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54 Years Ago (11/22/63)

Updated on November 23, 2017

54 years ago, I was 9 years old. I was in class like many other days. One of the priests walked in, apologized for interrupting class, and whispered something to our nun. Momentarily, she told us that the president of the United States had been shot.

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The adults were shocked, we kids were stunned, and everyone was trying to figure out how this could have happened. A TV was rolled into the room so we could watch the event unfold and, too soon, we learned that President Kennedy had been pronounced dead in Dallas.

We had seen him briefly in person earlier that year in a motorcade on El Cajon Boulevard. Students from our school had been bussed up to greet him as he drove by. It was a day with lots of smiles, American flags waving proudly, and general jubilation. And now this day in class was somber, confusing, tearful, and ultimately resulted in three or four of the saddest days that I think this nation has ever gone through. It was like America stopped breathing.


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There are still, and always will be, unanswered questions, and many of us will continue to debate what really happened, and why, and none of us will likely ever have absolute proof one way or the other. All we can know for sure is that our president was taken from us by a hateful and evil action.

We hoped it wouldn’t happen again, that it was a freak, unique event, but it was rudely followed by the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobby Kennedy over the next few, short years. So it was that our world turned askew and we realized the hard way that anything is possible, even in America; good things…horrible things. To this day, we are provided with instances of both again and again in some kind of sick and unwelcome balance.

9 years ago I was 54 and recognizing that old age was approaching. Once having presented itself, that feeling did not diminish. I now welcome being alive each and every day, despite occasional, almost overwhelming, sadness. It seems that the longer I survive with pleasant, worthwhile memories, there are also more and more unfortunate recollections that refuse to and, in some cases, maybe should not be forgotten. Still, I press on, trying to focus on keeping hope alive.

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