Kennedy Was Assassinated on My Seventeenth Birthday
I was attending a post (high school) graduate class in art at a Winnipeg technical/vocational school while waiting to be old enough to attend the Art Center College in Los Angeles. As it was, I was still younger than most of the twelfth graders.
During lunch break I liked to go to the auditorium to brown bag it because there blared the local pop hits station, CKY, to my and other students’ delight. Often Winnipeg bands like “Neil Young and the Squires” or “The Reflections” (which eventually became “The Guess Who”) were featured. There was much singing and dancing along with the music.
It was my seventeenth birthday, Friday, November 22, 1963, and I was feeling happy, looking forward to all the birthday celebrations planned for the weekend. While munching on an apple for dessert, I jumped up with a bunch of other kids to dance in the aisle to a favorite song, “Twist and Shout” by the Beatles. I felt like it was playing just for my special day.
But suddenly it was cut off and the DJ announced that President Kennedy had been shot. Everyone looked around in shock and horror. I started to cry, along with others.
Now, politics was not something I cared about or was interested in as far as my own country was concerned. Our prime ministers tended to be stodgy old fellows and not very inspiring to people of my age at the time. But the romance of the Kennedy family had captured our hearts, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis when we all thought we were going to die. It was as though the president saved us as well along with his countrymen. After all, we were under the path Russian missiles would likely take if they were deployed.What if they struck short of their mark? (Hence the D.E.W. line.) And if atomic weapons were involved, the whole world could be forfeit. So, yes, much of our country grieved along with the president’s American supporters.
School was dismissed for the rest of the day. Flags were lowered to half mast. My birthday celebration was cancelled even though my dad was back home, his own birthday the day after mine. None of us had the stomach for company or parties. We simply watched and wept as the weekend’s events unfolded with Kennedy’s death being confirmed, Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby, followed by the heartbreaking funeral on Monday. (The image of little John John saluting his dad’s coffin was burned into my memory forever.) Life just stopped while everything revolved around what was showing on TV. The whole family was puffy-faced from constant crying. In retrospect it was rather weird.
Since that time, friends who would otherwise have forgotten, remember to wish me a Happy Birthday because of the yearly newscasts before and on my birthday referencing Kennedy’s murder. How’s that for ironic? I wonder if others with birthdays on that date experience the same thing…
Do any of the writers here have memories of that world-changing weekend?
Image Credit » http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_F_Kennedy_Official_Portrait.jpg