Folks often ask the question, "do you remember where you were and what you were doing?" when they recall momentous, and often infamous historical dates during their lives. Today, we observe the 50th anniversary of that terrible day in Dallas, Texas, where President John F. Kennedy was gunned down during the prime of his life. Since I was a 6-year-old kid back then, I believe that I may be one of the youngest persons alive who can actually recall that time. Most anyone who was younger than five or six back when JFK was assassinated is unlikely, I believe, to have any memory of it.
Perhaps, it's more accurate to state that I recall the events during the immediate aftermath of Kennedy's death, than the actual, horrific deed itself. Many historians believe that JFK's assassination ushered in the age of television news. Fifty years ago, three broadcast networks basically dominated television, and all three, CBS, NBC and ABC, were giving this story wall-to-wall news coverage. As a result, my next memory of that time came on the following Sunday (November 24). While televised live before a national audience, JFK's accused killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was fatally shot while police were transferring him to the county jail. I can remember vividly my mother shrieking in horror as my family and I watched this attack unfold before our eyes on our black-and-white TV.
The next day, November 25, 1963, I can remember watching the wall-to-wall coverage of the funeral procession, where a riderless horse was pulling a carriage holding JFK's flag-draped coffin to Arlington National Cemetery. I remember wondering what kind a man was Kennedy at the time. After watching John-John's iconic salute to his father's coffin, I began wondering about his kids who were about the same age as me. I wondered if they were sad as the concept of death was still pretty new to me.
The Kennedy assassination had a profound impact on me. Beforehand, all I knew was basically my family, my school, and my dog.
But afterwards, my concept of the world increased exponentially. For the first time, I discovered the existence of news, history and the politics that shapes them. Moreover, the Kennedy assassination made me aware of my own mortality.