Hines Sight / Nov. 22, 1963: The day the world changed forever
Published 6:22 am, Friday, November 22, 2013
I was 7 years old in November 1963. The world seemed the same to me -- until I walked into my house.
I don't remember if I was coming from playing outside or from school. But I do know I was looking for my mother.
As I turned the corner from the hallway into our living room, I found her. She was sitting on a hassock in front of our black-and-white television set, which was tucked into a crevice. And she was crying.
I vividly remember seeing her body hunched over, leaning toward the TV. When she turned around, her eyes were red with tears, and her cheeks were wet. I was scared. I had no idea what was going on.
I don't recall if that day was Friday, Nov, 22, 1963, or a few days later. It really doesn't matter which, because that period of time shattered America -- and my mother.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas has been termed as the day the world changed forever. Undoubtedly. It certainly left a lot of people wondering what would have been had it not happened.
The Kennedys felt like they were members of my own family. I grew up in a Democratic family. My paternal grandfather was a diehard Democrat (although Poppy also believed that Abraham Lincoln was a great man).
My parents espoused Democratic views, though not as strident as Poppy's. While my mother didn't harbor any dislike for Republicans, she always believed that the Democrats were on the side of everyday people.
She adored the Kennedys. Her affinity for John Kennedy and whole extended clan was something else entirely, considering that the Boston-bred wealthy family was anything but everyday people. She was more than just caught up in the excitement of the times -- when a dashing young man with a beautiful, graceful wife and two adorable children decided the country needed a change and ran for president.
Whatever it was, my mother was obsessed -- the extent to which I found out, however, was years later. She was among the American women who was fascinated with Jackie Kennedy, her wardrobe, her style, her parenting. But my mother also was proud to say that she knew everything about JFK's presidency, including the members of his cabinet -- and could name them all.
I have no doubt that my mother's affection for the Kennedys was the catalyst for the trip to New Haven on Sunday, Nov. 6, 1960 -- two days before he was elected president by one of the narrowest margins -- to see the then U.S. senator up close.
I don't think I was there; I was only 4. But my sister remembers it; she was 11. When I asked her to recall the day, here is what she wrote:
"We drove to New Haven on a sunny fall day because JFK was going to be campaigning there. I think it was Daddy, Mommy and Aunt Dorothy. It was very crowded and I could feel a lot of excitement from the atmosphere. We waited with the crowd and we were fairly close to the area where he would be coming by. I don't remember if he was in a car or walking, but I think he was standing up in a convertible because Daddy put me up on his shoulders so I could see better. JFK came by and I got to shake his hand, so I was that close. I remember he was very handsome to look at and had a warm handshake and a great smile. We were all so excited to have gotten that close."
In the weeks following the president's funeral, my mother was one of the nation's mourners who wrote to Jackie Kennedy. I don't know what she wrote in her note, but I have a pretty good idea.
Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.