BY SEN. SAM SLOM – This Friday, November 22, is important. Has it really been 50 years since that terrible Friday when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated? Despite the Warren Commission, new documentaries, and state of the art technology, conspiracy or disbelief still abounds.
I saw JFK in Honolulu in June 1963, right after my graduation from the University of Hawaii and before leaving for law school in Pennsylvania (there was no law school in Hawaii at that time). Those of us over 50 years of age know exactly where we were and what we were doing that awful day.
I had just finished the week’s classes at Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle, PA, and was standing in line at the A&P buying groceries for weekend dinners when the first news of the shooting sped quickly though the crowd.
I rushed home to my wife and infant son, Samuel Mason. We had the radio on in the kitchen when the news came over that the President was dead.
We literally dropped the food and cooking utensils and were quiet for a long time. We hugged each other.
JFK was not a particular political favorite of mine at the time, but he was our President and there was no denying his charisma and leadership ability. There was more widespread respect for the Office.
Nonetheless, I remember becoming very emotional and crying. We were all impacted as more details emerged and the horror of the murder became clear, as well as the devastating news for his family, his young children, and for our country and our future.
How could this possibly happen? Clearly, America’s age of innocence had ended. And we felt it.
That cold November weekend, we, like millions of others, were glued to our television. That killing changed so many lives, so many things.
Television went all day, all night for the first time. The news media literally made it up as they went along.
Daily lives stood still. Jobs were not done. The Nation shut down. Everyone seemed to be in a fog. It was something you couldn’t grapple with, no matter how strong. Differences among and between people ceased to exist.
The entire Nation mourned and was together as one like no other time before, or until 9/11.
But there was more to come. The surreal change of power on Air Force One with now President Johnson.
Watching in disbelief the close up murder of Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on our television.
We had no car, but we wanted to travel to Washington, D.C. just to be there for the funeral and to be counted for America and against political terrorism. More than half a million people lined Pennsylvania Avenue that Sunday. We had to settle for television in Carlisle.
It was a time for introspection and for questions never before asked and not answered.
There have been many images and discussions over the past 50 years but questions remain. And there have been more political murders and attempts. More shock to our country.
We should talk about these events with our children and grandchildren so they have a perspective they won’t get in school or from others. Each memory is unique and personal, but also important.
One such lesson is that Americans are resilient and so is our country, no matter what the challenge or event.
We are so fortunate to live in such a free country and must continue to be vigilant to protect our liberty.
That’s my personal lesson from the past 50 years.