It's just so hard to believe.
So much water under the bridge, yet we who lived through that time have a hard time dealing with the fact that it was a half century ago and the majority of the people who are living in the United States now were either too young to remember or weren't even born yet.
I was in sixth grade and was just coming out of the cafeteria at Grant Elementary School in Murray. I was happy because it was Friday and Thanksgiving was coming up the next week.
As I walked out my best friend Gary Dunn who was in the other sixth grade class was in line to get lunch. He said to me "Rick, Kennedy has been shot."
Being the time of year it was (pheasant hunting season) I was thinking he had been shot while hunting. Now I realize how naïve that idea was, but a 12 year old's view of the world was very narrow.
As I walked down the hall I heard that the only television in the school had been pushed into Mrs. Lindsey's fourth grade classroom and teachers and students were in there watching the news reports. I went in and saw Mrs. Lindsey, who had taught me fourth grade and was one of my favorite teachers, in tears. It was at that time that I learned the President was dead and had been killed by an assassin.
The Principal dismissed school not long after that (everyone at my school walked to the campus) and I walked home with some friends.
When I got there my mom was glued to the television and right after my dad walked in the house. He came home because one of my uncles who worked with my dad on our dairy farm had heard about it and told him. He was always a very strong Republican, but when he came in he had that proverbial "White as a Ghost" look and tears in his eyes.
Knowing how he felt about Kennedy I was surprised (again a stupid 12 year old). I asked him why he was crying and he said "He is our President." My mom then explained to me that the whole thing could be the start of a revolution or a coup.
I spent the next four days glued to the television and watched the whole thing including the funeral on television. I still cannot get the drums at the funeral procession out of my head 50 years later. I hear them strongly every year on Nov. 22. I can't remember exactly how scared I was, but I know it was traumatizing. Maybe more so than 9-11 because I was so young.
Each year after I kept thinking "Gee, it's been that long?"
So now, five decades later is so hard to think of that time and imagine it really was part of my life. So many of the people I knew the best are now gone. Those were the people I loved and cried with during that time.
Next to the Thanksgiving right after my mother passed away just before the holiday in 1991, that Thanksgiving was the worst one I have ever experienced.
But more than the pain and shock was the disbelief. That held me as a kid for the longest time.
As the 60s progressed and the country changed so much it was hard for me to figure. I went from being a kid to a teenager seeing the assassination of Martin Luther King and then Robert Kennedy. I watched LBJ go from what seemed a peace loving president to a guy who picked out the targets for U.S. Aircraft to hit in Vietnam daily.
I realize now, years later, that had JFK lived he would probably not been considered as great a president as he is in death. The social upheavals and the Vietnam war would have taken their toll on him too. And the fact he was very sick, a thing few people knew, would have made it worse.
Yet, even knowing the times, the what ifs still hang on in my mind. How would he have handled things differently? Would he have been as good a domestic policy president as LBJ was and just as bad an international relations president as the Texan was.
Hard to tell, but the fact his family seems to have had a pall hanging over them from the time Joe Kennedy was killed in World War II until John Jr., was killed in a plane wreck in 1999.
On thinking about it that is now almost 15 years ago and that tragedy seems almost like yesterday too.
Time just moves too fast, and then you realize that it has passed.