Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Memories of November 22, 1963

November 22, 1963.

It's one of those days in history that you knew exactly what you were doing when you heard the news. On that date in history, I was a nine year old boy just starring out the window of Mrs. McLaughlin's third grade class room at Lewis Elementary School on the east side of Flint, Michigan. Looking out the window it didn't look like anything was different that what I saw every other day that I looked out the window, but something was different and everyone in the class knew that something was wrong when Mrs. McLaughlin didn't crack open the Bible and read from it like she did every day of the week. (You got to remember that this was 1963 and this was long before teachers were restricted from reading the Bible to their students in a public school classroom.)

Somebody from the office talked to Mrs. McLaughlin at the classroom door and instead of her reading the Bible to us she just sat quietly behind her desk in front of the classroom. It wasn't until around 2:30 or so that Mrs. McLaughlin announced to the classroom that President Kennedy had been shot and we were going to be dismissed from school early. None of us kids in that third grade classroom really understood the implications of what had happened in Dallas, Texas that afternoon. The President had been shot and kids don't connect being shot with dying -- that's something we never really had to deal with before.

I lived about five blocks away from school and I thought that I'd just go home and sit in front of the TV set and watch cartoons just like I did most every day -- little did my child size mind realize that the news departments of all of the network TV stations would be doing wall-to-wall non-stop coverage of the events in Dallas and there would be no cartoons. My Mom (who had just gotten a divorce from my father just months before) was working at a laundromat some five or six blocks away from our home and wouldn't be home until 7:30 or so -- which normally would not have bothered me -- but watching all of this coverage on the TV about the assassination was starting to scare me. I was so scared I couldn't even get off the couch and I feared what might be waiting for me beyond the furnace grate on the floor in the corner of this reverse L-shape living room/dining room of the house the lived in.

When you're a nine old kid -- seeing your President get shot on television just didn't make any sense and your small mind can't comprehend why adults were feeling like they did -- but you knew that something serious had just happened.

And just like everyone can remember what they were doing on November 22, 1963 -- they can remember just where they were when they turned on their TV set and watched Jack Ruby kill President Kennedy's alleged killer Lee Harvey Oswald. When Ruby killed Oswald, my Mother and I were visiting our neighbor two houses from us. Our neighbor was a deeply religious woman with four kids (one of those kids was a retarded adult who was pretty much sheltered from the public) and for some strange reason -- I walked into their living room and was glued to their black and white television -- the same television that I had seen Arthur Godfrey on one night now showing Jack Ruby pulling out the gun and killing Oswald.

"Oh my God!" was being murmured nonstop by all of the adults in the house as they watched the events unfolding on television.

Those are some of the memories that I have of November 22, 1963 and usually I relive those moments every year when November 22 rolls around -- but for some reason this year November 22 came and went just like any other day. I don't know why -- but I kind of feel bad that I forgot to remember a day in a history that the world will never forget.

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