48 years ago today, remembering Dealey Plaza

When it comes to bucket lists, that being that group of things you hope to do before you depart this lovely Earth, one thing has always been at the top of my list.

Some time before I expire I want to stand in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, look around, look up at that window in the Texas Book Store Depository, and ponder how the world changed 48 years ago today.

They say people will always remember where they were when they got the word when that President Kennedy was shot.

They aren’t lying.

I was sitting in my fourth-grade class at Assumption BVM School in West Grove. Mother Superior came in. You knew right away that something was not right. She had tears in her eyes. Usually only the guys who ran afoul of Mother Superior had tears in their eyes.

She asked us to pray for the president.

As you can imagine, in 1963 the idea of the first Catholic president was pretty big news in the very Catholic Heron house. It was a big deal for the parochial school I attended as well.

After JFK was elected, putting on those same clothes every morning, blue slacks, white shirt, blue clip-on ABVM tie - that outfit that screamed to every kid in town that you were somehow "different"- held a bit more distinction than it did before. Back then all it did was promote stares and questions from all your public school friends who did not understand why you had to wear a tie to school every day.

That weekend pretty much went by in a blur.

Remember, this was long before the Internet. There was no Twitter. No Facebook. No email. Not a cell phone in sight.

People huddled around radios and TVs. Finally, we got the news from the same place we got almost all the big national stories.

From Walter Cronkite. It’s the only time I saw Cronkite struggle with his emotions as he told the nation that it was “apparently official, the flash from Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy died” just after 1 o’clock Central Standard Time.

I have been obsessed with the Kennedy Assassination every since. Every year I watch the specials. I’ve read all the books on the case, checked out every conspiracy theory.

Today, when I concoct a new conspiracy theory, I actually refer to it as a “Grassy Knoll” moment.

That, of course, is a reference to the area in Dealey Plaza where many believed a second gunman fired on the president.

For something that happened 48 years ago, the memories remain vivid.

In particular I remember the effect it had on my mother. “Love” wouldn’t quite explain her feelings for JFK.

Everything about him validated her life, her political beliefs, her upbringing, her staunch Irish Catholic background.

A little bit of her died that day.

I think a little bit of all of us did. We’re not the same country today. We lost some of our innocence.

And one day I want to stand in Dealey Plaza and take it all in, let the memories flood back, and maybe put to rest a story that has stayed with me for almost five decades.


Lynn McKeown said…
Thank you, Mr Heron, for sharing your feelings with us.
Heron's Nest said…
Lynn: Thanks for the comment, but please call me Phil. I feel old enough on this memorable day.
Rdub said…
TRying to put this into words. I was in second grade at St. Bernadette school in Drexel Hill. After the news, we were sent home. A little background, my Mother (God rest her soul) was a Kennedy girl meaning she would dress up, wear a sash and go out and campain for JFK. From a typical Irish Catholic family( me 7 my three sisters aged 5 3 1) gathered around the tv waiting for my pop. All Mom wanted to do was hug us. To this day I believe that she was expecting the bomb to drop and the world to be over. It was a very scary day.
On November 22, 1963 my hard as nails grandmother, a staunch democrat greeted us at the door. She had tears in her eyes. My father, a loyal republican came home from work and we all watched the evening news. I believe it was Walter Cronkite. My father too had glassy eyes as we watched. There was no political divide that day. We were all Americans. I don't know if it will ease your mind to actually go to Dealey Plaza. It may only provoke more questions but it is certainly something to see. Nice article Mr. Heron. I am just guessing, but I believe Lynn was just showing respect. That is a nice gesture at any age.