There are dates that change one’s universe and that is no understatement. September 11, 2001, December 7, 1941, and November 22, 1963….
This is a date that lives vividly in my memory.
In 1963, I was in college.
It was a simpler much more naive time. It’s hard now to believe how isolated we were in those pre-cable news days. The college campus and its environs constituted my world, and that small planet ended at the local movie theaters.
It was November and Thanksgiving was around the corner, with a well appreciated break coming from the usual round of studying, tests, and college life.
In many ways John Kennedy was a distant figure, as presidents were then. Real only in the sense that he appeared on television but far and away, as presidents had been from the time of George Washington on. That he would be killed or even could be killed was far from my mind. I don’t even remember hearing that he would be in Dallas, Texas.
On Friday November 22, 1963, I was crossing the Quad on campus going to a scheduled biology laboratory session, when someone grabbed my arm and said “the President’s been shot.”
It didn’t even sink in. “What president, where– how “– my mind couldn’t grasp it.
Our professor, an older gentleman, refused to cancel our laboratory and as the news went from bad to worse and we learned, hunched over our microscopes, that Kennedy had died. It was hard to focus on the task at hand.
The next few days were a blur, my still shocked parents retrieved me from college and I remember going to a memorial service for the dead president. I suppose we had a Thanksgiving dinner but do not remember it.
Then another shock, watching live television, Jack Ruby killed Lee Harvey Oswald – the accused killer of the president.
There are dates that change one’s universe.
November 22, 1963, for me personally, would lead to flying combat missions in Vietnam and a loss of close friends, but that is a story for another time….
For the nation , it began a period of upheaval in American life that still haunts us today, 50 years later.