“Where were you when you heard” is always the question, whether it was the attack on Pearl Harbor, or the D-Day invasion or 9/11. For my generation, it was always, “where were you when you heard that President Kennedy had been shot?”
I’m not sure whether Mom had the TV set tuned to Walter Cronkite on CBS or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC, but I know she was crying. President Kennedy seemed to represent everything hopeful and noble — long before all the tawdry gossip about his female dalliances came out years later.
(By the way, if you want to feel really, really old, ask any 20-something person you meet if he or she knows who Walter Cronkite was.)
My mother was hoping fervently that whoever had done this terrible thing was not Jewish. It seems irrational now, but the Holocaust was still green in her memory, as was the anti-Semitism of her youth. But truth be known, I’ve had similar thoughts when it came to the Newtown shootings and just about every other act of domestic terrorism.
Lee Harvey Oswald wasn’t Jewish, thank heavens. Jack Ruby, the guy who killed Oswald, was, but that didn’t seem quite so terrible.
I wandered outside to talk to my friends, telling them that President Kennedy had been killed. The newspaper editor that I am today is rather ashamed of that. I had jumped the gun before official word came through that he was dead rather than wounded.
When the afternoon newspaper Newsday arrived at our house, my older brother was angry that it didn’t have any mention of the assassination.
I suggested that it probably happened after the paper’s deadline. Even then I was defending newspapers, little realizing, of course, that I would spend a professional lifetime collecting paychecks from them.