President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX on 11/22/1963. This is not about the 10,000 conspiracies that surrounded it, it’s about how I reacted from Friday the 21st until the funeral, then closely followed by Thanksgiving.
I was in my Freshman year (9th grade) at Archbishop Curley HS in Baltimore. It was Friday, last period in the class on Earth Science and the teacher was Mr. Dan Biser. It was about mid period and the lights were out to watch a film strip. Then the announcement came over the intercom from the Pricipal. If you could believe you could make several hundred HS students speechless, announce the President was murdered. We all went home in a stunned state of mind. That night we walked around aimlessly. A few stores were open, but everybody was glued to the TV (think 9/11 without cable channels)
Things moved fast, and slow at the same time. Slow for lack of details, fast for the arrest of Oswald, swearing in Johnson as President, transferring Kennedy in AF-1 to go back to Andrews AFB. Then slow again waiting for details, fast for the killing of Oswald.
Then there was the viewing of a closed casket in the Capitol Rotundra. The questions of what’s next. A spot at Arlington National Cemetery was picked since Kennedy at some point liked the view of the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the Capitol.
Of course rumors were fast and furious. Oswald was deemed a Communist and the wonder of was this a Communist Plot. Afterall, there was an agent on every corner. (Remember we were just 10 years from Korea) We had a Cold War with the Soviets and the Cuban Missile crisis was shortly before this. There were still Civil Defense shelters all over the place. Radios still marked Civil Defense radio stations (for those who wonder what the little triangles were for on old radios).
Then the final plans for the funeral were announced. (You kept wondering when the sirens for incoming missiles would go off) The funeral was announced for the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (yeah, bury a President and let’s have a feast). My older brother had this crazy idea of going to DC for the funeral. So, the two of us, and a friend of my brother left our house around 2 AM to take a bus to downtown Baltimore to get on a Greyhound to DC. (Note: the terminal was on Howard and Centre Sts. No fear going there then, today, no way) We caught a bus to DC and got there around 4 AM. Greyhound in DC was on NY Ave and 6th St NW. We walked to 1600 PA Ave. and waited (No way of that happening today without getting mugged)
We were across the street from the White House at 5 AM and it was cold. We were the first few there. Marines lined the street. As the morning went on, more people showed up and we were 3 to 4 deep. Around 11 AM the funeral procession by horse cart came up PA Ave. and into the East Gate, stopped at the White House for a few moments and proceeded out the West Gate to to Arlington.
In the procession were many heads of State from around the world. I distinctly remember Charles DeGaulle of France standing out. So, when they went out the west gate to Arlington, the three of us took off for the Greyhound Station to go to Baltimore. We got home in time to see the burial.
Now why did I say the slow descent to Mediocrity. Because it was. Johnson got his guns and butter war in Viet-Nam. An unwinnable war based on the stupid rules of engagement. Johnson start the ill conceived War on Poverty which created more than it solved. The late 60′s brought the race riots. The country of self reliance, turned into the country of slow dependence on being dependent. The country was torn between being a country of modern miracles, or a welfare state. Gradually Welfare has WON. We went fron Can Do, to Don’t Try. And the strange thing is we have more in percentage of dependents than can do’s from the early 60′s. I remember Kruschev of the Soviet Union saying we will bury you. in the 60′s. Guess what? He was right. We are buried in a mountain of debt to feed the Age of Dependency.
It’s like the reason for inventing the M-16 over the M-14. The M-14 was almost a sure kill. The M-16 would wound more than it would kill so the enemy was overwhelmed with casualties to fix. The dead can be buried anytime. And if you apply the dependency thinking today, we have more than we need or can handle, and we are being buried.