November 22, 1963 is a day that has been indelibly seared into my childhood memory. The day had started out as a typical day. I was a wee one, all of 5 years old, and had just gotten home from morning Kindergarten. Both my parents worked the 3 to 11 shift and my Grandmother lived with us. My Father had just left for work. My Mom was walking toward the back door to head out. My Grandmom was sitting in her usual chair. Bob and Lisa were having dinner on As The World Turns. I was playing in the Living Room. Then, everything stopped: Walter Cronkite broke into the soap opera, and with those fateful words told us that the course of history has just shattered... Shots had been fired at President Kennedy's Motorcade in Dallas.
I can't image what went through my parents minds. There is my Father already on the road. My Mom was just about ready to leave...what does she do? Does she go to work, stay home? Were we safe? There were no cell phones, how do you reach your family? I know most businesses closed but I have no memory if she went to work, came home or if my Father came home early. What I do remember is the deep despair for the next several days. I remember the clip clop of the horses drawing the caisson. I remember the riderless horse. I remember Carolyn and John John at the Funeral (after all, they were MY age.) And, I remember Lee Harvey Oswald being shot on TV. Every generation has a defining moment and for my cohorts...November 22, 1963 is that day.
I have always been a JFK Assassination buff. I suppose that even though I was only 5, I was "smart" enough to realize that what I had been witness to an event that would have a lasting impact on my life. In June of 2012, the Close To My Heart Convention was held in Dallas. There was no way that I was going Dallas and not go to Dealey Plaza. I even left for Convention a day early just to find the time to visit the 6th Floor Museum and walk Elm and Houston Streets.
This is a Studio J layout I completed shortly after I returned from Convention. Studio J is CTMH's online scrapbooking program and was perfect for something like this. I could easily and quickly complete the layout with the reverence the photos deserved.
Visiting Dealey Plaza was a moving experience for me. We've all seen the pictures of the School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll, the snipers nest, but to stand there and realize that an event that changed the world happened there is humbling. One of the first things that struck me was how small Dealey Plaza is... We all have this image that is has to be huge but it is actually quite a small area. I walked all around. I went behind the picket fence and watched the cars pass. I visited the museum and gazed out the window looking down on the street. The actual sniper's next is walled with glass but you can look out the second window. wow
I find myself in a very odd mood today. I keep thinking of a young child watching her family's shock, knowing that something terrible had happened but just not being old enough to totally comprehend. I keep wondering how the world might have been different had JFK not been assassinated. My parents were Depression Era Children.. My Dad lied about his age and joined the Navy. My Mom, so wanted to be a Navy Nurse, but failed the physical so she volunteered at the Indianapolis IN USO. They had both helped to achieve victory in WWII. They identified with JFK. He was not a stogy typical politician...he was their generation. They had something in common. They were filled with hope for their 5 year old daughter. There was promise of a better world. With Kennedy in the White House paving the path for the future, their young daughter would not have to endure the tribulation that they had endured. But all that ended on November 22, 1963.
What would have been different had JFK lived? Would we have dove head long into Vietnam? ...a decade that effected and still continues to effect us baby boomers. Would the Cold War have ended sooner? We will never know.
I look back at the past 50 years and there have been collective sorrows: 9-11, the Challenger Disaster, the Gulf War. And yet, there have been monumental triumphs: Man walking on the Moon, the computer being commonplace, cell phones that are smarter and smaller than my first calculator. Who shot JFK? We will never know. But, today is a day, regardless of your age, to reflect on those sorrows and triumphs. And, to continue to ask not what can be done for us, but rather, what we can do for others to help make this a better world.