse drawn carriage, you were destined to be a writer. That memory was only stirred when I was looking for a picture for the blog hop.
Sharon Greenthal says
I was too young to remember anything, but I’m sure seeing my parents crying at the site of a parade would have been unsettling for me also.
virginia sullivan says
Very nice view into your experience that day. I am struck by how all of us can remember our families being around us. I hope that if this happened today we would still have that same experience. Virginia