Fifty Years


Photo from the John F. Kennedy Library Archives

The most appalling commemoration of the assassination this Friday might well be the auctioning of JFK artifacts.  Fifty years after, we have come to this:  selling off the sad residue of a magical time.

“The sale will begin at 3 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Nov. 22 with an autographed Warren Report, AP wire bulletins from the days surrounding the President Kennedy’s death, the Wall Street ticker tape from the day of the shooting and unique collections of photos of JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy by renowned photographers Jacques Lowe and Hy Peskin.” >Read more 

I was a ninth-grader on that terrible day.  As we prepared to go home at the end of that Friday, we were assembled for the awful truth: the president had been killed in Dallas, just an hour before.  One of the lone Catholics in  my class, I had been an arch Kennedy supporter.  This was my president.  How could this have happened?  My  family had personal connections to the Kennedys.  My parents had even gone to a Harvard/Yale game with the then-senator.  In addition, my grandmother had prayed for the post-war John Kennedy at St. Edward’s Church in Palm Beach because “He looked so thin when he came back from the War.”

As we all did, my family was glued to the black and white TV that weekend.  We saw Jack Ruby shoot Oswald in the Dallas police station, (the Dallas police station !); JFK, Jr  lifting his three-year-old hand in salute; white horses drawing the casket. We heard: the Navy Hymn; the thurm thurm THURM of the drums;  Taps played, one note off.  It was all from central casting:  the elegance;  the ritual;  the glorious assembly from 92 countries around the world.

But somehow it was true.

It was the day the music died.  JFK had brought personal involvement and such optimism to politics, especially after the older, duller Eisenhower years.  The First Lady, young and beautiful, refurbished the White House to historical grandeur and then gave the nation a tour of the results. The New Frontier seemed limitless.   Afterwards the bloodbath:  JFK;  Martin Luther King, Jr; RFK; disillusionment replaced all that hope.

Like everyone else, my family spent the weekend watching history in the making on our black and white TV. There were so many poignant, memorable moments created by Jackie as she orchestrated a state funeral based on Lincoln’s funeral. We saw Black Jack, the riderless horse;   Jackie and Caroline kissing the casket; Jackie and Bobby, hand-in-hand, walking through the streets of Washington;  Cardinal Cushing asking God to take “Dear Jack” heavenward;  Jackie, in her voluminous black veil, lighting the eternal flame.

Those of us who were watching will never forget.

Nor should we.



About the Author

My ocean physicist husband and I raised two wonderful sons, my proudest accomplishment. For many years I taught writing at a university, my job of a lifetime, and worked as a freelance writer for local publications. I am an ocean girl, sometimes profane, who loves animals, reading, and creative projects. I am curious about nearly everything. Loyal and caring, I make a good friend.

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  1. Thank you Leslie. What a poignant, powerful piece. You put into words what so many of us can not. It is very meaningful to read of your family’s personal experience.

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