Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you on Nov. 22, 1963

I was on the playground of Redeemer Lutheran School in Tucson, Arizona.  Our class had finished eating lunch and some of us were out shooting baskets on a sunny afternoon.

One of our fellow students shouted out from a classroom door, "The President has been shot!"  We rushed back to class where each room had a small black and white television.  Our teacher led us in a prayer.  I remember praying real hard that President Kennedy would be OK.  Then we heard the announcement from broadcaster Walter Cronkite that the President was dead.

My 11 year old mind couldn't believe it.  Who would want to kill the President? He was young and good looking.  He had a pretty wife.  I'd heard that he was athletic.  I figured he'd make a great dad.  Why would anyone want to hurt him?

Like most Americans, my family and I spent that weekend glued to the television.  We watched the events as they played out in Washington.  I remember seeing a Mass for Kennedy and wondering why it was so different from our church service at Redeemer on Sunday morning.  I wished I could have been in that line that slowly walked through the Capitol rotunda so I could pay my respects.  And I watched Kennedy's funeral.  I'll never forget the look of profound sadness on Mrs. Kennedy's face and I felt sad for Caroline and John who had lost their father.

I also remember being afraid.  If something like this could happen to the President, then what about me or my family?

When my dear, sweet wife and I lived in South Carolina, our next door neighbor had been a long time friend of the Kennedy family and served the President during his 1000 days in the White House.  My friend was absolutely convinced that had the Kennedy presidency continued, there would have been no Vietnam War.  "My lives would have been saved," he said, "had Kennedy lived."

I guess now we'll never know.