I Remember the Day John F. Kennedy Was Assassinated – Part 1

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For some reason, this came to the forefront of my mind today. Now that I really think about it, I have been reading Wait for Me!: Memoirs, the memoirs of Deborah Mitford, the Duchess of Devonshire. Last night I read that she had met John Kennedy several times at debutante dances in London when JFK was a college boy and was visiting his father, Joe Kennedy, who was the American ambassador to Great Britain, or, more formally, the Ambassador to the Court of St. James. (This last is a classically British practice. St James Palace has been the formal seat, or court, of the English monarchy for centuries. In 1837, the English monarch moved to Buckingham Palace. Nonetheless, St James Palace, remains the official court of the British monarchy and new ambassadors are received there.)

Her mother had to sit for five or six hours every night in the same room where her daughter was dancing because unmarried young women had to be chaperoned at such events in 1937 and apropos of nothing, her mother had watched JFK dance with several young women and talk with different young men and young women and although she never was close enough to even hear him speak, and told her daughter that night that one day he would be President of the United States. Kinda of eerie.

When JFK was shot I was in the third grade at West Elementary School in that incubator of Southern gentlemen, New Canaan, CT. This was one of my few years outside of the South as a youth. My third grade teacher was Mrs. Stanley. Sometime in the afternoon, I don’t remember what day of the week it was, the Principal slipped into the room and motioned for her to step out into the hall. Slightly unusual. She came back into the classroom and said:

Boys and girls, I have some very sad news for you. Some terrible news. President Kennedy has been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas.

Then she stopped speaking. We were silent. As a kid, you gauge the importance of events by how the adults around you react which is something you perceive on an unconscious level. And after she announced that the President had been shot and killed, I felt a familiar pain in my stomach. My father had died six months before and it brought some of that pain back. I only figured this out in retrospect years later.

[Source: Wait for Me!: Memoirs by Deborah Mitford and Charlotte Mosley.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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