Reflections from the 22nd of November
Yesterday, the 22nd of November 2019, was kind of a busy day for me. The big event was my wife’s retirement luncheon after 42 years in which she has worked at one time or another, for each branch of our Nation’s military. She began as a recruit headed off to the United States Navy, and yesterday retired from the U.S. Army Joint Munitions Command as a Civilian.
Yet in spite of all that excitement I kept coming back to another day a long time ago.
It was my late sister’s 12th birthday, as it happens also a Friday.
Back then I was only five years old. I attended afternoon Kindergarten, and that morning (Pacific time) my mother dragged me to the grocery store so she could pick up a few last-minute items for my sister’s birthday party. At the store, someone mentioned that they had just heard on the radio that something had happened to President Kennedy…
When we returned home, my mother turned on the TV and we found out what happened, for we tuned in just in time to see Walter Cronkite make that fateful announcement we all have seen replayed so many times since that day.
Later that afternoon, our school principal, Mrs. Dahlstead, announced on the loudspeaker that our new president would be someone named Lyndon Johnson.
I thought she said “Lemon” Johnson, but I was quickly corrected and told to be quiet…
My Mom wasn’t sure what to do about my sister’s birthday party that evening… She actually called Father Duffy to see what she should do, and he had told her that if school closes early she should cancel, and if not, she should go ahead. She followed his advice, and the great party went forward. I however was banned from the party, and confined to my parents’ room where I sat alone and watched their portable black and white Tv. That must have been the first time they ever had wall-to-wall coverage of a news event, and I remember so vividly seeing the scene when Air Force One returned to Washington and they unloaded the President’s casket into an ambulance, and watching the new President making a short speech with Mrs. Kennedy, in her blood stained dress, standing at his side.
Yet, as gripping as some of that was for a 5-year-old to watch and experience, what has really stuck with me is what happened next.
My father, who was no fan of “that Kennedy kid”, announced to my sister and I that he would not stand for anyone making an unkind comment about Mr. Kennedy ever again.
Within a day or two, all of the stores had big pictures of President Kennedy, with wide black borders around them in their store windows. People in our neighborhood who did not particularly care for him, had flags and black bunting outside their houses: everyone came together as One.
“Someone has killed our President!”
It seemed too much for anyone to contemplate.
As I recall that, I wonder what would happen today if, God forbid, something similar would happen to Mr. Trump, or for that matter, would have happened to Mr. Obama.
First off, I pray we never have to find out. It was a completely different world back then, no doubt about that; can we still drop what divides us and come together?
We did after 9/11… for a week or two. Yet quite a lot has gone on since then, and little has been good.
I guess that I should probably draw this little reflection to a close, since I am tempted to go on a bit of a rant that would just add to the problem. Instead, I’d like to offer a quote that might help us to contribute to a solution:
Divided there is little we can do, but united there is little we cannot do.
John F. Kennedy
If you ask me, I think that thought applies to a great many things in this life.