Tuesday, November 22, 2005

on that day

Fourth grade.
Introverted misfit.
Mrs. Hasner's class. (I hated her.)
More interested in reading science and science fiction books than anything else in the world.
An outcast for being an eggheaded nerd.
Completely unaware of anything but the most basic events and personages of the time.

Another schoolday.
Almost lunchtime.
The speaker above the blackboard, by the Elgin clock scratches into life.

"President Kennedy has been shot and has been taken to the hospital."

Lunchtime was a blur of confusion. Many students in the Air Force base school were picked up by their parents.

Minutes after coming back from lunch, nervous and apprehensive, the speaker above the blackboard crackled again.

"President Kennedy has died. School is dismissed."

Horses and cannons and somber people talking about things I didn't comprehend.
John-John and Caroline and even the self-controlled Jackie, bewildered by sudden calamity.
Military men talking in anxious, hushed voices.
Mothers hiding their worried agitation.
It was as though time had stopped, the country in suspended animation.

It was gray and cold and dank until well into spring, even when it was sunny.

The strength of events to focus and freeze memory for all time around world-shaping events never ceases to amaze me.

Where were you?


Blogger ie said...

Afternoon kindergarten was just a few minutes away. I lived across the street from the school yard and it was a short walk to the classroom door. Living at “pole position” I was certainly the last child in my class to leave home for school.

As my mother was helping me with my coat I bemoaned the fact that I didn’t really have anything unusual or special for show and tell. As she tied my scarf ‘round my neck the radio announced that the president had been shot.

My mother paused, her eyes wide, but somehow dim, “There’s your show and tell—everyone else has already left for school, you’re the only one who will know the news. Hurry now, or you’ll be late” She walked me out the door and across the street and watched me trot across the playground to the door.

Once inside I put away my coat and took my place in the circle on the floor. My turn at show and tell came quickly. I stood up.

“The president has been shot…” I said calmly, like a little reporter.

“SIT DOWN!” demanded the teacher.

Stunned and hurting now, I looked at her incredulously, not believing what she had said to me. Then I realized that she did not believe what I had said. I sat down quietly and looked down while my classmates carried on.

A few minutes later there was a knock at the door and another teacher beckoned to ours and she stepped into the hallway. She was only out for a few moments and misty-eyed when she returned.

“Mollie, you can share your news for show and tell now”

Sometimes vindication isn’t so sweet……..

11:22 AM  

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