Friday, November 22, 2013

A short recollection from 50 years ago.

Years later I worked with a guy who was a couple of years older than me who said he never dated anyone who couldn't tell him where they were when Kennedy was assassinated - they were, he opined, either too young or too out of it.

As for me, my family had moved from Fort Worth to the Chicago suburbs the summer I turned nine. The elementary school I attended in Park Forest was close enough that I used to walk home for lunch.

That Friday 50 years ago, my brother and I had come home as usual and were watching Bozo's Circus on WGN when the station broke away for news flashes that President Kennedy had been shot. I wasn't sure what to think other than it seemed shocking - impossible to believe. But I'd seen it on television.

My class had introduced to the idea of  "current events" that year. We were supposed to tell something we'd heard or read about in the news. This seemed like the ultimate current event.

I headed back to my classroom (I have no recollection of how my mother had reacted to all this) and my school was in utter chaos. The grown-ups were all flipping out -- some were sobbing, others panicked (this was during the Cold War, remember) -- and they ended up sending us home early. Really early.

The rest of the weekend and into the next week was filled television coverage of the the assassination itself, the arrest and killing of Lee Harvey Oswald, the funeral and lots of speculation. It took the Thanksgiving holiday that year and created this little pocket universe of time outside the usual flow of the seasons.

Things eventually settled down, but to say they went back to "normal" would be a mistake.

My classmates didn't make much of a distinction between "Dallas" and "Fort Worth."  I lost my Texas accent very quickly.

Later that school year I had my appendix out. By then my classmates had forgotten I was practically from Dallas, and I got a lot of handmade get-well cards. It was years before I self-identified as a Texas again.

For those of us who lived through it, that pocket universe still exists just a half step away from the real world, capable of being unlocked by a date on the calendar the way December 7 was for my dad's generation, and 9-11 is for so many of us alive today.

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