November 22, 2013 will mark the 50 year anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Over the past 50 years we all have heard bits and pieces of JFK’s assassination, of Jackie’s cool composure on the day of his funeral and watched the Kennedy family mourn and bury a number of its family members. But did we ever stop to think where we were the day that JFK was shot? All of us remember that day vividly in our minds, even if we were too young to remember or too old when we heard the tragic news that we’ll never forget. My husband told me that he was 11 years old when JFK was assassinated. It was during school when the Windsor Star collected all the paperboys to distribute the newspapers with the sad news. (Windsor, Ontario). I, on the other hand was living in Greece at the time. I had turned 8 years old just a few days earlier, and was going to elementary school. As much as I don’t remember many details of that specific day, there are certain phrases and events that I remember hearing and seeing and from the era that John and Jackie Kennedy were in office.
It was 7:30 in the evening on that cold November night. I remember I was home with my mother and father, gathered in our small kitchen around the oil-burning heater. We didn’t have a TV, but we had a radio. My mother was serving dinner for my father, when my older brother walked through the front door. The first words uttered from his mouth were: “They shot John Kennedy”. My mother’s mouth gasped open and my father turned to the radio, trying to find a station to hear the news.
John and Jackie Kennedy were idolized by everyone all over the world. Even in one little country, the size of Alabama known as Greece. There was hope that this new young US president will help Greece with issues with Turkey and Cyprus. We watched and heard, as young kids, the US launching the space program and landing a man on the moon. I remember sitting around the radio with my father and my mother listening to the broadcast of the first man on the moon. My father’s words at the time were: “It’s good that they concentrate on the space program and not on wars”.
Jackie Kennedy on the other hand had captured everyone’s heart with her fashionable style. The hairstyle was copied by almost everyone, and the three row pearl necklace was worn by women all over the world. Even if they were fake. My mother had a pearl necklace very similar to the one Jackie wore. She even had a picture taken with them on. As I look at my mother’s picture dated in 1963, I can see the slight resemblance on the hairstyle, the black dress and the pearls laying flat just below the collarbone. Jackie’s immeasurably photographed style sat new criteria of poise, courage and coolness, more so of that John F. Kennedy’s famous phrase: “I’m the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris and I have enjoyed it”.
1963 marked an era of events that we all remember to this day. Cleopatra, the movie, was released. Richard Burton and Liz Taylor made the headline news. The Beatles had become famous, not just with their music, but with their bowl cut hairstyle that was adopted by many young men. A conspiracy to assassinate the French President Charles DeGaule was uncovered, which was later depicted in the 1973 movie “The day of the Jackal” based on the book by Frederick Forsythe. Some famous Hollywood names were born that year, like Vanessa Williams, William Baldwin, Johnny Depp, John Stamos, to just name a few, and some of them died like Patsy Cline, Jason Robarts Sr, Edith Piaf and of course John F. Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald.
The day of the funeral was Monday November 25th, and as any weekday I went to school and my father went to work. It wasn’t till later that evening when my father walked in the house carrying the afternoon paper with the big, black, bold letters and pictures of JFK’s funeral. We sat at the kitchen table unfolding the newspaper looking at the black and white pictures of the funeral feeling sadness for the Kennedy family. We saw a picture of Queen Frederika of Greece attending the funeral among other world royalties and dignitaries. My mother expressed her sorrow by wondering how can a mother – Rose Kennedy – bear to bury her child. As we looked through the pictures repeatedly, with my father reading some of the texts, we finally closed it and put it away when my father said: “Here was a great man and they got him out of the way”.