We were all stunned and in a state of suspended animation.
I was a high school sophomore in French class. Mr. Boucher, our instructor, was a no-nonsense kind of guy. The door burst open and Tom Gallagher, a senior, editor of the school newspaper, and a wisecracker par excellence shouted with urgency “Kennedy’s been shot.” Mr. Boucher immediately responded with “Gallagher, that’s in very poor taste. You’re a big boy with a mouth to match.” Tom had moved on, running classroom to classroom shouting his madness. When I got home maybe an hour later, the TV confirmed it. Stunned. We were all stunned and in a state of suspended animation. It was Friday, I had to walk the mile to our CCD class and I remember walking there on automatic pilot. It couldn’t be. It just couldn’t be. Maybe this is all a terrible mistake. The 15 year-older couldn’t process it. I needed to watch it all unfold on TV. I couldn’t watch in the living room, out in the open, I needed privacy. I watched for the entire weekend in the cellar where an antiquated black-and-white small screen TV had been stored. It still worked so no one dreamed of throwing it out. There in the damp and cold basement, I watched and cried. My life was on hold. I watched it all. I can still remember the exact cadence of the funeral march. Images of the funeral which have become iconic, I’d have never forgotten had there been no still shots. Jackie never crying. Her mantilla covered face. The children…Caroline just following along, John-John saluting the casket. The riderless horse, the cadence, the cadence, the cadence engraving itself in my mind. Fifty years ago. Fresh as fifty minutes ago.