Where I was

November 22, 2013

I was standing on my front lawn.  I had half-day kindergarten, so it was after I had gotten home.  I was five.

The Dugan man was delivering bread and such to each of our abutting neighbors.  When he got to Mrs. Rosenfeld’s house, she came to the door and I heard the man tell her that President Kennedy had been shot.  I went inside and told my mother.  She didn’t believe me.  She put on the radio and called Mrs. Nelle.  Eventually everyone knew.

Part of why I had President Kennedy on my radar screen as a five year old was because I had heard about the birth and then death of his infant son Patrick a few months before.  Those reports on the radio news had caught my attention.  I remember not understanding what they were saying about the equipment that was being used to care for him, and asking my parents to explain the words.  For some reason, I ended up thinking they were carrying the baby around with them, everywhere they went, in a basket.

Anyway, babies I knew about.  The Nelles had had one when I was three and I hoped we would have one, too.  The Kennedys’ experience of having a new baby was so different from the Nelles’ experience.  That gave me something to try to make sense of.

I knew that famous people died because I had heard about Pope John XXIII’s death earlier in 1963.  Something I was watching on television was interrupted by an announcement of his death.  I’ll never forget the gravity of the voice making the announcement.  I knew from the sound alone that something important had happened.

So that was my context for processing President Kennedy’s death, that was the angle from which as a child it seemed important to me, as I tried to relate to and understand news as I heard it.

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