The day is here again, November 22nd. It’s been 46 years now and, for those well over that age, no less painful with the passage of time.
His death was the first of a president in our living rooms–the motorcade, the rifle shots, the disarray in Dallas, the dazed swearing-in of his successor that night, the on-camera murder of the assassin two days later and then the funeral with our eyes and hearts transfixed by the beautiful young widow and two small children.
We are so inured now to TV wakes with old news clips and talking heads that it’s hard to imagine how hard and how deeply John F. Kennedy’s assassination struck a nation that had been moved by his youth, wit and optimism, all gone in an eye blink and shown over and over again in slow motion.
The pain went so deep that, as a magazine editor, I published an article by a psychiatrist telling how he and his patients talked of practically nothing else in the days and weeks that followed, how JFK’s death had taken over their psyches and became entangled with their inner lives.
For months after that Friday, I would awake from sweat dreams of the motorcade, book depository, silent screams, slow-motion lunges at a relentless assassin, saving JFK at the last moment.
Such rescue fantasies came naturally to generations marked by the central image of “Catcher in the Rye”: children “standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them.”
Holden Caulfield couldn’t save JFK, and neither could we, but every November 22nd, those dreams come back to haunt us.
Cross-posted from my blog. More about President Kennedy and November 22 HERE.