The special significance of November 22 remains hard to match for Americans who are slightly younger and my age or older. Many believe that September 11, 2001, is the equivalent for today’s young adults, but I have my doubts. The triple blows of Sept. 11 coming from a foreign source were horrible.
But the shock of hearing that John F. Kennedy, who was only 46 years old at the time, had been assassinated while he and his wife Jacqueline were in Dallas reverberated into America’s soul. It wasn’t an act of war. It was both national and personal.
I was a teenager at the time, a sophomore in high school, and had always had an interest in politics. My parents were Republicans, certainly not Kennedy partisans. But Kennedy as president had represented, we thought, the dawning of a new age — a young, vigorous, American answer to the problems that the world was facing. We were in the midst of the Cold War, but there was Kennedy, a strong, intelligent, and articulate advocate for a more peaceful generation.
Then, all of a sudden, on that dark Friday evening, there was a casket and Jacqueline Kennedy in her pink, blood-spattered suit, climbing off the plane at Andrews Air Force Base. The numbing events of the next three days — the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald that night, his murder two days later, and the funeral and burial on Monday — produce images that could never be erased.
So, here we are today, Friday, November 22, and once again — as they do each year — those memories return, and many are still fresh.
Below: Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline deplaning in Dallas about an hour before he was shot.
Below: Newsman Walter Cronkite announcing Kennedy’s death on national television, Nov. 22, 1963.
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