What were you doing at about 12:20 p.m. on the 22nd of November, 1963?
I had just settled in on the floor in front of the trusty black and white TV?set in a house in Graettinger, freshly home from a morning session of Kindergarten. I’d had a tasty lunch, and was ready to watch a few cartoons, then who knew? I?might hop on the bicycle for a spin around the neighborhood.
Cartoons had just started, as I recall, Bart’s Clubhouse, on KEYC TV, channel 12. The cartoon had only begun when suddenly the screen went blank, and there was this older fellow, I?remembered him from the news at night, talking about the chaotic scene in Dallas Texas.
At that point, all I?knew was I?wanted my cartoons back.
They didn’t come back on that day.
You see, that was the day that some historians say “Camelot”?died – for those more realistic and frank, it was the day when an assassin’s bullets cut down President John F. Kennedy as he rode through Dallas in a motorcade on a sunny afternoon.
Being five years old, I?really didn’t quite grasp the whole concept of the assassination of a President; I understood he had died, and that meant there would be a funeral. I?didn’t know, to me, funerals required getting dressed up on a day other than Sunday and going to church, and people cried.
Simplistic, but at the age of five, and in 1963, our society was not as cutting-edge as it is today.
In the ensuing years, the assassination became part of history classes, and we would sometimes discuss it. Strange as it may seem, I?recall one year in high school speech, the Warren Commission Report on the Assassination of President John Kennedy was on the book review list. The Speech Coach, Mr. Gilger, challenged me to read that thing and review it for speech contest – and I?did. Got a Division I rating at District and State contests, and then, with college looming ahead, the events of November 22, 1963 took a back seat in my attention.
But in the mid-2000’s, my sister, brother-in-law and a friend had a chance to take a three-day whirlwind trip to Dallas. We flew into Dallas/Fort Worth Airport, rented a car, and set off to see the sights.
We spent part of a morning going downtown, and we ended up at The Sixth Floor Museum. In the day, the museum was the infamous Texas School Book Depository Building, where it is alleged that Lee Harvey Oswald set up his sniper’s nest and fired the shots that killed President Kennedy.
The Sixth Floor Museum is just as the name implies. Filling the entire sixth floor of the building, displays with historic photos, memorabilia, and original packing boxes that were in the building the day of the assassination are on display. There are several videos, a short movie featuring the famous Zapruder film, which caught the actual moment the shots struck the President.
But the highlight of the Sixth Floor Museum is found in a corner of the floor. Glassed off from the public, the corner appears as it did that 22nd of November, 1963. A crude wall of stacked book boxes, between the window and the rest of the floor, to give a shooter a measure of cover from anyone on the floor. the window, partially open, has been sealed over on the exterior of the building, but can still be seen through, giving those looking at the display the same vantage point of the street in front of Dealey Plaza and the triple underpass along the infamous grassy knoll.
The effect is, to say the least, guaranteed to send a chill down ones’ spine if they remember the events of that day. For a moment, as I stood there looking, my mind drifted back to an ordinary day in the life of a five-year-old. I was seeing images at that moment, just as I?had on TV back in 1963 – and it was both thrilling and a bit unsettling.
That’s just one of the points of history I’ve lived through, much like the first Moon landing, and yet, many people took last Friday for granted – there was little meaning to them of the day, other than some words in a history book.
In our society, we all too often get so wrapped up in who won what game or what political party said what, that we lose sight of our history. It’ s part of our nation’s heritage, who we are, what we are as a country.
It would be my earnest hope that no matter how much more complex our society becomes, that we as a people never lose sight of such pieces of our past. The history of a country and its people are priceless – a treasure that can never fully be re-created once it is gone.