Thursday, August 24, 2006

(8) October 5, 1963 Through the eyes of a child...

1963: First Class Stamp $0.05 cents
Sylvia Plath publishes "The Bell Jar"
Patsy Cline dies in plane crash
"Cleopatra" in theaters starring Liz and Richard
John F. Kennedy assassinated in Dallas, Texas
This is my first grade picture, taken in October of 1963. John F. Kennedy was assassinated in the next month in Dallas, and I was a resident of Dallas at the time. My mother worked in Parkland Hospital where the president was taken, and my grandfather was the director of sound editing at WFAA News, so I had a very unique perspective on the events of that day.
I remember I was in school, and our teacher was called to the hall, and it was obvious she had been crying when she returned. All the adults seemed upset, but nobody really told the children my age what was happening. My first real clue something terrible had happened was when I was picked up from school early by my Aunt Alys. I was taken to my grandparent's home where all the grandchildren were taken that day, and it was clear something really bad had happened when we arrived. The adults all gathered around the television and seemed distracted and upset. When I questioned why I was there, and why my mother hadn't picked me up I was told she was at work and it would be a while until she got home. Finally my Uncle Jack gathered all the children up and told us the president had been shot and he was dead.
Later, after dinner, when my cousin Jackie and I were in the backyard swinging, I remember telling him that we could never tell anyone we were from Dallas ever again. I was so instinctively ashamed this had happened in our city.
My mother didn't return until very late that night, as Parkland Hospital had "locked down" upon the President's arrival: No one in or out for hours. My grandfather was at the television station for 49 hours straight. We all watched black and white TV as my mother's attorney Sarah T. Hughes swore Lyndon Johnson into office as president of the United States. And I was watching television a few days later in the den of my grandparent's home when Lee Harvey Oswald was being transferred and was shot on "live feed." It was a terrible week for everyone, engraved in my psyche for years.
An interesting follow up to these memories is that when I went to see Oliver Stone's movie "JFK" as a grown adult I shocked myself by openly and intensely weeping during the scenes of the assassination. I realize now I cried because I didn't then, trying to be so grown up. I finally was able to release the sadness of that terrified six year old girl. During 9-11 one of my first thoughts was of the children who witnessed it (even by television) and became traumatized and my heart went out to them because of my own experience.

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