- Posted October 23, 2013 by
Ellicott City, Maryland
This iReport is part of an assignment:
When you heard JFK was killed
Remembering November 22
I was in the 11th grade in 1963, and I believe November 22nd was the day my high school photo was taken. At least, as I look back on that high school yearbook, I see myself wearing the same cranberry red, two-piece skirt/suit jacket, which I also remember wearing the day he died. That day in school began like any other. It was a Friday, and we were all eagerly awaiting the weekend, probably a home party, and most assuredly a high school football game. High school football was big in that era, in Montgomery County, Maryland, and our high school was a AA high school, which meant we played the oldest and toughest teams in the county.
My own journey that day following our regular lunch period included a high school glee club session, one of my elective classes. We were preparing for the following week’s National Honor Society induction, at which the glee club always sang, “One Little Candle.”
The lyrics, in part, are:
“It is better to light just one little candle,
Than to stumble in the dark!
Better far that you light just one little candle,
All you need's a tiny spark!
If we'd all say a prayer that the world would be free,
The wonderful dawn of a new day we'll see!
And, if everyone lit just one little candle,
What a bright world this would be!”
In a break with tradition, however, on that Friday, our musical director, Ms. P. Holcomb, indicated we would also be singing “America the Beautiful” for that induction. So we began that day practicing our rendition of that song, which we did sing that next week, on November 27th, amid tears and seemingly unbearable sadness. Little did we know when we practiced that piece that the president would die an hour later and that song would become our eulogy to him.
After leaving that class, I headed to my high school chemistry class, where our student teacher was lecturing on some important chemical element. At approximately 2:00 p.m. that day, we heard the click of the public address system. That wasn’t unusual, because as our next to last class period of the day, that’s when the day’s announcements were made. And yet, a very somber voice began speaking over the public address system. “We have received an unconfirmed report that President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas this afternoon. We will pass along more information as it becomes available.” The room instantly became silent. And we looked at each other, perplexed, sure it was some kind of sick joke. But before we could even rationalize in our own minds what this meant, the pa system was clicked on again, and our drama professor, Mr. Thomas Fess, said, mournfully, “I regret to inform you that President John F. Kennedy died this afternoon of gunshot wounds in Dallas, Texas. “ Our teacher dropped the chalk into the blackboard tray, and said, “that’s it.”
Shocked, we looked across the room at each other, in total disbelief. Even hardened football players who were in our class were visibly crying. And somehow, even that early, some of us knew that this was going to forever change our society, our expectations, and our country.
Now it’s 2013, and there is rarely a week in my life that I haven’t thought of President John F. Kennedy. Because he did change us. Our lives, our country, our hopes, and expectations. And yet, it’s funny, in an odd sort of way. When I’m sad, which is often, as I am a clinical depressant, I recall this man, and what he meant to our generation. It still warms my heart. Because there’s a quiet place, in my soul, and that of those of us who lived during that time, that somehow, despite the later revelations about him, we do believe in a kind of Camelot. At our saddest of times, that may have been all we have been able to cling to. Who knows?
Every so often, when I continue to mourn, my husband will say, “Didn’t you get the memo? The President died in 1963.” Maybe I didn’t get the memo. Maybe I didn’t want to receive it. All I know is that I’m glad I lived during that time.
Now I realize that people who didn’t live through that experience may never fully understand. And that’s ok by me. I understand. Until the day I die, I will remember his smile, his Boston accent, and the hope he engendered in me.