Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 1963

We were living in an apartment in San Francisco then. I traveled a lot. On November 21st, I had traveled to our company’s headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A couple of us had gone to visit a client and were just returning. We had the radio turned on. Suddenly, as we pulled into the company parking lot, the announcer came on and informed us, solemnly that “ . . . the President of the United States has been shot . . .”
At first, nobody seemed to know whether he was ok, or not. Then the fateful words. “He has been killed. The President of the United States has been killed."
We were dumbstruck. Surely that couldn’t be true . . . but it was true. We had just lost John F. Kennedy, the most promising President in years. I was 29. JFK had appealed directly to me and to my generation.
But who would do something like that . . . here in the United States? This wasn’t some banana republic where violence ruled the day. We were a nation of laws . . . or maybe not.
It just all seemed like a bad dream, but on awakening, the same reality was present. Flying home the next day, I was still in a state of disbelief. On boarding the plane, and hearing the doors close and the engines begin their roar, I became aware of a sudden unease. I had always loved flying. I flew a lot, and the experience continued to delight me. On this flight home, however, I became nervous with every change in sound. Landing was both a great relief and an exercise in terror. Would the plane crash?
I was vulnerable. The flight had been entirely uneventful, but for the first time, I felt vulnerable. The feeling has never left me. The Nation has never been the same for me.
Sitting here, this November day in the year 2010, our Nation seems even more vulnerable. We are a nation at War with itself, a sort of latent Civil War. It wasn’t always so. It is now. Republicans insist.
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