It was exactly one week before my fifteenth birthday.
The day began in an unremarkable way.
It was off to school at Kirkwood High, where I was a sophomore.
The daily grind was underway, shuffling from class to class.
Geometry was a split period, with lunch thrown in the middle.
We had just returned from the cafeteria when the news broke.
President John F. Kennedy, making a campaign stop in Dallas,
had been shot at 12:30 p.m. as his motorcade entered Dealey Plaza.
Details were sketchy at first, with confusion escalating rapidly.
School was dismissed early. Everyone headed home to the surreal
news that JFK, shot multiple times, was pronounced dead at 1 p.m.
From that moment forward, until JFK was laid to rest at Arlington
National Cemetery on November 25th, the whole country was glued
to their television screens.
The images of the motorcade, JFK’s head thrusting backward from
the impact of the bullets, his body slumping toward Jacqueline,
her mad scramble to crawl out of the back seat and across the trunk
of the car, were seared into our collective memory, much like the
collapse of the Twin Towers on 9-11.
On November 24th, Lee Harvey Oswald, the prime suspect, was
scheduled to be transferred from police headquarters to the county jail.
He was shot at point blank range on live TV by Jack Ruby, a local
nightclub owner. The ineptness of law enforcement was like a Dragnet
episode turned Twilight Zone.
Did Oswald act alone? Was Russia behind it? Was our own government
somehow involved? Like a dog with a bone, conspiracy theorists continue
to gnaw away, decades after the fact.
The one thing I know with certainty is that when John F. Kennedy
was assassinated November 22, 1963, the innocence of my generation
died with him.
I recall nothing of celebrating my fifteenth birthday. I remember
almost every detail about JFK’s last day…as it should be.