President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, May 29th, 2017-November 22, 1963
President John F. Kennedy was born 100 years ago today. More people will remember where they were on the day he was assassinated than the day he was born, but I am using this day to acknowledge the man who is the most prominent president I can remember.
The people in my parents’ generation all know where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941. Likewise, people of my children’s generation all know where they were on 9/11/2001, when The World Trade Center was destroyed. And while I remember that day as well, I believe the death of President Kennedy is the defining event in my generation and especially for me.
The poignancy of that day never ceases to affect me. I had just given birth to my first child, a son, and was waiting for the nurses to bring our children to our rooms to feed them. I could not understand the delay and then the news came. I think I was in a state of shock the whole time I was in the hospital. JFK’s death became real to me when I was home with my newborn, watching the funeral procession on our tiny TV, my tears falling down on my son in my lap.
JFK held so much promise for our generation. Perhaps he is best remembered for The Peace Corps. On the negative side we have The Bay of Pigs and his dalliance with other women, to the humiliation of his gentle wife, Jackie. But in the special edition of TIME magazine from which I scanned the cover, he is still one of the most popular presidents in history.
Watching the funeral, with Caroline and John-John next to their mother is a scene that I will never forget, especially when John John, three days shy of his third birthday, saluted as his father’s body was carried to the cemetery. The years that followed his death were even more saddened by the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other prominent men in the Civil Rights Movement. The death of John, Jr. with his wife and sister-in-law on July 16, 1999 is another tragic story in itself. (I am grateful that his mother, Jackie, died before John John, because I think his untimely death would have been unbearable for her.)
The Kennedy Family seems to have been blessed and cursed, but for me, the birth of my son so close to the death of JFK will always be my strongest memory of “The Kennedy Era. “