November 22, 1963 The Day America Stood Still.... A Place in History
History teaches us and hopefully we learn. One man brought our country to its knees and today millions have that same capability
Up until that day in November, many of us lived an idyllic life. We went to work and to school. Mom's stayed home and baked bread and cookies and did the laundry on Monday and the ironing on Tuesday. We left our doors unlocked and in the hot, summer months, often we slept outside. We really didnt live in fear. We felt safe and secure and had faith that our country's leaders would guide us thru anything and that nothing bad or evil could ever touch any of us. Important things were measured not by things political, but by what affected us in our daily lives.
All of that changed November 22, 1963 and our country would never again take for granted that our leaders were above the fray. It was simply incomprehensible to most of us that a young, vibrant, full of life president, could have been killed.
We werent to fully understand or wrap our heads around what had really happened that day in Dallas and for many, it would take decades before we realized what such a violent loss meant to our country.
Politics dont enter in this. Not for me anyway. And this was more than just about the man or the president. It was about the way our world began changing.
My generation all has the same basic story. We were in school. We heard the crackle of the public address system as the principals voice relayed what had happened in Dallas. We went home early and we sat, with our parents and families, in front of our black and white televisions for the next 4 days and watched, still reeling from what had happened, as Jacqueline Kennedy buried her husband.
Time stood still those 4 days. Nothing was on television except events leading up to the funeral. If you had wanted to look away and watch something else, you couldnt. But I dont know anyone who did. It was much like a train wreck or a car accident. You couldnt stop watching. Images are time-stamped in our minds of the events and happenings of those 4 days.
We watched as Kennedy's casket was laid in the exact same place that Abraham Lincoln's had lain, 100 years earlier. Many of us, at that time, were unaware that Mrs. Kennedy, in her grief, had overseen the minutest of details for this state funeral. With a strong nod toward history, tradition, the military and his Catholic religion, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was laid to rest.
For me one of the most touching moments was watching the foreign heads of state, led by French President, Charles De Gaulle, marching in the funeral procession behind Mrs. Kennedy, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy. Perhaps it was the devotion they felt to our young president and the fact that they proudly walked up Connecticut Avenue that touched me so much. I remember so well the adulation the French people, especially President De Gaulle, showered on both the Kennedys, but especially Mrs. Kennedy. These were world leaders. Men of power. They had come to pay their respect and show their admiration and maybe even love to the American people. In 4 days of memories, this is one that never diminishes for me.
At the Requiem Mass, Pie Jesu and the Ave Maria were played after the offertory. It is said that during the playing of those two hymns, Jackie Kennedy broke down and sobbed. Who wouldnt?
She was a very strong inspiration to women all over the world, especially young girls, like me. My own Dad was dying from cancer and would lose his fight in May of the next year. Watching how Jackie Kennedy handled herself was a good tutorial on how to behave when all you really want to do is throw yourself on top of the casket and sob your heart out. She didnt and so I didnt.
Thank you, Jackie, for showing the rest of the world how dignified we Americans can be when faced with ultimate grief.
John Kennedy embodied all that was good about America in those days. To me, it matters not who killed him or why, or which political party he represented. It only mattered that he was gone and with him went a way of life.
We will never again be that innocent.
We lost something much bigger than our president that day, fifty two years ago. We lost our trust.
JFK Inaugural Address
"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.
And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world, ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own."