I was in seventh grade at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Toledo, Ohio. I remember the announcements over the public address system, first that President Kennedy had been shot and then Walter Cronkite’s announcement that the president had died. I remember being so upset and frightened that I couldn’t sleep that night. I can still hear the muffled drums of the funeral procession and the note that cracked during the playing of “Taps. I can still envision the televised image of Black Jack, the riderless stallion with boots reversed in the stirrups in honor of a fallen warrior.
I’ve been trying to decide how to describe what that day meant, but found an article by Bill Flanagan on CBS News that does a better job than I can.
I think that November 22 was the day that my parents’ generation and mine changed and began to grow apart. Before the end of the decade, mine decided, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” and “If it feels good, do it.”
Unlike my father’s “Greatest Generation” who fought “The Good War” those returning from service in Viet Nam were spit upon and called “baby killers.”
On the day that Kennedy died, as Flanagan says, my parents’ generation stopped feeling young. I’d add that my generation no longer enjoyed the innocence of youth, felt betrayed and began to become cynical.
Eventually, the generations reconciled, and both were probably better for it. However, I wonder from my own selfish perspective, how my life might have felt had that day been just a normal day in November.