A lot has happened in those 50 years–to me and to the world. I was a child in elementary school and I remember the night John Kennedy was elected as the President. I was too young to care either way, but he was the first President I remember. And he was larger than life.
He was so handsome, his wife so beautiful, their lives seemed so magical to a little girl. I saw photos and video on the TV of them sailing, golfing, and playing with their children. Through that screen, he seemed to love them all so much.
What kind of President was he? He did some good things–such as pushing us to start space exploration and peacefully settling the Cuban Missile Crisis. He said inspiring things like “Ask not what your country can do for you, but rather ask what you can do for your country.” He did some bad things like the Bay of Pigs and his extramarital affairs.
What I knew was that he was my President. I was old enough to know how important that was. When they announced at school that he had been shot, my heart stopped. I hoped and prayed that he would live and still be my President. But, then, we were told to go home–the President was dead.
Some of the kids laughed and thought it was funny or a good thing. But not me. I was sad for his children whose Daddy was not coming home. Mostly, though, I was more afraid than I had ever been in my life. I believed our country would end–that with his death, the Communists would immediately attack and take over our country. Why would they not? Our leader was dead. What was going to happen to us?
For weeks I waited and feared. Gratefully we have a country that can withstand an assassin, bad legislators, civil unrest, and differing opinions among its citizens. We have a constitution that lays out the orderly transfer of power and I witnessed that first hand as we immediately had a new president and everything went on as it had before. My life was no different.
If I had told my parents how I felt, I am sure they could have reassured me and made the time seems less threatening. But I kept it all to myself. I don’t think they knew how many nights I lay awake scared and listening for sound of bombs. Parents, when something like this happens, always be proactive in helping your children understand and voice their feelings.
I eventually learned not to fear and to trust in the system of government we have. While I mistrust many politicians, I believe in the system and know it works. I pray we never change that system, for that could very well be the beginning of the end for this gift of God called The United States of America.