November 22

There is something synchronistic in the fact that tomorrow, the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, occurs on the same day of the week that the actual event occurred. It was a Friday.

CBSNewsbulletinI was in the fifth grade at Hemet Elementary in Mrs. Peyton’s class. We were all sitting there working on what subject I don’t remember when the principal, Mr. Elliott, came in and said, “There’s something on television I think you need to see.” Mrs. Peyton asked, “Channel 13?” Channel 13 being the Los Angeles independent station that in those days carried educational programming during the day, and on which we had our Spanish lessons. Mr. Elliot replied, “Two, four or seven,” the CBS, NBC, and ABC affiliate stations. Mrs. Peyton turned the TV on Channel 2. The screen showed the static CBS news bulletin slide and we heard Walter Cronkite’s voice telling us that something had happened somewhere. It took a couple of minutes for us to figure out what had happened.

November 22 is my Dad’s birthday. (Happy birthday, Dad!) He and my mother had plans to go into San Bernardino to see a play. They went as scheduled, and my brother and I spent the night at my grandparents as planned. As expected, the performance was cancelled and the box office was handing out refunds. But my parents let us stay with Grandma and Grandpa as planned (one of our favorite things to do), and we learned about that in the morning.

After the period of mourning, the lying in state of the body, the procession with the riderless horse, and the funeral mass we eventually returned to some semblance of normal. Shortly after that, the questions started coming. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone? Was there a conspiracy? If so, who was responsible? The mob? Disaffected Cubans? The Soviets? Did Oswald have the marksmanship skills to hit both the president and Governor Connally? Was there a gunman on the grassy knoll? Those questions persist today.

One popular book recently published presents the thesis that there were a lot of things that made people believe there was a conspiracy. The killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. The destruction of the president’s medical records. Mistakes made in the Warren Commission investigation and in who was allowed to be interviewed. Yet the author maintains there probably was no conspiracy.

We will never know. Questions will remain unanswered. And for those of us who remember that tragic day there will never be full closure.


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