50th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination: a Multi-Gen Perspective
President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy smile at the crowds lining their motorcade route in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. Minutes later the President was assassinated as his car passed through Dealey Plaza.
Earlier this week, I sat at a meeting with colleagues at Zoomer to discuss coverage of today’s 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK. I was the oldest person in the room. The youngest was a year old at the time of the 25th anniversary.
I was the only person at the meeting who’d been older than childhood on Nov. 22, 1963.
Like everyone else of my generation, that day remains as vivid and visceral in detail and passion as it was 50 years ago.
I saw the announcement of the shooting at lunch hour on a TV in the student centre of the University of Buffalo. I’d transferred there from the University of Manitoba a couple of months earlier. A week later, I was to be married, at the age of 18, to a violinist in the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and to live in the U.S.
That weekend, waiting for my husband-to-be at his parents’ home, I watched the live broadcast of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald. Because of where I was at the time, both geographically and emotionally, the experience of that day has been indelible for me.
But what, I wondered, could it mean to anyone who wasn’t even alive on Nov. 22, 1963, or who was too young to be aware of what had happened?
For those of us who were there, it was something like a Rorschach test. Our thoughts, our feelings, our grieving depended on who we were at the time and what was going on in our lives.
For me, I’m almost embarrassed to admit, my overwhelming response was devastation at Jackie’s loss of her husband. I was about to acquire a husband of my own and couldn’t imagine (at the time) living without him and so I identified painfully with Jackie’s loss.
The 50 years that have passed are my life, really, from naive teenager to divorced grandmother with a second love.
The anniversary recalls it all.
I was not yet a thought or even a hope the day JFK was assassinated. My parents were only five years old, years and years away from becoming high school sweethearts.
And now, at 26 years of age, I sit in a story meeting discussing the tragic event, and it dawns on me how far removed I am – emotionally – to that pivotal day 50 years ago.
Of course, knowing that a woman lost her husband and that America lost their beloved president moves me.
But that day is a vivid snapshot in history, a series of images of the time when a picture-perfect America lost its innocence.
Although we now know that Kennedy had his indiscretions, in the eyes of Americans who elected him and adored him, he seemed flawless. Now, when nothing is private and everyone’s dirty laundry is on display, that idyllic image of a public figure seems unattainable.
What the 50th anniversary of Nov. 22, 1963, means to me is the image of a perfectly coiffed President Kennedy shining in the sunlight, flashing his charming smile.
It’s the image of an effortlessly stylish Jackie, her pink Chanel suit topped by a perky pillbox hat. That image, that esthetic, still signifies class and refinement for my generation.
It’s the image of a polished vintage convertible bearing the charismatic couple on a bright day into a dark future that they could have never anticipated.