Saturday, November 22, 2008

JFK's Death: It Changed Everything

On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. No one then alive can forget where they were when they heard the news. The shock and sorrow of that event and the three subsequent days became embedded in the national consciousness.

Images of the funeral, the boy's salute, the widow's composure, these are tucked away but never forgotten.

Here you will find the story of those four days in November when a nation stopped to mourn.

JFK's Death Still Hurts Us, Still Haunts Us

Detroit Free Press - November 22, 1983:

It changed everything.

Twenty years ago on a Friday afternoon in Dallas, the bullet that killed President John F. Kennedy lodged itself in America's heart.

It is still there.

The angry scar tissue has never healed the hurt, nor closed the wound that brought an end to the era of the American Dream and the American Hero.

The moment is still alive in my mind. So vivid it's as if I'm once again standing over the Associated Press news wire machine with clattering keys and clanging emergency bells exploding in my ears. The newsroom swam before my eyes in a numbing moment of dizziness, fright and tears.

If you were of the age of reason then, you probably had your own moment of fear, doubt, hopelessness. Maybe even a frightened few seconds, as I had, when you feared, quite possibly, that the world was coming to an end.

The world didn't, but worlds of things did.

The end of innocence

Our national innocence ended.

We didn't know it, but the American Hero was dead and the American Dream was over with the bullet in Dallas.

How vulnerable we seemed at that moment. We sensed that nothing would ever be the same again, and we were right.

It changed our national attitude.

We were invincible, argumentative among ourselves, but united and comfortable in our role as the best nation in the world, the savior nation.

Our symbol was this Hollywood-handsome, intelligent, humorous, rich, sophisticated young president with a pretty wife, cute kids and a large loving family.

He had our confidence, admiration and a love few before him had enjoyed. We knew the country was in great hands.

Regardless of party affiliation, whether you were Catholic or not, whether you liked his show business friends or father's past, John Kennedy looked liked this country's best chance, maybe ever.

I remember this country thinking John Kennedy was a pretty sensational fellow. We liked his youth, his vigor. He'd faced some hard problems, he'd come down on the side of right and he certainly seemed to be leading us toward attainable goals.

I'm prejudiced. John Kennedy was the first president I actively supported and worked hard to see elected, first one I really cared about and felt close to, could identify with.

It was also as if a part of my family -- a favorite relative -- had been killed. Eisenhower was somebody else's grandfather. Nixon was someone's uncle I didn't like. Johnson was the sort of backroom politician you couldn't warm up to.

Kennedy's shooting changed a lot of us. It changed our media habits overnight. For four days, the nation watched television. Freeze-framed forever -- in black and white: Jackie's blood-spattered dress. Oswald shot in the hallway. The riderless horse in the funeral procession. John-John saluting. Television took over our lives after that.

But nagging my mind forever is one question: Would this American Hero have led us all to that American Dream of world peace and prosperity?

John Kennedy -- memories that won't go away, questions that go unanswered.

~ Bob Talbert
(1936 - 1999)


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