Thursday, November 22, 2012

49 Years Ago Today...

(I started this with the headline "50 years ago... but was reminded it was in 1963, not 1962... however, I was still in Paris.) I was in Paris, France and there was a postal strike, so I couldn't get funds for a French Thanksgiving dinner with my American pals (funds my father would send me came through American Express to the French postal office). I would somehow manage to come up with enough francs for a chicken soup, some bread and a hot chocolate. But that would be the least of my concerns as everyone around the world was mourning the late President, John F. Kennedy, who was killed in Dallas, Texas in a surprise assassination when he was in a motorcade there.

It was 49 years ago today that he was shot, but it was not on Thanksgiving Day. It was a Friday, the week before the national day of feasting. In France, where Jacqueline Kennedy had won the hearts of that nation, grieving continued as well and where ever we went, strangers would come up to us and tell us they were sorry. The black and white TVs were showing American news most of the time and it wasn't enjoyable to watch. He was buried on Monday, November 25, in a state funeral that overshadowed the following Thursday's Thanksgiving Day.

While it was 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, it was 6:30 p.m. in Paris when we first heard the news. Like others globally, we were stunned. My two American friends, Penny and Ginger, and I decided to head for the American Embassy. We were assured by the staff that we could return if we had any problems, but that there was no need to return to the U.S. I suggested we go to the New York Times Paris office and see what more we could find out. We were able to walk right in and go up to the second floor where the teletypes (this was before color TV, before wireless cell phones) were clack-clacking away with the reports on events as they were unfolding in Dallas. By the time we arrived, the news from the hospital was being delivered... Kennedy was dead. As I stood reading the teletype, someone came and ripped it off the machine and as I looked up I realized it was Pierre Salinger.

No one paid much attention to us, so we moved to another machine which was announcing that Walter Cronkite would give the official announcement in a few moments. Someone was rushing to get the TV channel tuned in and we stood with a large group of staffers and listened in shocked silence to his grim news report.

Years later I would have the chance to meet Walter Cronkite in Scituate, Massachusetts, while he was on his sailboat with his wife and we talked of that particular day. He said it was life-changing for him as he had never before had to report on the assassination of an American President and it signaled the emergence of a world he realized he did not know.

Jack Ruby prepares to shoot and kill Oswald, who is being escorted by police to be sent to Dallas County jail
So for us, Americans in Paris, it was already a world in which we felt like strangers. It was like having your father shot and as young women in grief, we were in tears for most of the rest of the night. The next day we were all able to call home and speak to our fathers and reassured we would go on with our year abroad, but it would forever be marked by this singular event.

The photo to the right is a horrible reminder of the aftermath as we sat and watched TV in a French cafe near our pension and saw Jack Ruby rush up and kill Lee Harvey Oswald. I had nightmares for weeks afterward because I think this was the first time a killing was broadcast on national (and international) TV.

And today I am wondering, where are my friends? If anyone reading this knows of the whereabouts of Penny from Pennsylvania or Ginger from Georgia, maybe they will check in and let me know how their last 49 years have gone because I lost track of them once we returned to the U.S.

Finally, on this Thanksgiving Day, I am thankful for so much... family, friends far and near (including those I have made through MM) and for health. Intending this is a better year ahead for all of us in all ways, for the highest and best good of all concerned, so be it and so it is! Whooooooo!

1 comment:

  1. dear sandy,

    i have goosebumps all up and down my body, just reading and remembering president kennedy's assasination and the murder of lee harvey oswald. i was at college, about 60 miles from home, and all i wanted was to get back to my family. i can just imagine how the trauma was magnified for you being so far abroad.

    although i don't feel completely qualified to intend, i hope it's okay if i ride along on your coat tails and align with you for a better years ahead fo all of us in all ways.

    wouldn't it be amazing if your shout out for news of ginger and penny panned out? i will be hoping and BELIEVING for you to become reconnected with them.

    thinking of you and hope you are having a joyful reunion with E, baby k and miss pretty.

    love, xoxo

    karen, TC