My family’s JFK assassination story
My father recently told me this story, which brought home the emotional impact of JFK’s assassination. Although I’ve heard parts of it before, I never heard this one little detail. I don’t think my generation has ever been as respectful of Presidents as my parents’ generation was, but until I heard this story I really didn’t appreciate how different we are.
November 22nd, 1963 was my father’s 21st birthday. He was already married to my mother, had two children and was in the Air Force. My parents have told me many times that they had planned to go out to eat that night, but after news of JFK’s assassination spread, all the businesses in town closed. They spent his birthday at home.
I don’t think we’d have the same reaction to the death of a President today. I have no doubt that many people would have cheered GW Bush’s death in office, and many would likewise celebrate if the current President died. Our nation just doesn’t hold as much respect for a President as we used to. And honestly, I never really understood how important Kennedy’s assassination was to my parents.
But last week I was in a restaurant with my them, and the conversation turned to the anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. My father told me a little more about that day. He was on base when Kennedy was shot, and later heard the news that the President had been declared dead. Immediately afterward, my father got into his car to head home.
As he was driving toward the main gate, he saw a Training Instructor with a group of new Airmen. My father drove up to the instructor and told him, “The President just died.”
The instructor called his men to attention, in honor of the President’s passing.
My father, 71 years old today, veteran, father of five kids, grandfather of many more, choked up as he told me that. Tears welled up in his eyes and he had to take a moment to compose himself. He almost broke down from the memory of the instructor’s very simple act: bringing his men to attention, as a silent tribute to a President’s death.
I wish we as a nation still held the same respect for Presidents that my parents held for Kennedy. Or maybe I wish all our elected representatives deserved that respect.
Love you, Dad. Happy birthday.
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Tags: JFK, Kennedy assassination, veteran writers