I am among the youngest who remember JFK’s assassination. My kindergarten class was gathered in our daily circle singing songs and listening to stories when we were interrupted by the principal’s voice over the public address system. The president had been shot and killed, he told us, and Vice President Lyndon Johnson was being sworn in as President. I remember picturing Johnson as a younger, handsome man (my 5 year old mind assumed a VP must be younger than a President, and weren’t all Presidents good-looking?) and being shocked when I saw the real new President, a weathered Texan who looked older than his 55 years.
Because I was so young, the actual memories mix with the endless video replays until I’m not sure what I witnessed live, but I remember watching so many iconic TV moments with my mother on our lone living room TV. Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, the funeral processions, John John’s salute. All so long ago, yet seared in our collective consciousness whether we saw them live or many years later.
Now my sons share a similar universal memory of September 11, 2001. One was also in kindergarten. It makes me wonder if each generation is doomed to share at least one horrific moment. And it makes me hope, against all logic, that their generation has seen its last one.