Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 1963 . . . and beyond

It’s the 50th anniversary of three notable deaths. Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, is often overlooked on the date of his passing because his fame is not as widespread as that of C. S. Lewis, the Christian apologist whose Chronicles of Narnia is read in classrooms. On November 22, 1963, the news that Huxley and Lewis would no longer put pen to paper was put on hold as television, radio, and newspapers (no one used the word “media” much back then) placed all of their focus on John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States who was assassinated in Dallas, Texas early in the afternoon.

I was six-years-old, a first grader at a parochial school where the principal announced the tragedy over the PA system. We stood next to our desks, said a prayer, probably a “Hail Mary” or something equally meaningless, and were dismissed early. Once home, I didn’t really grasp the reason for my mother’s tears. I knew JFK as an image on the black-and-white TV screen, someone not unlike Ben Casey, the doctor played by Vince Edwards on a series popular at the time. There were soon clues that Kennedy was more important than a TV doctor.

Once the news broke, there was no other news. Television covered the story around the clock for four days. There was the news of the assassination attempt, the confirmation that Kennedy was dead, interviews with tearful Americans, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, then Oswald's death at the hands of Jack Ruby, all culminating in Kennedy's funeral on Monday November 25 followed by burial in Arlington Cemetery. Kennedy's body was laid to rest, but his ghost has haunted the country ever since.

There are questions, not only about the possibility of a conspiracy in his death, but about his life and legacy. Was Kennedy a great president comparable to Lincoln and FDR? Or was he simply a great cultural icon, a political Elvis? One thing is certain: He was an inspirational figure to millions of people, including many who were not born in 1963.

Shortly after his father’s death, John Kennedy Jr was asked if he remembered him and where was he now?

"Heaven,” the little boy said.

In November 22, 1963: Reflections on the Life, Assassination, and Legacy of John F. Kennedy by Dean R. Owen, the author quotes Reverend Billy Graham who recalled visiting Kennedy only four days before his inauguration as president in January 1961. Kennedy asked Graham about the Bible and where he believed history was heading. Graham told the newly elected president that history would come to a dramatic end with the second coming of Jesus Christ.

Kennedy said, “I’m interested in that.”

Brian W. Fairbanks


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