If you were alive 50 years ago today I’m sure you remember exactly where you were when the news of the death of John F. Kennedy came in. I remember it almost as if it were yesterday. I was stationed at Biggs Field Air Force Base in El Paso Texas. I left my office in the personnel building and walked with a couple of friends across the parade ground to the mess hall for lunch. The day was bright and sunny with the temperature already nearing 70 degrees with a slight wind coming down from the mountains to the west of the base. We were laughing and talking about sports and it was a nice easy day.
After lunch not knowing anything was amiss we walked back to our office enjoying the rising dry desert air and the day it had produced. When I walked into our office which were just cubicles with 3/4 walls I noticed the TV was on and I saw the face of Walter Kronkite. We stopped to listen knowing something had to be pretty important for the TV to be on. He was announcing the death of John Kennedy. There was a collective gasp among those present and even tears from most of us. It was perhaps one of the saddest times of my young life equated to when my grandfather had passed away a couple of years before.
We just stood there stunned looking at the TV screen with the grainy images of the motorcade and listening to the calm slightly broken voice of Walter tell us the story. No one said anything for several minutes most of us drifted slowly off to our desks sitting there still stunned trying to process how such a terrible thing could happen. I know I cried and the thoughts that ran through my mind were sad lonely ones.
Kennedy had meant so much to me. He had authorized my outfit the 1604th Military Air Transport Wing in Bermuda to receive the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal for our base’s role in the Cuban Missile Crisis and just the year before I had stood in the line while he, LBJ, Jackie and Caroline came down the tarmac to board Air Force One shaking my hand and everyone’s who held theirs out and then giving us an impromptu speech and letting us know before the world even knew what had transpired in the summitt meeting he had just completed with British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan.
It could not be was what kept going over and over in my mind, but the stark reality was yes it could. The reminder of the afternoon we stood around in small groups not doing much work discussing the whys and the hows and mostly still stunned at what had happened just 300 miles to the east of where we stood. Unbelieving and shocked that in our nation such a thing could happen. It was a sad time.
I can’t think of another moment in my life that was more stunning and not too many that were more sad than Novemember 22, 1963. The Director of Pesonnel came around shaking our hands offering encouragement and finally telling everyone to go home since work seemed impossible. We left quietly and speaking in hushed tones to each other as we filed out of the office.
The day is forever burned into my memory! I still have difficulty believing even though I was there and I remember. Would but I could wipe out that day I would!
Take Care and Have a Safe and Warm Weekend!
In The Summer of His Years
The day dawned bright and sunny,
The weather was almost warm,
No inkling of what was to be,
Or that there would be any harm.
And then in Dealy Plaza,
In the summer of his years,
A shot rang out ending,
His story bringing on our tears.
If it could be undone,
We all would surely make it so,
But the past is finished,
And there is nothing left but woe.
The day was bright and sunny,
In Dallas there was glee,
Crowds turned in great numbers,
Their President they wanted to see.
But there were other forces,
At work to destroy the day,
To stun the world into disblief,
And bring on our dismay.
On that terrible November day
For a man shot down,
In Dealy Plaza in Dallas town,
In the summer of his years.