Wednesday, November 20, 2013

remembering JFK

All over the web and even newspapers that I read, people have been posting their memories of learning of the assassination of JFK. Except in LJ. Well, I'd been thinking of writing on this anyway, and I'd better do it now, because by Friday the topic will feel stale already. (Besides, I have something else appropriate for then.)

I recall as a child feeling annoyed at the media assumption that everybody remembered where they were at Pearl Harbor, because some of us were not around then. The open invitations to post memories of JFK's assassination must be equally annoying to anyone younger than I am, and I'm not young. I was six at the time, and that's about as young as it's possible to remember such things. It's not my earliest memory, but it's my earliest precisely dateable one.

Kennedy was shot at 10:30 AM our time, and his death was announced an hour later, but nobody had a radio in our school, so the news didn't arrive instantly. I must have gone off for lunch, either home or with a bag lunch to a far corner of the schoolyard to be by myself (as socializing with my peers was my lowest priority throughout my school years), because what I remember is coming back to the playground area and finding everyone standing around in clumps, rather than off playing. I asked what had happened.

I knew this was big news - I couldn't remember the last time there was a change in President - but what I could not grasp at all was the enormity* of it. I knew who the President was, but I didn't know enough to have any particular feelings about him, nor did I have the emotional experience to be shocked by assassination. What did draw my attention was a self-irritation at the fact that, although I knew that, if the President dies, the Vice President succeeds him, I could not remember or did not know the current Vice President's name. I felt I ought to have known that, and, ever since, I have kept up to date on such things. It is still typical of me to be drawn to such fine points.

Naturally, I spent the weekend in minor annoyance at the pre-emption of my favorite TV shows. All right, this was a big deal, but did it have to be on all the channels?

But one grows up quickly. It was not much more than a year later that Churchill died, and, while I'm not sure I had ever heard of him before, and he was, in any case, full of years, I was by that time equipped to appreciate what a momentous passage this was. (And I remember avidly reading about it in the newspapers: this tells me that I was already reading newspapers at seven, which I was apparently not - though I could and did read - at six.) If you wanted me to actually feel stunned by a tragic event, the assassinations five years after JFK's did that.

*And yes, I'm using that word correctly. Look it up.

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