Certain dates can be frozen in memory. November 22 was simply another day the first nine years of my life; then this date in 1963 became a permanently etched day of remembrance for me and tens of millions around the world.
I would be ten years old on the Sunday two days after this date. I already knew my birthday gift was a new Timex watch that cost the then astronomical amount of five dollars. Each day of the lead up week, I raced home at lunch to inform our stay at home mother my birthday was only days away.
Bursting through the front day on that fateful Friday, my excitement instantly evaporated upon seeing my mother. Seated before the television, she sobbed aloud that President Kennedy had been shot and died minutes before my arrival. I do not know about others, but it always heart breaking to see my precious mom cry.
The weekend of happy plans degenerated into near constant television and newspaper coverage of President Kennedy’s death. On Sunday, my father and several of his army buddies were taking me to watch their team play in an Edmonton industrial hockey league game.
Moments before leaving the house, we were watching television as the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was escorted from a downtown Dallas police station. On live tv we were stunned to watch Jack Ruby plunge from the crowd of onlookers and shoot Oswald. Pandemonium reigned supreme and then it was time to leave for the hockey game.
As we drove downtown to the old Edmonton Gardens arena, came the bulletin Oswald had just died. Jammed between two men in the rear seat, I jubilantly shouted at the top of my lungs.
A shocked silence was broken as the men began laughing. My father contained his laughter long enough to admonish me to never be happy when a person died. My answer to his question of why I was rejoicing, brought more laughter.
“Cause he wrecked my birthday!”
John F. Kennedy had his human failings, the same as all humanity. Despite that, he remains one of my heroes. Think what you will about these next comments, but know I stand by them. He led the western democracies in offering hope to hundreds of millions by standing firm against the tyranny of global communism.
In the immediate aftermath of the assassination, there were those who pushed for America to retaliate by launching nuclear ballistic missiles against the Soviet Union to avenge the president’s death. Those were tense days and fortunately, cooler heads won that argument.
Disasters such as The Bay of Pigs in Cuba and Vietnam, have tarnished Kennedy’s legacy. There is, however, no ignoring events such as his famous declaration, ‘Ich bin Eine Berliner’. I admire the way he stick-handled the Cuban Missile Crisis to a successful conclusion without either side making the miscalculation that launched a full-blown nuclear war.
My first novel, ‘I’ll Take My Chances’, touches on the stand off between democracies and the communist regimes. Unfortunately, that stand off continues today and by all appearances, the rhetoric will escalate.
We who came of age during the fifties, sixties and early seventies, remember Vietnam and the threat of global annihilation. Through those trying times, we survived as a species but unfortunately, it was often not through intelligence but rather, dumb luck. #JFK, #bayofpigs, #cubanmissile, #illtakemychances, #vietnam