Friday, November 22, 2013

A Half Century Ago ...


The ornate condolence certificate, autographed by the President, arrived two months after the sudden death of my father—a combat veteran who helped overthrow the Japanese in the Philippines but never discussed it with any of his four inquisitive children.

That letter brought radiance into our home on an otherwise dreary late November day.

So, suddenly transformed into a proud 8-year-old, I pestered my mother for the honor of bringing the document to school the following day. My pragmatic Irish mother denied the request--worried I could lose or damage the precious parchment.

Friday began as unremarkable as a hundred before: Morning prayers chanted effortlessly, the Pledge of Allegiance parroted as we stood with our right hands over our hearts facing an American flag.

I was having trouble concentrating on the curriculum, typical for a Friday when the weekend beckoned. But this time all I could think about was a letter that had arrived just yesterday from a revered man who could have met my father less than a generation ago.

With only an hour of captivity remaining, a high-school boy suddenly entered from the right door bearing a message. Snatching the note from his hand the nun appeared almost angry at the interruption. I could, however, see her face suddenly turn white—matching the mask-like habit all ‘Sisters of St. Joseph’ wore.

She crumpled the memo with one hand while reaching back to grab her desk with the other, slumping as though absorbing a blow from a heavyweight boxer. With a trembling voice she said, “Please stand.” Although puzzled, we responded immediately.

“Now extend your arms sideway, shoulder high, and hold them there,” she said still struggling to gain control. So there we stood, 26 of us, rooted near our desks like cemetery crosses wondering, as our shoulders started to ache, what could possible cause such a break in routine?

She regained the commanding voice of authority to announce, “President Kennedy has just been shot” Tears trickled down her cheeks as she concluded, “He needs our prayers.”

At St. Michael’s school in the year of our Lord 1963, President John F. Kennedy was fourth on the list of most beloved: just under the Holy Trinity and tied with Pope John. And in my home he was tied for second with St. Patrick just under my recently deceased father.

The big yellow bus rumbled back to Amherst with an interior as quiet as a crypt. The astonishing event blurred short-term memory like one too many drinks. I began to question whether the letter from the now martyred leader was actually real, or did I simply imagine it?

Bursting thru the front door I quickly spied the prized possession lying on a cluttered kitchen table. With relief and reverence I held it aloft, taking in the brilliant gold calligraphy etched on a pure white background: “It is with deepest sympathy…”

A feeling the entire nation now shared.

Originally published 11/22/07

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is extremely interesting for me to read that article. Thanks for it. I like such themes and everything connected to this matter. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

LarryK4 said...

Not sure I have much more to say, otherwise I would have updated the original article.

One of only a few moments in American history I have witnessed where you really have to say to someone too young to have lived through it that (to quote Aaron Brown as the second tower collapsed): "...good Lord...there are no words..."

Anonymous said...

The nuns at St Michael's were freaks who liked to turn little children into human crosses so that they would all be more Jesus-like for reasons not explained to them.

Sorry about you losing your dad at such a young age, Larry. And its nice to hear how you wanted to share and show the ornate condolence certificate from President Kennedy with your friends and teachers.

St Michaels is elderly housing now.

I ran into a guy named Serio recently. His parents owned Serio's market on State St. I told min we preferred Charlie's (State Street Fruit Store) becuase the candy selection was better, even though SERIO'S had a better produce section.

LarryK4 said...

Yeah, that Hamp competition reminds me of the Amherst Atkins Fruit Bowl and Wentworth Farms rivalry that Atkins eventually won.

Anonymous said...

Jack got what he deserved. Fck him.

Anonymous said...

What's really tragic about President Kennedy's death is that his assassin, not he, became the model for American liberalism.

Think about it: Kennedy cut taxes at home, confronted Communism abroad aggressively, and was reluctant to use Federal power for social engineering in America. Lee Harvey Oswald was pro-Castro, anti-business, and full of paranoid fear of America and its people. Which one sounds like the modern Democratic party?

Oswald didn't just kill Kennedy, he killed what he believed in.

Anonymous said...

Funny, the elected officials of that so-called anti-business party take an awful lot of business money to maintain the status quo. If they feared America and its people, they'd get something done.

What reality are you living in?

When we're all dead, then the historians can start to set the record straight from all the current romantic nonsense about both Kennedy and Reagan. Our appetite for heroes has affected our ability to see clearly.

This is not to say that November 22, 1963 was not a horrible day. But JFK was simply a man with tremendous rhetorical gifts and some runaway appetites. His presidency had its problems like all the rest. And I see nothing to suggest that he was going to back out of Vietnam.

What we mourn with Kennedy is the death of aspirational politics, the idea that a president could drive the country forward. Even Obama doesn't seem to be able to bring such politics back to life.

Dr. Ed said...

I wonder how many members of Team Maria could do as well as your nun did -- it's the same thing (one of the FEW things) that I respect GW Bush for is continuing to read to the children while plans were made to get him out of there on 9-11 -- imagine what would have happened to they children (not just psychologically, but physically) had Bush announced that with all the reporters going live to network, pushing & shoving each other for a better camera angle, and the terrified little children likely being trampled in the mix.

