19 September 2019
Lifelong sailor John F. Kennedy shows his son, John-John, the ropes. Photo: internet
Lifelong sailor John F. Kennedy shows his son, John-John, the ropes. Photo: internet

A November day when the world held its breath

John F. Kennedy would have been 98 today if he had not been cut down by an assassin one sunny November day in 1963.

Few of us remember the time and the uncertainty that a vacant few minutes after the shooting, when the most powerful nation on Earth was blind to the world, would hold up long enough not to plunge that day into night.

I was walking home from my second-grade class when I heard the news as I passed by a house that had one of only a handful of radios in my small town.

I knew the name, I had seen the pictures and had heard my elders talk about him with a certain deference. 

I could understand why the announcer was choking back his words and the radio was on a little louder.

It was the sound of someone grieving.

But it was not so much the voice of a man overcome with emotion as the grief of someone having just lost something of his own.

I think that is the reason JFK’s life remains a beacon for many people and why his death 52 years ago this Sunday continues to fascinate the world.

He was not so much the man who stared down the nuclear abyss during the Cuban missile crisis, nor the man who dreamed up the walk on the moon.

He was the guy with the little boy in a sailboat on a New England beach, the working man working up young volunteers for a global peace mission and the other half of a picture-perfect couple.

JFK was the man we couldn’t be.

Yet, to many of us, he was an ideal and a vision in flesh and blood.

For most people my age, we only know him from old newspapers, history books and the internet.

We would not mind if we had been born a little sooner so we could have lived in his time.

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JFK greets volunteers for the Peace Corps, a global humanitarian organization he established as one of the first acts of his presidency. Photo: Wikipedia

EJ Insight contributor