Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Day Our World Stood Still

When I was nine years old, making my way back upstairs to my classroom from the library, the whole school suddenly had this buzzing in the musty air. I went back to the library where a television was on. Teachers were gathered near to it, crying. I ran back to my classroom where my teacher, Mrs. Brown, looking gravely ashen, so different from her chubby cheeked smiling self, which was scary enough, told us the President had been shot in Dallas and most likely was dead.

I don't remember the rest of the day, but I do remember school letting out. I lived close by and walked home. As I made my way through the bike racks, listening to girls cry and boys be kind, one boy said, 'Serves the nigger lover right.' Twenty of us turned on him, in shock, but there was nothing to say. I'd never known such feelings even existed. I'd never heard anyone use that word. I only knew something was very wrong with that boy. What I didn't know and what may take the rest of my life to really know, is that amidst the good in the world, and there is good, there is something very wrong all over the world. I don't keep silent anymore.

For the next few days I only remember watching televison. I remember marching in our living room, from the White House to the grave, marching with the procession in place on our terrazo floor, wishing I could do something to make it not so horrible.

I dreamed I was the president of these united states
I dreamed I replaced ignorance, stupidity and hate
I dreamed the perfect union and a perfect law, undenied
And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day john kennedy died

I dreamed that I could do the job that others hadn't done
I dreamed that I was uncorrupt and fair to everyone
I dreamed I wasn't gross or base, a criminal on the take
And most of all I dreamed I forgot the day john kennedy died

Oh, the day john kennedy died

Did the assassination  of John Kennedy change my life? Of course it did, as did the ones that followed. But that was the first in a young life that had already gotten a glimpse that it wasn't all rosy out there and we should try to do something, even little things, to help right the tilted axis of the world we live in. How can I still be surprised by greed and evil? The alternative is to be deadened to pain, which cannot come without its parallel hardness to joy. I'd rather feel both than feel nothing at all.

We know too much these days. We can't think of people like John Kennedy without knowing all their untidy sides, plastered in public next to their shiny facets. How easily we forget that for most of us, being unimportant on a world scale, have plenty of untidiness in our own lives that would not bode well on the screen of public scrutiny. So today, I mourn the idea of John Kennedy, the hope he brought to us, the shattering and picking back up the pieces that we did and do imperfectly at best, but with continued effort. Even as he served.

Have a thoughtful and joyful Sunday! Do something good.


  1. I shall do. Eleven twenty-two is not only the anniversary of the death of my innocence, it is also the birthday of my nephew, Beamer(Phillip), of whom I am infinitely proud. I'm headed to his folks house for a party featuring wine from the vineyard in Napa where he is interning, while attending grad school at UC Davis.

  2. Enjoy the family and the vino! In that order of course (a nephew who is interning at a vineyard...I want one of those!).

  3. I hate to burst the bubble-- I was a senior in high school in the Panama Canal Zone-- and the stunning news came over the school loudspeaker. Shock--obviously--and real sadness. But what I remember is that the date I had with the VERY HOT Chuck Moses and his brown MG was cancelled...

  4. I love your story! The reality of the known world versus the REAL reality of the personal. Heartbreak, oh THANKS, universe, you ruined my date with the hot Chuck Moses!!!! So...did you and Chuck Moses get to go out? I want the rest of the story!