I see the Kennedy assassination as the
defining moment of my generation -- I mean, you ask anyone my age what
they were doing when Kennedy died and they will usually be able to give
you a vivid description.
I was seven years old and in 2nd grade at
Fleischmann's Elementary School in the Catskill Mountains in upstate New
York. Mrs. Menzies, our teacher, was a pretty young widow with a young
baby girl and an aged mother at home. She was devoted to us and was a
bright and glorious flower on that gloomy day.
We were making little log cabins out of popsicle
sticks and glue...and I was gazing out the window at the gray day...the
early snowfall was dropping huge fluffy flakes on the playground dotted
with dark elm skeletons...it was so dark that the lights were on in the
classroom and I could also see my reflection in the glass...a little
red-headed girl with tight braids and missing front teeth.
The train set on the window sill, made of
cardboard, had each of our 19 names written on a separate boxcar. Our
reward: a piece of penny candy for every A on a spelling test. I was
pleased to see my boxcar was already full, and there were still weeks to
go until Christmas and we would get our prizes.
Suddenly, the loudspeaker began to
crackle with static and then the principal Mr. Miller's voice came
through clearly but weak and wavering. "Everyone...I want you to
put your heads on your desks and pray...the President has been
Mrs. Menzies burst out crying and put her
head on the desk...we stared at each other for a moment, each
mouthing...what is assassination?
And then realizing that if our teacher
was crying, whatever it was...it was bad...and we bowed our heads,
And the world changed that day.