November 20, 2013

November 22, 1963

It seems a long time ago. Fifty years is a long time. I was nine when it happened. I remember it being hot and sunny, even though it was late November in southern Saskatchewan and snow was on the ground and the wind was cold. My memory of the event is forever trapped in a sunny Dallas.

We came home from school over the noon hour. My Mom would always have lunch ready for my sister and me. I remember turning on the television, as usual, to watch the Flintstones, or whatever else might have been showing every weekday at noon. The program was interrupted by news reports, bulletins as they were called then; breaking news had yet to be created.

We received two channels, and only in black and white, and the CBC affiliate was using the CBS News feed for its bulletins. I don't know for certain if I heard Walter Cronkite's announcement, the one where he took off his glasses and teared up ever so slightly, that the President had died at 1:00 p.m. Dallas time, but it's stuck in my mind as though I did.

When I returned to school, late for the beginning of afternoon classes, the phrase I kept hearing, and saying myself, was "They killed the President." Even then, that early in the telling of the event, we seemed unwilling to believe that one man, acting alone, could possibly kill the most powerful man in the world. Throughout the school, radios had been brought into classrooms and we listened to CBC Radio coverage of the assassination. We were sent home early that day.

Maybe I was too young to cry. I'm not sure if my mother cried; maybe she did, I don't know. When Dad came home he was quiet, deep in thought. He had come home early too. I didn't cry.

I was glued to the television all weekend, watching the murder of Kennedy's assassin and the funeral of the President. Nothing really made sense, and that angered me. In a sense my political education began on that November day, as I began to read and watch and listen to the news. I became a news junkie at ten years of age. My life was changing and the world around me was changing too.

In 1968 while on a family vacation, as my sister and parents prepared to go out for dinner in Ottawa, I watched the television images of the Chicago Police Riot. The whole world was apparently watching and this time it was in colour. The year had already brought us the joy of Prague Spring, and its brutal destruction just days before the Chicago riots. We had seen the assassinations of Dr King and Bobby, and the insanity of Hubert Humphrey and Dick Nixon running for President. Students and workers had been crushed in Paris, and the cities of Vietnam were burning. If November 22 in Dallas saw the beginning of my awareness, 1968 brought the horrible realisation that everything was spinning out of control. I was angry. I didn't cry.

Today, the truth of Dallas on November 22, 1963 is still unclear. Fifty years on, and I'm still angry. And sometimes I cry.

Photos from AP. 
Text copyright 2013 by Jim Murray.

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