BRYCE ON A NATIONAL ANNIVERSARY
- Where were you in 1963?
There have been a handful of epoch events over the years which have left indelible impressions on us. Momentous events where we clearly remember where we were on that date and what we were doing. For my grandparents, it was the end of World War I. As for my parents, it was Pearl Harbor. Other generations remember Neil Armstrong setting foot on the moon, the Challenger Disaster, and of course 9-11.
As for me, it was the day President Kennedy was assassinated. At the time, I was in third grade in Norwalk, Connecticut, a public school. We had finished lunch and were now in Mr. Hamilton’s Social Studies class where we were learning about Ferdinand Magellan. Mr. Hamilton was a new teacher, one of only a few black teachers we had at the time. We were always impressed by how well he dressed, his articulate speech, and his care about his students.
During the middle of the class, our principal, Mr. Kelly, made an announcement over the intercom that all teachers were to assemble in the hallway. Mr. Hamilton seemed surprised, but asked us to continue reading while he stepped outside. He was out for only five minutes where the principal spoke quietly with the teachers. When Mr. Hamilton returned his face was ashen and distressed. He fumbled for words, which was uncharacteristic of him. He said, “Children, we have just heard a report that President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. We don’t know the extent of the damage yet, but it sounds bad. I would ask that we take a few minutes and pray for the President.”
And we prayed. Even though it was a public school, I didn’t hear anyone complain. We had never been asked to pray before, but it became apparent something extraordinary was going on. Mr. Hamilton tried to continue teaching, but we could tell his thoughts were elsewhere. After a short while, Mr. Kelly asked the teachers to reassemble in the hallway. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Hamilton returned with instructions from the principal. He began by saying the president had died. He didn’t want to belabor the point, probably because he didn’t know much more than we did, plus the school felt this was something for the parents to explain. He went on to say that we were being dismissed early, and that calls were being made to parents to pick up children. He asked that we remain calm, quietly put things away and leave. We did as we were instructed and remained quiet until we got outside where we looked at each other blankly, not knowing what to think.
I raced home on my bike and ran into the house. “Mom, Mom, did you hear…?” She heard. Both my Mom and her girlfriend from next door were glued to the television, mesmerized. My brother, who had stayed home that day due to a bad cold, was also watching. My father came home early from Manhattan after learning of the news.
For the next few days, we were all transfixed on the television set, morning until night, something highly unusual for that time. Yes, we saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald live on TV, and we watched the final procession to Arlington Cemetery.
This was an event which seemed to shock everybody evenly, both Democrats and Republicans. My parents had not voted for JFK, but they were very much disheartened by his assassination. This was a period when we had respect for the office of the president. As far as my parents were concerned, this was not an attack on a political party or ideology. This was an attack on the United States. The families in my neighborhood all seemed to share this view.
JFK’s assassination was a major milestone in my life. It’s been 50 years since then, and I remember it like it was yesterday. Even now, when I see images of it on television, I remember Mr. Hamilton.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.
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