November 22, 1963: The Day Innocence Died


Jackie and daughter Caroline say their final goodbyes.

Half a century later, the memories of that tragic event and the dreary days that followed, still cast a long dark shadow across the soul of America and our global village.

It was the age of McLuhan and the dawn of television. Where bold and lofty dreams of moonshots, civil rights for all and global peace dominated the zeitgeist.

The principal at St. Joseph elementary school in Kitchener broke through the routine on that fateful November day. The PA announcement breeched the blissful shelter of Sister Ignatius’ classroom. “President Kennedy has been shot and we need to say a prayer for him.” Within the hour the principal reluctantly announced that the president had died.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”  ~ JFK

During the next four days all the channels on our black and white TV screen were filled with strange sights and sounds foreign to the eyes of a seven year-old boy who preferred the security and comforting diversion of cartoons to calamity.

John F. Kennedy Jr. Funeral. Single.

John Jr. salutes his father’s casket.

Decades before the ubiquity of the Internet and social media – whenever news of disaster struck  – families huddled around TV screens or clutched and gaped in disbelief at stunning newspaper headlines and photos.

Immediately following news of the Kennedy assassination, the collective grief and tears of a nation mired deeply in shock and confusion exploded in a relentless torrent of media images: tearful and traumatized bystanders of the shooting, the arrest and stunning murder of the president’s suspected assassin, a grieving, stoic widow, her two innocent children, a riderless horse and the world bidding a long final farewell to a fallen hero.

Too young to fully understand but old enough to know that the day Kennedy died was the first time I saw my father cry; that in an instant the world could be a dark and dangerous place.

And that even King Arthur and all his brave knights, no matter how hard they tried, could ever put the president, America or the carefree, fragile world of a seven-year old back together again.


One Comment on “November 22, 1963: The Day Innocence Died”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I remember it well brother.

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