“The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.” John Kennedy
When Kennedy was inaugurated I was only 6 years old. The excitement I saw in my parents and their families was palpable. I was in 4th grade when Jack Kennedy was murdered. It was the first death that struck home with me. My teacher and my classmates were in tears that day. I sadly walked home from school. We were sent home early. The next few days we watched all of the memorials, news coverage, and more. The world seemed so very off center; so many people, sad and crying.
In a very real way, the country never was the same. But we were regularly reminded of Kennedy, due to the existence of the Peace Corps, the Space Program, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, and so much more. My generation did dream of lighting the world.
But back then I was just a little girl. I remember crying, and being very sad. President Kennedy’s assassination began a year of loss for me. The following spring (1964) , one of my little neighborhood girlfriends died during a tonsillectomy. She was the kind of girlfriend you just never forget. Her little brother had died the same day as Kennedy’s little baby Patrick died; and her little brother’s name was Patrick, too. Then, in November of 1964, my maternal grandma died ~ just a few days after Thanksgiving. It all left me reeling, at least as much as one reels when one is 9 or 10 years old.
I felt a bit in shock, a stunned little girl. I just kept wishing I could magically turn back time, rush to Dallas, and warn the President, and prevent tragedy. I think I thought that if I could stop that one, I could stop all of them.
So this week, when they talk about how the country lost it’s joy and wonder when JFK was killed, I know what they mean. As I have grown up and moved on, I feel the loss more deeply than I could have when I was only 9. Where was I when Kennedy was killed? I was a sweet little child. I was in school. I was supposed to go to my Girl Scout troop meeting after school. It was my turn to bring the bucket of treats. Mama had made brownies, one for each girl and the leaders. I sadly walked home with the bucket of brownies, crying and eating a brownie or two. I didn’t see my friends for days, except my little neighborhood girlfriend. We watched TV and especially watched little Caroline, John-John and Jackie. I don’t remember dinner happening that night. Maybe I ate more brownies.
In a small way, when JFK was killed, I was a little girl believing the world was perfect; and then, I wasn’t. I went skipping to school that morning, wearing my Girl Scout uniform, carrying my book bag and treat bucket. I made my way home crying and in shock. The pretty family in the White House was shattered. He had a little girl, and I was a little girl. Her daddy was dead, and it felt so very personal.
This week, as I watch the news clips, I have a deep hunger for the way we were. I long for what was lost. I am mindful of the cynicism and fear that gradually followed, after oh so many subsequent losses and setbacks in the following 50 years. It is hard to believe it has been that long. Yes there have been triumphs, yes there has been progress. We shall continue to pass torches, and light the world.
But today, I miss the kind of skipping I did that morning.