There are pivotal moments in history that tend to define an era. Pearl Harbor dragged the United States into a world war. The destruction of the World Trade Center not only took took our nation to war again, but changed forever our feelings of security. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a moment that took America’s breath away.
As a kid growing up in the Bronx of the 1960s, there were few homes that didn’t have a picture of Jesus, the Last Supper, or a picture of JFK. He represented youth and vitality after decades of older Presidents. Those were the days when the press and media still knew how to keep secrets, and so we all saw him as a devoted husband and loving father. His glamorous wife and young children at his side, he represented all that was good in our nation. And then it was taken away.
Dealey Plaza, grassy knoll, Love Field, and Texas School Book Depository are all places we associate with the incident. Lee Harvey Oswald, Jack Ruby, and Officer Tippit, men whose lives bisected for a brief moment in time. Two of them would be buried on the same day as the President. The aftermath of the assassination included the Warren Commission, the Zapruder Tapes, and years later, Mafia connections and Marilyn Monroe.
The death of President Kennedy has been documented and dramatized on film in Oliver Stone’s JFK and, most recently, NatGeoTV’s Killing Kennedy, among many others. Steven King’s 11/22/63 offers us an alternate view when his modern-day protagonist goes back in time to stop the assassination. Thousands of words and miles of moving images all serve as proof that we are still fascinated with the incident and the young, charismatic couple.
Once you get past all the reports, opinions, and conspiracy theories, you are left with a man cut down in his prime, a young widow’s blood splattered suit, a nation plunged into mourning, and a little boy whose daddy won’t be home to celebrate his third birthday. Young parents still grieving the loss of a child, reconnecting with hope for their personal future, torn apart in the blink of an eye.
Tomorrow we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination. Hundreds of people will make their way through Dealey Plaza and a wreath will be placed on the grave in Arlington. And we can’t help but wonder what might have been.
“Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was Camelot.”