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Friday, November 22, 2013

A Child's Perspective on November 22, 1963

   I remember the day our president died.
 I was sitting at my desk, cutting a pilgrim hat from black construction paper. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Tullis, was taping the hats, and some paper turkeys, to the window that looked out on the playground. My school was one of those old country school houses, with three classrooms, and a cafeteria that doubled as a library. The third grade teacher, who was also the principal, called Mrs. Tullis, and the second grade teacher out of class. I looked out the door and saw the three of them crying. I had lost my grandfather six months earlier, and knew when grownups cried like that, it must be something bad.
 Mrs. Tullis walked back into the classroom and announced President Kennedy had been shot. I don't think she said he had been killed. Maybe she didn't know yet.
 They released us from school, and I walked home with my brothers.
 My mom was crying when we got home. She, like most homemakers that day, were watching As The World Turns, when the news broke. It was the saddest day, and we watched it over and over on our black and white TV.
 As children, we had no idea, of the fear and uncertainties the country was facing. We knew it happened in Texas, but not that the rest of the country hated us. I asked why Oswald did it, and was told he was a Communist. Then, we saw Jack Ruby kill Oswald on television, and knew our questions would never be answered.

 It was different time. We prayed and sang Jesus Loves Me, before saying the Pledge of Allegiance, every morning at school, and no one complained. We were taught to respect our elders and honor our leaders. We loved our president. Even most adults hadn't heard all the negative rumors about JFK. Sometimes, I wish I still hadn't heard. I know it's a good thing, freedom of the press and all that. We have a right to know the truth. But, do we really need to know everything? It was nice having a hero in President Kennedy. I loved looking at the Life magazine photos of him and Jackie. I wanted to be Caroline. I had a Caroline Kennedy doll. I remember being upset that Jackie had to move out of the White House. I didn't know she was rich and could live anywhere. I saw her as the widow of my hero, pitiful, sad and deserving.
 We watched the funeral procession, the flag draped casket pulled down the street on a horse drawn wagon, all day. We saw little John John's salute as it happened. And then, it was over...until 1968.


 

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A wife, mother, and spoiler of small dogs, I grew up in a small West Texas town, with my eyes full of sand, and my heart full of joy.


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