November 24, 1963 – “…And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country” – JFK
There is an old saying that when someone dies, the clock stop.
Certainly time has seemed to come to a standstill since Friday afternoon when our president, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated. The man arrested for the murder, Lee Oswald, was killed today, shot by a man called Jack Rubenstein. Oswald was being transferred to the county jail at Dallas when the shooting occurred. The scene was televised and we saw the man, heard the shot, and saw him clutch his stomach and fall.
Needless to say, the terrible and tragic death of our beloved president has left the nation shocked and speechless. We are horrified that this could happen, distressed that a man loved so much is gone, angry that anyone could do this terrible thing and shamefully aware of the awful loss of Jacqueline Kennedy and her two small children, both of whom have birthdays next week. The President will be buried on John Jr.’s third birthday. Caroline will be six two days later. Our loss is great, but theirs is so much greater. We have lost our great leader, but they have lost a father and a husband.
There are so many loose ends in the entire affair that leave one confused and apprehensive. Many feel that somehow, someway, Russia is behind all this.
It has been proven that the murder was premeditated. Oswald spent several years in Russia and was married to a Russian. Jack Rubenstein, who daringly and openly fired upon Oswald is not exactly a savory character. They know that Oswald had previously been in Rubie’s nightclub. WHO is really behind it all? Russia? Cuba? Segregationalists? China? Will we ever know? Oswald knew – but now he’s dead and not telling.
Time has stood still since early afternoon two days ago. Stores, businesses, of all kinds, have closed their doors. All regular television and radio programming has been cancelled until further notice and we have watched with seriousness and soberness, the news films from Friday, when the President was killed, to the filming of the funeral march in Washington to the on-the-spot shooting of Oswald, the assassinator.
Tomorrow the mass and burial will be televised. All types of business, city, state, governmental and individual will be closed. The similarities between John F. Kennedy & nearly 100 years ago, Abraham Lincoln, are on everyone’s mind. That history does in fact repeat itself is quite evident.
The similarities seem too numerous to be simply coincidental. A more ardent researcher might uncover more but so far I have noted these:
1) Both presidents were fighting for civil rights.
2) Both were advised against attending the function which led to disaster.
3) Both were shot in the head.
4) In both instances, usual security measures were apparently lax.
5) Both were assassinated on a Friday.
6) Both lost a son during office. President Lincoln lost his son Tad and only last August the Kennedy’s newborn infant son died.
7) BOTH were succeeded by their vice president, both of whom bear the name of Johnson.
There’s a time difference of almost 100 years. Both were unquestionably great leaders and history has indeed, repeated itself.
November 25 1963 – the 35th President of the United States was buried today I a beautiful yet classically simple and altogether impressive ceremony. I could not do it justice in telling, but I know that Jacqueline handled most of the planning. Every country except China had sent a dignitary representative and Jackie was hailed by most nations for her tremendous courage.
I was particularly impressed by several incidents – when Mike Mansfield read his speech [eulogy] in which he capitalized on Jackie’s taking off her ring and placing it in John’s hand “And she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hand” in one sentence he said “There was a husband who asked much and gave much and out of the giving and asking wove with a woman what could not be broken inn life and in a moment, it was no more…”
I would like to obtain a copy of the entire speech. After the mass was over, Cardinal Cushing, who married the Kennedys, stopped by Caroline, bent over and kissed her tenderly.
And at Arlington National Cemetery, at one point 50 jet planes flew by, in twos and threes, all except for the last one, which flew alone to signify the missing leader. It was altogether beautiful, and one could not help the tears – our loss is great and I only hope the nation has learned a lesson from it all.
Jan 15, 1964 – the following is the speech made by Mike Mansfield, at the time of the death of President Kennedy. Its eloquence and pure simplicity seem to convey the feelings of so many of us: [Actually, this is the eulogy Mansfield delivered on November 24, 1963. At the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol].
“There was a sound of laughter; in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a wit in a man, neither young nor old, but a wit full of an old man’s wisdom and of a child’s wisdom, and then in a moment, it was not more.
There was a man marked with the scars of his love of country, a body active with the surge of a life far, far from spent and, in a moment, it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a father with a little boy, a little girl and a joy of each in the other. In a moment it was no more, and so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands.
There was a husband who asked much and gave much, and out of the giving and the asking wove with a woman what could not be broken in life, and in a moment it was no more. And so she took a ring from her finger and placed it in his hands, and kissed him and closed the lid of a coffin.
A piece of each of us died at that moment. Yet, in death he gave of himself to us. He gave us of a good heart from which the laughter came. He gave us of a profound wit, from which a great leadership emerged. He gave us of a kindness and a strength fused into a human courage to seek peace without fear.
He gave us of his love that we, too, in turn, might give. He gave that we might give of ourselves, that we might give to one another until there would be no room, no room at all, for the bigotry, the hatred, prejudice, and the arrogance which converged in that moment of horror to strike him down.
In leaving us — these gifts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States, leaves with us. Will we take them, Mr. President? Will we have, now, the sense and the responsibility and the courage to take them?”
As one person put it, it’s a shame that all the good that has been said about this was not said when he was alive. Memorials, libraries, streets, buildings, places all across the country have been or are being renamed after this man. Idlywild Airport has become The John Fitzgerald Kennedy Airport.
Ben Franklin’s image will no longer adorn the fifty cent pieces. The late President’s image will. Personally, I applaud each tribute – what tribute can ever be enough? The man is gone.
I think often of his wife and children. Much has been written about the strength and courage Jacqueline displayed throughout the entire ordeal. This week’s Life Magazine said it most succinctly: “Valiant is the word for Jacqueline Kennedy.”
They say over 800,000 letters & telegrams have been received by the Kennedy family and in a newscast, the first Mrs. Kennedy made since the assassination, it was said that she intends to try to answer as many as possible! The messages, they said, would be kept at the Kennedy Memorial (I wrote a small note & sent it to her. I felt I just had to).
November 23, 2013 – hard to believe that I wrote those lines fifty years ago, when I was 23 years old. Those of us who remember find ourselves wondering what more JFK might have accomplished if he had the opportunity to live out his life. – sls