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Archive for November 23rd, 2013

Eternal Flame

It doesn’t take a Fifty Year Anniversary of November 22, 1963 to send my mind back to that date in the world and my personal history of the horrors of that day. Every November 22nd since that time, there has been a pause and a stillness within me and yes, still the unanswered plea that somehow, someway it could have been different…it could have been stopped….it just didn’t happen.

But it did. The 35th president of the United States was ruthlessly gunned down. The light in a beautiful First Lady would never be quite the same. Her wide, gracious smile, lessened forever. Two young children would see only the return of their mother from this political trip. John-John would not have his Saturday birthday party with his father present.

I was twenty years old, a sophomore in college when it happened. It was a beautiful, crisp autumn day, and just after noon on that day, I had completed my Friday classes and was in the Michigan State University student Union lounge. The announcement that the president had been shot came across the building’s  public announce system. Immediately, I thought and prayed “only shot”, not killed. I think Tom and I were together as we awaited the news and heard and saw  CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite announce at 1:38 pm to the United States that President John F. Kennedy had died.

Collectively, the nation’s and some of the world’s heart died that day, along with a lot of hope and vision given us by the vision and dreams of this man, as president. He meant to be a great force for change and it was already beginning to happen. If he thought we could and should do something, many of us were getting on board with him. The space race lay ahead, new things not yet tried were beginning to form for ways to forge ahead in world peace efforts. The Peace Corps inspired youth to “think not what we could do for ourselves but what we could do for our country”.  People began to hear and follow a call that evaporated the thinking of seeking the easy way out.  “We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” A living example of courage stood before us, willing to lead. We were beginning to learn to be followers behind this shining example.

At age twenty, my life was shaping up toward fulfilling my dreams. My college degree was within reach, I would achieve my dream of being a teacher and I would be married in two short years. Now, just a short year and one half away from our own 50th anniversary, these fifty years fulfilled my heart with the family life of two daughters and three grandchildren. Jobs came and went, we moved around a bit, but always made our home where we were, filled with love, and we’ve been blessed in ways too numerous to count. My own American dream is realized and I am aware of the abundance given just in being an American.

Even though I’ve written for nearly all of my life in some form, poetry, essay, diary, journal or blog, I’ve never or at least not often written on the day of a large world event, especially the disastrous ones, like weather catastrophies, Sept. 11, or Nov. 22, 1963.  I usually write afterwards. It is like my fingers are frozen with my mind and feelings. The same was true for yesterday. I attempted to post, but it just didn’t come together. So this is my day-after attempt. Still, I will go through this weekend, remembering the numbness of the Saturday following the assasination of fifty years ago, seeing the shocking Sunday morning murder of Lee Harvey Oswald on TV just as we returned from Mass, the endless files of people in the rotunda, and the First Lady’s gracefilled and grieving presence through the burial procession to Arlington Cemetery. Forever I will hear the drum beat of the funeral march.

John F. Kennedy made his first formal visit to Arlington National Cemetery on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1961, to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns. At the conclusion of the ceremony President Kennedy spoke to more than 5,000 people gathered in the Memorial Amphitheater.

President Kennedy’s address began; “We meet in quiet commemoration of a historic day of peace. In an age that threatens the survival of freedom, we join together to honor those who made our freedom possible. … It is a tragic fact, that war still more destructive and still sanguinary followed [World War II]; that man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men have far outstripped his capacity to live in peace with his fellow man.”

“Man’s capacity to devise new ways of killing his fellow men”.  Had just one man in Dallas been able to find the capacity to live in peace with his fellow men, all history would have been changed.  It is incredible to think that the tipping point lies in just one person being able to work for and find personal peace within themselves and the whole world will be affected toward the good.

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