Fifty years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Thousands of miles away, my ten year old father sat in a classroom in Kentucky. When the news came in, his teacher dissolved into tears. It was a moment he never forgot. He could still see the room at Bend Gate Elementary. Could still smell the chalk in the air…
Millions of people across the country also remember(ed) that moment – where they were when Kennedy was shot.
Recently, my mother gave me a huge tub filled with family photos and newspaper clippings saved by my father’s mother. Among the ephemera collected over a lifetime, I found that my grandmother saved more than a week’s worth of local newspapers relating to the Kennedy assassination. A life-long Republican, who wasn’t particularly political, nor particularly sentimental (she was constantly tossing out old things and you had to keep a real eye on her or else your favorite heirloom would end up at Goodwill) – and yet she held onto newspapers that detailed the death, mourning, and assassination investigation of a man for whom she had never voted for the rest of her life. For me, this discovery cements what historians have said for a long time. Kennedy’s death deeply impacted Americans and American culture.
Just remembering where you were the day of his assassination was and is a cultural trope. Young, old, Republican, Democrat, it didn’t matter -you remembered where you were when Kennedy was shot.