50 years ago today I was in Grade 13, at a desk, in a row of desks, in the gym, writing a Christmas exam. Why we were writing Christmas exams in November, I don’t remember. I do remember coming out of the gym, and seeing a group of guys standing tensely in the hall. One, from my class and my church youth group was saying “Kennedy’s dead!” in a voice I interpreted as an attempt at a joke – in very poor taste in my opinion. Within minutes I’d heard more from others and knew that the American president, John F. Kennedy, had been assasinated. It didn’t seem possible. That happened in strange other places or history books. This was our big neighbour who was so like us. It was beyond shocking; it was stunning!
My best friend’s father taught in our high school, and I ended up with her and another friend sitting in her Dad’s car in the parking lot, listening to the radio. Then I went home. My Mom and I spent almost all the week-end and Monday in our basement rec room, watching the news on tv. I’m not sure, as I’ve seen the clip so many times, but I think we saw Jack Ruby, live, shooting Oswald – another stunning moment. Watching all the clips today, and over the years, has given me a sense of visual echoes, a confusion of memories.
What I remember most clearly is from the funeral, the black horse with no rider, and the knee-high boots sitting backwards in the stirrups – a metaphor for all that had been lost.