Launching a newly designed Blog on this historical anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In the days to come, I will write of the progress on my book, the books I've been reading and enjoying which I will share with you, the menu and guest list for Thanksgiving, health-related news, and the fact that I am accepting private vocal students starting in mid-January. Stay tuned.
On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK, so many of us remember the precise moment we heard the dreadful news ....
The presidential election of 1960 was the first one in which I was eligible to participate having reached the age requirement of 21 years. During the campaign between the dashingly-handsome JFK and the sour-faced Richard Milhous Nixon, I walked jauntily down Fifth Avenue on my lunch hour (the office where I labored as a secretary was at 666 Fifth) proudly wearing the largest JFK For President button I could find.
I'd been prepped for the privilege of exercising my right to vote by my Mother who persuaded me to volunteer at the Town Hall on the day in the 1952 Presidential election when Americans had the choice of either the Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower or the Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson. My assignments involved running up and down stairs most of that hectic day, delivering information of one kind or another to staff and other volunteers scattered throughout the building. Former General Eisenhower claimed the majority of the votes by a substantial margin. My Mother was happy: General Eisenhower's accomplishments and decisions as Supreme Allied Commander during the Second World War had become legendary. The Republican Party was guaranteed a victory in the election with him as their candidate.
In 1960, I was thrilled at the thought that I had helped elect a new, young, vigorous liberal Democrat who not only espoused a philosophy I admired, but added to my sense of pride because of his birth in New England, the cradle of liberty as we like to call it around here. He almost immediately implemented a policy of holding live press conferences which were watched by millions who'd had limited access to President Eisenhower's briefings which were sporadic at best, during which the President appeared stiff and uncomfortable in front of the tv cameras. Now suddenly we were witnessing a young man at ease with the press, able to cope with tough questions of policy while displaying eloquence and keen sense of humor.
The fact that JFK also brought a stylish, intelligent, graceful First Lady into The White House added to our sense that the Kennedy's would enhance the image of America which had seemed stuffy and somewhat dowdy in the previous administration. Millions of us admired JFK to the point of idolatry.
I was a late riser, so when the telephone rang at approximately 1:30 PM on Friday, November 22, 1963, I was just about to amble to the kitchen for the orange juice and coffee. My good friend Bob Bonis told me the President had been shot and that his death had just been confirmed by CBS reporter Walter Cronkite. I leapt out of bed and ran into the living-room to turn the tv on. There was Mr. C choking back tears as he struggled to make the official announcement. I remember falling into a chair as I too wept. I do not remember much else about what I did the rest of that day, whether I had anything to eat, or if I left my apartment at all. I remember telephone conversations with friends equally stricken. I must have had a drink because I usually had some scotch on hand.
The next few days the nation watched tv transmissions of the funeral procession, the casket lying in State under the Capitol Dome while mourners shuffled past, Jackie Kennedy and her children ... the rider-less black horse ... Bobby and Ted Kennedy walking with Jackie behind the flag-draped coffin ... I remember it all so vividly that I cannot watch any of the commemorative proceedings today. I feel the same stab of pain and disbelief, the anger and grief, as visceral as if the horror just occured. It's too disturbing for me to watch those scenes preserved on film and video tape. I don't want to relive those dreadful days. And so I won't. I can't.