Because eight-point-three out of every ten persons who still remember hearing of the shooting of President John F. Kennedy on the day that it happened were in a high school class at the time, it hardly seems worth saying, Reader Dear, that I was in a high school class when I heard the news. Spanish, Year Two. We, the students, were learning about sentence structure from our young ex-marine of a teacher, Mr. Cox. He had crew-cut hair and a very fit body.
It was a Friday. Just like all other Fridays, we'd had fish for lunch, on account of all the Catholic students at Homer L. Ferguson High School (these Catholic students who had been so pleased to see a Catholic elected president. The very first Catholic U.S. president!)
So, there we were, learning how to speak like Spaniards (Hola, amigo, comment allez vous?) while digesting our seafood. Suddenly the door of the classroom burst open and my high school English teacher rushed in. Now, this English teacher was also a young man, but he didn't have his hair in a crew cut. As a matter of fact, he had no hair. No hair on his head, or his face, or his arms! His eyebrows were penciled in. (Reader Dear, this has nothing to do with the words he delivered, but it's large in my memory, so I tell it. [Alopecia universalis. It's the likely disease, though I certainly didn't know this fact at the time.])
My English teacher exclaimed in a rush of words,"THE PRESIDENT'S BEEN SHOT!! I'M NOT KIDDING!! THE PRESIDENT'S BEEN SHOT!!"
There were a few gasps, and then stunned silence. The girl in the desk behind me began to cry.
Now, Dear Reader, another part of my story involves my parents, vacationing on a sunny beach in Jamaica.* As the president's motorcade rolled through Dallas, quite possibly Mama and Daddy were getting a calypso band serenade. At any rate, they were not there to greet us when my brother and I and our younger sister arrived home from school that day. Instead, we were met by the two women whom my parents had arranged to stay with us during their week away (Ruth and Lil were both single and middle-aged, and they had a home together. They were neighbors and fellow church members of my parents.)
As fate would have it (and I'm grateful for this tiny part of the hand I was dealt), Ruth and Lil had brought their television set along to our house. Solely due to this, I got to watch as big events in history rapidly unfolded.
My adolescent self was stunned along with millions of other viewers when Jack Ruby stepped up and assassinated the assassin on live TV!
Of course, we were glued to the television all week-end. We saw the rider-less horse with the backward-facing boots. The horse-drawn caisson carrying the president's body. The widowed first lady with her long black veil. We saw Caroline kissing the casket. Little John-John saluting.
We saw a grieving nation.
As one who was alive at the time, I can tell you with certainty, Reader Dear, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, United States President, was an earth-shaking event. (I'm not kidding).
*Wow, all the trips and other perks
my father received for the volume of
plumbing fixtures he purchased!