On an unforgettable Friday afternoon, a perfect crisp fall day, my second grade class was interrupted by Mrs. McCarthy, a teacher from across the hall. I watched as Mrs. McCarthy motioned to my teacher, Mrs. Gadbeiso to come to the back of the classroom. Behind a manila folder I saw Mrs. Gadbeiso's eyes fly wide open and then we were suddenly dismissed from school. Mrs. Gadbeiso told us our president, John F. Kennedy, had been shot by a gunman and that we were to go home to be with our parents. I don't know if we left in quiet orderliness or not but I do know my sister and I were accompanied by my older brother on the long walk home, a rare occurrence. When we reached the top of our hill, we were met by my younger brother on his bicycle. "Mommy's crying", he said solemnly. Together, we four, raced down the hill to our house where we found my mother sitting on the living room floor in front of the TV, dabbing at her eyes with a Kleenex. She told us the president died and hugged us to her. I remember that weekend was long and sad and instead of music from the stereo, the TV played on and on. We stayed in the living room for three days, visited occasionally by neighbors, our uncle, my grandparents. Mom kept coffee percolating on the stove all weekend and Dad ran out for sandwiches and pizza. We waited and waited for a sight of Mrs. Kennedy and her children to appear on the TV and when they did, my mother dabbed her eyes again and again.
There was no school on Monday and we watched the funeral procession and were awed by the sheer majesty of the ceremonies. We were mesmerized by the symbolic rider-less horse, the back facing boot, and the haunting and plaintive trumpeting of Taps. More friends and neighbors stopped by to drink coffee and talk. I am not sure if my parents were so affected because JFK was a native son to our Boston, or if they liked him because he was young. I never asked them if they were Democrats or if they approved of the way JFK ran our country. I think perhaps, they simply felt that something horrific and inconceivable had happened - that such a shocking act of violence could infiltrate the wondrous, innocent, and hopeful world we lived in at that time.