Remembering JFK, the Sunday News & President Kennedy
November 21, 2013
November 21, 2013
Photo credit: Cecil Stoughton/John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
I love Sunday mornings for many reasons – among them the morning news and talk shows, a rare time to sit in PJs with coffee, the papers (yes, old school) and the remote to surf among the shows. Unless you’re under a rock, you know that we are approaching the 50th Anniversary of JFK's assassination. Like many, I am old enough (and was young enough) to remember the day vividly as a sixth grader at The Calhoun School on the Upper West Side in New York City (this will be relevant later).
Our school was in a brownstone and so gym class was held outside at near-by Riverside Park. As we climbed the hill out of the park to head back to school, passers-by were running and screaming that the President had been shot. I remember it as if it were yesterday. I had a plaid jumper on and my camel hair coat, with Mary Janes of course. My best friend (still to this day) and I grabbed each other as our teacher led us quickly back to school. Back then, emergency preparedness meant you hid under your desks – we all had yellow and black fall-out shelter signs on the walls of our classrooms – just in case the Bomb hit during the school day. Of course, on this day we were all sent home immediately.
At home, my parents tried to protect my brother and me from the horror and shock, as they themselves fought back tears. No one had any experience with this, least of all the Greatest Generation, merrily building their families after WWII. Our outlook on life and the world was changed forever. I couldn't sleep at all that night. I had a terrible stomach ache, and of course nothing was on TV except the news and the replay of the day's horrible events. My mom, like all women of her generation, worried about Jackie. Why was she still in the now famous blood-stained pink Chanel suit? School was cancelled as we awaited the televised funeral, LBJ's swearing in, and word of Lee Harvey Oswald. By Sunday morning – 50 years of Sundays ago – we were eating our breakfast in PJs while watching TV (old habits don't die) as men in suits and fedoras surrounded a skinny, scared looking guy being moved. All of a sudden a man steps forward and shoots Oswald right before our eyes. My husband Bill Stein, having November 25th as his birthday, remembers that week always being clouded by trauma, never quite a time for personal celebration.
Years later that same best friend and I would rush to the Collegiate School just a few blocks away to see Jackie Kennedy and Secret Service pick up John-John (as he was fondly called) from school. Years later, still enchanted by the Kennedys and all they stood for, I rode an elevator with young John as he began his legal career. I would eventually get to meet him in Representative Kevin Honan's office, as the statue of his father was unveiled next to the Massachusetts State House. You see, we all longed to touch and connect to any part of Camelot that we could retain.
We lost this young charismatic, brilliant leader who told us that the torch had been passed to us – a new generation. What a heavy responsibility. Just look at the photos of Mamie and Dwight Eisenhower next to Jackie and Jack Kennedy to see what I mean.
Today, and for this week, as I reflect on the imperative of impatience of my generation, I know it was formed on that day – 50 years ago. Life is short we learned. The world needed to change, we were told, and we needed to change it as the time was ours. My good friend, Tom McNaught, now head of the JFK Library Foundation (who has led the planning for an incredible week of activity to honor the former president) said this has been his North Star for as long as he can remember. And, I think, for an entire generation.
Rep. Kevin Honan, John F. Kennedy Jr., & Helene Solomon