November 22nd is a date that causes me to linger for a moment or two whenever I look at a calendar. I think back to that Friday afternoon sitting in Mr. Ballard’s math class at David Millard Junior High School, in Asheville, North Carolina. The principal came on the intercom and told us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. The rumors and guessing began almost immediately. Was the story true? Had the President been wounded? Was he dead? We could not believe that the reports we were hearing were true. Soon enough we learned that they were. I was sitting in art class when the teacher left the room for a minute or two only to return with tears in her eyes. She did not have to tell us anything more. The principal’s voice returned on the intercom and told us all to go home to be with our families. All of this was difficult for a 12 year old boy to fathom. What happens now?
Commenting on a previous anniversary of that portentous event, Walter Shapiro reminded us that “memories of that terrible weekend are an inescapable part of who I am today.” I look at the calendar today and I have to agree with him. They are impossible memories to erase. On that day 51 years ago the America we had come to know became a little less recognizable, and we are all the poorer for it.
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