Friday, November 22, 2013

Thinking about JFK

(Photo from Wikipedia)
Today is the 50th anniversary of the day that John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I was just a toddler on that day, so I don't remember it first-hand, but I’ve been thinking about that time a lot lately.


I recently read the fascinating Stephen King novel “11/22/63” which is a fictional account of the JFK assassination, and an attempt on King’s part to understand Lee Harvey Oswald’s motivations. King also has us think about the possibility of what the future might have looked like had JFK not died (note: not what you might expect). This was a very long book, over 800 pages, but I found it riveting. I grew to feel connected to the characters, and I was sad when the book ended. Now when I hear someone ask “why did Oswald do it?” I feel like I have a better understanding, at least from King’s research and perspective, of why.

The Zapruder Film

Others may have heard of "the Zapruder film" but I hadn’t until recently. I just learned that the reason we have footage of Kennedy being shot is because a man named Abraham Zapruder happened to be filming in Dallas just as Kennedy’s car rounded the corner, and Zapruder captured on film the moment that Kennedy was shot. It’s quite horrifying to watch. I never realized that you could see exactly what happened in such detail. You can see JFK react as the first shot is fired, and then you can see the effects of the second shot. You can also see the reaction of Jackie Kennedy. You can see the actual footage here. This video also tells an interesting story of how Life Magazine acquired this footage.

Boston Symphony Orchestra

Here is another incredible piece of history from that day. The Boston Symphony Orchestra was about to start it's performance at 2:00 pm on 11/22/63, and then this happened:
First, we hear the gasps and shushes after BSO music director Erich Leinsdorf utters the words: "The president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination." Second, a wave of groans and sighs after Leinsdorf continues, "We will play the funeral march from 's Third Symphony" — as if the crowd's shared response is that they couldn't possibly have heard the first part right, but that then the orchestra's change in repertoire confirms the awful, unimaginable truth. And then, for the next 14 minutes ... utter silence, save for the incomparably somber music.
You can read more about this moment, and  hear the audio here. It's astonishing.You can experience what the audience was feeling as this terrible news sunk in.

It's through these moments -- the book, the video, the audio -- that I can experience, in part, which it must have been like on that day. Having lived through 9/11 and the Boston Marathon Bombings, I have a sense of what those surreal, "life before and life after" events are like, but these pieces help me experience and understand even more how JFK's death impacted those who lived through that moment in time, and the days following. May his memory be for a blessing.

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