LESLIE KELLY | A week for memories in 1963

I was 6 years old when President Kennedy was shot. I was at home with my mother, father and older sister. We all had the flu. My biggest concern was that I was missing being a pilgrim in my elementary school's production of the First Thanksgiving which traditionally was done each year by the first-graders. We'd painstakingly made the perfect square hats like the pilgrims wore from black construction paper and somehow, it seemed so sad that my hat was just sitting in the classroom while all the other hats were on top of their maker's heads on stage.

I was way too young to understand what had just happened to the nation. The death of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy marked a loss of innocence for the U.S. With the assassination playing out on live television before the country, Americans knew that we were no longer a country protected from violence from within.

Fifty years later, we know that even more. The incidents of violence have continued. We think about  9/11 and shootings at movie theaters, schools and shopping centers.

On the 50th anniversary of the shooting of President Kennedy, Americans recall where they were when they heard the news. They watch television and see the replay of the Zapruder film showing President Kennedy and Jackie in the 1961 open-air Lincoln Continental waving to spectators standing along the crowded streets in Dallas. There was an excitement in the air. A stormy, rainy day had just cleared and blue skies greeted the Kennedys and others in the official motorcade.

Life was good. There were political concerns about Cuba and Russia. But everything seemed to be in control. With the Kennedys and their two young children in the White House, Camelot was ours and it looked as if it would remain ours for another term.

And then, the unthinkable happened.

We will never know what this country would have been, had President Kennedy lived. We will never know what future contributions he may have made to this nation. Instead, we are left to wonder. And we are left with our memories of that day.

My family spent most of that weekend at home, watching people pass by the President's casket in the rotunda of the nation's Capitol. We saw the horse-drawn carriage carry the casket from the White House to the Capitol Building and to the President's final resting place. And we saw that special little boy in his powder blue coat salute his father's casket as it passed.

President Kennedy would be 91 years old if he was still with us. Instead, he remains in our minds just as he looked that day in Dallas.

But the hope and love that he had for this nation, lives on in all of us.

Leslie Kelly is editor of the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot.


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