By Mo Breden
Fifty years ago, I was sitting in Mrs. Hill’s fourth grade class at Emma L. Arleth Elementary School in Sayreville, New Jersey. I was a child, but I was aware of the world beyond my young life. My memories of that day in November, are fractured.
I remember someone coming into the classroom and saying that Mr. Kennedy had been shot. I remember thinking, that’s weird, why would someone shoot President Kennedy’s dad? I could not fathom that someone would shoot our President. I remember confusion in the classroom and then an announcement that President Kennedy was dead. I remember Mrs. Hill being totally out of control and upset that these announcements had been made to her classroom. I remember the look on the face of Linda Cristosi, who sat across from me, when the announcement came, and the tears as she put her head down and began to cry. I remember crying. Then there is a fracture, I don’t remember anything else until I walked into my house and my mother hugged me, and the television was on and the news was constantly giving information about the assassination of President Kennedy. I remember crying a lot, I remember for years after his death, crying at the mention of his name, or news about his family.
My own family watched the coverage over the days following his death, through his burial. It was shocking for me, that someone would take the life of this healthy, vital young man in such a violent way. Mrs. Kennedy was the focus of our attention, she was stoic, she was dignified, and she showed us how to honor our President in death. I was devastated to see Caroline kneel with her mother at her father’s coffin, and to watch her reach up and touch the coffin and of course so sad and so proud of a little boy, John Jr., as he saluted his father’s coffin as it passed by during the funeral procession.
So much has been written by so many about those days, what else do I possibly have to offer? The perspective of a little girl and her first experience with the death of someone close to her. Yes, I felt close to this man. He eased some of the scariest days of my young life. We used to have air raid drills, where we would all line up in the hallways facing the lockers, or put our faces on our desks, so that we could be identified (no such thing as DNA identification) in case the Russians bombed us. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, we were fearful that we were on the brink of nuclear war, President Kennedy, alleviated our fears. In my memory, he was a strong, moral, forceful leader, who also played with his children in the oval office. He was a Navy veteran, just like my own dad. He had back problems, just like my mom. He was Irish and Catholic, just like me. I could relate to him.
As I have grown older than he was when he was killed, much has been revealed about his shortcomings and his weaknesses, I had no understanding of these things as a child. As an adult I have incorporated them into my overall picture of him, his presidency and his life. He still rises above so many of the mediocre that came before and after him in the life of this country. So today I have nothing new to offer, except my perspective of a time in history that I lived through to tell you about.
Thanks for stopping by to read my post; I hope to see yas next week, for Life with Mo. Next week’s post is going to be interactive, so I hope you are making a list of the things you are grateful for, because we are going to share them in comments on this blog, I hope you will participate. See ya!