- Posted October 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
When you heard JFK was killed
That cool fall day
The horizons were unlimited in 1960. I was entranced by the Mercury Program and dreamed of being an astronaut. There was a feeling of great pride and satisfaction that we had our first Catholic President. We felt validated finally. People were heeding the President’s appeal for physical fitness. Technology began to change. And then it all shattered that Friday, like the glass in a picture frame.
It was the first weekend that the entire country stopped and gathered around the television set. That’s commonplace now but it was a novelty then. My Cub Scout meeting was cancelled. The grownups all milled around and went up to each other and conversed in quiet tones. The latest revelations from Dallas were shared back and forth. And then, Sunday, Oswald was gunned down on live TV. Monday was the funeral with all its heartrending imagery.
It’s probably mythology that the event somehow broke a path and shunted us down a blacker trail. It is us looking back and choosing to date the decline from that moment. The seeds of restlessness and discontent were already in the air. Still, there is the feeling that if JFK had lived, some of the big mistakes that came later on might not have been made.
Later I would sign up at the local office to work as a kid volunteer for RFK’s 1968 campaign. Two days later he was dead. By the end of 1968 I turned away from politics and never could bring myself to engage with it until many years later. 1968 had been so ugly I couldn’t bring myself to participate any more.
We did get to the moon in 1969; I was thrilled. I never became an astronaut. As I look back at the old photos now it is hard not to feel that somehow, something broke that day. It was the autumn not only of the Kennedy presidency but the autumn of an American life that was probably going to change because it had to, compared to life today it was a better life, but not for everyone. That was what had to change. Mostly what I hate is the chronic persistent cynicism that has overtaken us since November 22, 1963. I wish we could return to what we were then, an America that believed in itself, believed it could solve any problem, and whose horizons were unlimited.
JFK was a hero of mine then; he still is a hero to me. Despite his flaws his was a heroic life. His speeches were written with the presumption that we aspired to be better and that we would reach the bar no matter how high it was set. He never minimized the dangers of the new world but he was convinced that in the end we had the power to contain them. He reminded us that is was our job, not his, to keep the democracy and the American idea alive.