Throw in even an appropriate response from his Secret Service detail who would (rationally) presume the possibility of a concurrent assassination attempt and hence not sure of the motives of all the media unexpectedly advancing on him -- it could have gotten very ugly very quickly.

It's like when I once bought time by continuing to speak (quite extemporaneously) at a UM rally. I'd heard the "officer in trouble" radio call going out behind me and I was just buying time until we could get out of there -- this was the incident that got Ric Townes fired, but I digress...

Larry, you describe a very professional teacher who -- on her worst day -- did her duty.

Dr. Ed said...

This may be off topic but I do think parents may like to see it:

http://twitchy.com/2013/11/22/you-have-to-see-these-unintelligible-common-core-assignments-posted-by-angry-parents/

Michelle Malkin posting a summary of parental complaints about Common Core including copies of actual workbooks and such.

The pictures speak for themselves -- this is what Common Core wants your children using too.

Do not dismiss this because it is coming from social conservatives -- they love their children as much as you love yours, they want their children well educated as much as you do, and basic skills are independent of political values.

Like I said, the pictures of actual curricular materials speak for themselves....

Dr. Ed said...

Lee Harvey Oswald was pro-Castro, anti-business, and full of paranoid fear of America and its people.

I think historians will eventually find evidence that it wasn't just Oswald being pro-Castro but a bit more -- do not forget that Kennedy had tried to kill Castro, with some truly stupid botched messes including the woman sleeping with him and having a cyanide pill in her jar of cold cream. (Do women even still use that stuff?)

HOWEVER, there is an interesting case to be made that the bullet that actually killed Kennedy was an accidental discharge from his own Secret Service detail -- "friendly fire" which isn't friendly.

Apparently, the man was quite hung-over, armed with a weapon that he was unfamiliar which he reportedly chambered a round bit claims not to have fired.

Memory is that this was a then-newly-developed M-14 -- a new generation of automatic weapons with springs in the stock and hence far lesser recoil than something like the Thompson submachine gun -- also firing a round smaller than the Thompson's .45. (I'm told that Army drill sergeants fire a M-16 with the rifle's butt against their testicles to demonstrate that it doesn't have a recoil -- this may or may not be true.)

Yes, you can tell if a gun has been fired after it was last cleaned -- if it *was* cleaned and at least the M-16 was initially said to be "self- cleaning", these guys were out drinking the night before, who knows if whomever last fired this weapon bothered to clean it even if they thought (then) that doing so was necessary.

Hence it is possible that this Secret Service Guy did squeeze off a round accidentally -- and may not ever have known it -- and of course something like that would be covered up. Big time...

I'm not saying this is what happened -- only that LEO "friendly fire" does kill a lot of innocent people -- statistically you are more likely to be accidentally killed by a police officer than maliciously murdered by a terrorist.

(Remember the incident in NYC where police gunfire hit a bunch of innocent bystanders when they were trying to shoot someone who had shot someone else? This stuff happens...)

And while a lot of people probably thought that Jack Ruby did the right thing, I argue that this is one case in particular where it would have been far better to have executed him AFTER a trial instead of before....

Anonymous said...

Certainly we are a coarser, nastier country than 50 years ago.

Walter Graff said...

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/stjohn.htm

Tom McBride said...

I thought it was Anderson Farms, or Anderson's fruit stand.

Dr. Ed said...

Certainly we are a coarser, nastier country than 50 years ago.

Sometime around this time, then-Senator Margaret Chase Smith told a constituent (who later told me) that "if the people really knew what goes on in Washington, there would be a revolution."

I think that is part of why we live in the society we do now -- we DO know what goes on there now...

Notwhithstanding that, there is this: http://thefederalist.com/2013/11/21/hes-dead-right-father-oscar-l-huber-kennedy-assassination-news-leak-controversy/?utm_source=The+Federalist+List&utm_campaign=3ab6213866-RSS_DAILY_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_cfcb868ceb-3ab6213866-72476953

I thought you'd like it Larry.

Of course, history has already told us that Nixon actually won the 1960 election and that Old Man Joe stole it in Chicago -- and maybe Nixon wouldn't have become what he became 10-12 years later had he not had this election stolen from him. And I am a Puritan and you know what the Puritan values would say about one who steals an election....

Anonymous said...

Is there anything that happens that Dr. Ed won't piss on, using this blog?

My God, what a miserable person.

Dr. Ed said...

Is there anything that happens that Dr. Ed won't piss on, using this blog?

Burn In Hell.

I'd say more except I don't want children to see it.

But Burn In Hell you GDMFCSSOABFW...

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @11:51 is exactly right.

Politics and international and domestic did not change with the transition to Johnson. He carried on Kennedy's policies internationally and domestically: escalation in Vietnam, advances in civil rights, social programs to help poor and disadvantaged, etc.

What was different is that Kennedy had a youth, energy and verbal prowess that gave the country optimism. Having the president shot down in broad daylight on an American street made this end to optimism even more stark.

And Larry, I am sorry to hear that you lost your father at such a young age. It's a big loss that you obviously still carry to this day.

I'm with stupid ---> said...

"Even Obama doesn't seem to be able to bring such politics back to life."


Even?


Even?!?


Um,just


~fail~.


Okay?


(I mean, Jesus friggan christ...)