Fifty Years Ago

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As I approach my 50th high school reunion, I come to correspond with my high school classmates after many decades. I come to believe that we are bonded together because we shared so much of history together.

Fifty years ago, we were seniors in high school. It was a Catholic girls’ high school, strict in its beliefs and discipline and proud that we had our first Catholic president in the history of our country. John Kennedy was a bright shining star. I say that after decades later learning he was no Saint. He was a sinner like the rest of us. But in those days, his charismatic charm, his gift of the gab, his oratory skills enchanted not only the nation but the world.

In November of my senior year, our principal clicked on to the intercom to announce that our President and Governor Connolly had been shot. It was incomprehensible to a generation who lived in a kinder, gentler nation. We did not understand at that time that this was to be a long chain of events in the history of our lives, of what we were to witness as young girls, then as maturing women of a very, very imperfect world.

After our classes had changed to the next period, I found myself in the chapel praying for whatever was happening outside the sacred, safe confines of my girls’ school. I was lost. I was unsure of what I was praying for, but pray I did. Then, without warning, we could hear the click of the intercom once again. “Don’t let her say it, Lord. Say he is OK. Say he is OK.” were my thoughts immediately before a woman, dressed in religious habit, announce to 600 girls simply that “Our President Is Dead”.

I will never forget it. Anyone who has lived through such trauma will remember it. For three days, our nation mourned the death of a charismatic leader, a husband, a father. When he was buried, I remember my father for the first time, crying in front of the television set as the news highlighted the life and death of President Kennedy. It was a fearful reminder that even the revered, even the respected and loved, even the president of the United States, one day pass away. It was a coming-of-age for this seventeen year old to witness it and prepare for the life ahead of her.   Surely, we were anointed with the term”terrorism” on that day.


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