- Posted October 22, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
When you heard JFK was killed
November 22, 1963 -50 years on
- dsashin, CNN iReport producer
I wrote an essay (titled above). I have printed it below. It sums up what I feel about that day some 50 years later.
November 22, 1963 – Fifty Years On
Exactly one-half century ago today, President John F. Kennedy was shot to death as he rode next to his wife in an open Presidential limousine. He had been smiling and waiving to an excited crowd of ordinary citizens who had come to catch a glimpse of their youthful, vibrant leader. The events of that dark, dastardly day in downtown Dallas are forever seared in the memory of every American old enough to recall what happened on November 22, 1963. The words of newscaster Harry Reasoner, a matter of fact journalist who folksy manner would make him an extraordinarily unique figure in this 21st Century, still ring true to this day. Late in the afternoon of that sorrowful day, Mr. Reasoner told those watching the CBS telecast that everyone who was listening would “remember, for the rest of their lives, exactly where they were and what they were doing the moment they heard that President Kennedy had been shot.”
The collective consciousness of Americans old enough to remember has been haunted by two unanswerable questions- “Who killed JFK?” and “What if he lived?” Fifty years on, it is time to relieve ourselves of this burden and proclaim that we will no longer ask these questions. We make this declaration, taking this somewhat painful but necessary step, to better honor the lasting memory of our 35th President and to recall his accomplishments untroubled by any further attempts to figure out what we will never know.
We have asked “Who killed JFK?” over and over and over again. Authors, journalists and philosophers explain that we ask this question, in part, because we have great difficulty accepting or we simply refuse to accept the proposition that our world was thrown upside down by the sole act of a pathetic, insignificant man who represented the poorest excuse for a human being. We perceive that this horrific event must have been the result of some malevolent, sinister force of great dimension. It is as if we could better accept the grief spawned by the assassination only if there was an all encompassing, absolutely evil explanation behind President Kennedy’s murder.
We ask “Who killed JFK?” in the face of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt, yet not to an absolute certainty, due to our inability to make sense of a senseless act and to somehow come to grips with what happened. Age and wisdom has better helped us understand that, as we have gone through life, we have encountered many irrational and unexplainable events, whether on a personal or communal level. This wisdom gained through experience now gives us the ability to abandon our plaintive query seeking an answer to what we will never know.
We have also asked many, many times “What if he lived?” prophesying a new world that never came to pass. Our eternal quest for a better tomorrow, that we see beyond the horizon, but never quite attain, motivates us to keep asking this question. We assume that we would have enjoyed halcyon days filled with peaceful tranquility if only the assassination did not occur. Surely we now recognize that our hoped-for but shattered dream of a utopia was just that, divorced from reality, yet kept alive by our collective loss and our hope of what we think could have been if only he lived.
When we ask asked “What if he lived?” we have invariably focused on our perceived lost future. We rarely consider what President Kennedy lost and how he would have been rewarded by extended life. Before we put the question of “What if he lived?” behind us, we should pause to reflect on what we have seen and what President Kennedy missed in the past 50 years. We should contemplate the sense of accomplishment that President Kennedy would have felt in July 1969 when, as a recently designated “former” President, he stood on an aircraft carrier and welcomed the Apollo 11 astronauts back to earth. Consider how this revered leader would have helped with behind the scenes advice to Jimmy Carter in the negotiation of the Camp David peace accords. Picture the gleaming smile he would have worn and the wonderful sense of satisfaction he would have felt as he sat on the podium in West Berlin in 1987 when he heard Ronald Reagan, his senior in age but his junior in terms of office, implore Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall”. And imagine how this then elder statesman, who along the way acquired the moniker of “America’s Grandfather”, felt and what he would have thought about his effort to insure equal rights for all Americans, as he witnessed the inauguration of President Obama in 2009.
Admittedly, there is a degree of melancholy in this writing. Every American old enough to remember November 22, 1963 recalls President Kennedy’s term of office with some measure of sadness; it is an expected and accepted reaction to our loss. We leave these two questions that have burdened and shackled us for exactly half a century behind us. We applaud and celebrate what this country, even with all its shortfalls, has become, thanks to the service of our 35th President. We owe our gratitude to President Kennedy’s leadership, his presence and his grace for helping this nation move forward as we continue to engage in the endless struggle for a better world. We acknowledge our need to stop our questioning so future generations, who have no memory of his term of office, will better appreciate the contributions that John F. Kennedy made as President.
As we put these questions to bed, we free ourselves of the heavy weight we have carried for these 50 years. We now simply, but sincerely and with a sense of considerable gratitude, pay honor and tribute to John F. Kennedy- son, brother, father, uncle, grandfather, war hero, patriot and 35th President of the United States of America. May God bless his memory and m
last 50 years