People came together to commemorate an event that happened before Facebook. It was heartening to see people engaged in meaningful and substantive conversation about November 22, 1963; even if- like me- their only memory of that time comes from stories passed down and news reels with hair on them. Fifty years later, it still matters.
To paraphrase Joyce Carol Oates, everything John F. Kennedy stood for is consigned to posterity. Camelot may have been a beautiful illusion, but his place in this country and the world is very real. There were myriad crimes perpetuated in Dealey Plaza on that Friday afternoon, not the least of which was the theft of work unfinished by a man who introduced us to hope, long before it became a commercial property.
My mother had been the product of a Republican household, but it was her Catholic faith that steered her into pulling the lever for the handsome young man from Massachusetts. It was her first time voting. Smartly, she kept the details of that curtained decision to herself but in her heart, she knew she had made the right choice.
She was working as a secretary in New York City when someone walked into her office, crying out that the President had been shot. The initial reaction was anger at the messenger of this news. They thought he was pulling a prank and they let him know it wasn’t funny in some very specific language. “He was the office comedian, and we were pissed. Until we saw his face and realized this wasn’t a joke.”
She gathered around a transistor radio with her co-workers and listened to the slow march of updates gather and form into a horrible conclusion. There was no more business to be had, no more plans for the weekend to be talked about. All that was left after the flash out of Dallas was a collective daze full of soul numbing disbelief.
It was interesting to see how much the day still matters to many Americans, fifty years later. The aching void of a Friday afternoon when a political king lost his life and a country lost its way, it still matters. As it should, still matter.
If only it would have rained that day.