Sunday, November 22, 2009

That Day in Dallas

Forty-six years ago I was sitting in math class at Edwin Markham JHS 51 on Staten Island when school principal Miss Anapole came on the school intercom system and in what I now recognize was a hysterical voice announced, "The President has been shot! He's dead! President Kennedy is dead!" One student broke into a cheer and Mr. Guzio yelled at him, "You shut your mouth!" Tension and oppression immediately settled over us seventh graders and we sat in shocked silence. Those were in the days before they sent grief counselors to the schools.

We were called into the school auditorium where Miss Anapole harangued us some more about the event in a shrill voice. I remember the loudspeaker system humming as she shrieked and glared at us. Then we were turned out of the school shortly after noon and we all went home. It was a long walk home on that gray, cold November afternoon.

At home I lay on my parents' bed for awhile, listening to the radio. That was how we mostly got our news in those days. It kept replaying Walter Cronkite's intonation that it was confirmed, the president of the United States is dead. I cried for awhile, quietly and alone, because I thought that was the right thing to do.

When I visited Dallas last summer and toured the Texas School Book Depository, where the fatal shot came from, people around my age were asking each other where we were on that fateful morning. That's a reference us baby boomers can relate to, sort of like do you remember what you were doing the moment you heard that the Challenger had blown up (shopping at Target in Boulder and I saw it on a demo TV) or when you first heard about 9/11 (at Metro Center waiting for a Red Line train and Metro announced that trains were running slow due to "the attack" at the Pentagon). I was only eleven the day JFK was shot but I remember it quite clearly.


Anne said...

Until reading this, I never really thought of how difficult it must have been for teachers to hold it together that day.

Just_because_today said...

You cried alone and quietly. Not because it was the right thing to do but because you already had a sense of tragedy, right and wrong and how it affects us.

I love your writing.