Posts Tagged ‘JFK’

Life’s defining moments.

I’m talking about those times in your life when the world stands still, where everything changes and from that point on your world is different somehow. And I’m not talking about the death of someone close to you, God knows I’ve had enough of those. I’m talking about events that changed you as well as the world, those moments when you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when everything turned upside down.

In my life there have been two major defining moments. Oh, there have been others that stand out, like the space shuttle disaster in 1986 and of course 9/11, which was obviously unforgettable but somehow never altered how I lived my day-to-day life, possibly because I was a little older on that terrible day.

Two events however, when I was younger, did . . .

John F. Kennedy sailing off the coast of Hyannis Port, Massachusetts.

It was 1963, and I was in second grade. Coming from a strongly democratic family, we’d gone door-to-door in 1960 in support of John F. Kennedy, the charismatic young Senator from Massachusetts who went on to be elected President of the United States in 1960. As young as I was, I still remember watching him on television and feeling that he was so much different than the other politicians. Keep in mind I was, because of my famiily, pretty aware of the political landscape in our country. Hell, I can remember the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960 and I was only 4-years old.

I can vividly recall that Friday in November, 1963 when a knock  came on the door of my classroom in Twin Elementary in Bourneville.  I was in row 2, seat 2. My teacher, Mrs. Hughes, walked to the door and listened for a few seconds. For some reason, the classroom was completely quiet. Somehow we sensed something in the air. I distinctly remember Mrs. Hughes sort of toppling a bit and leaning against the doorjam upon receiving the news. Then she turned, deathly white, and walked to the front of the room.”Kids, our president has been assassinated.” I remember my friend Jeff, who was sitting in front of me, turning around and asking me what that meant. I have no idea how I knew for sure, but I told him that somebody had killed John F. Kennedy, our president. I don’t remember the rest of the school day, but I do remember going home after school and being surprised that my dad was home, sitting on the couch watching the television. I also remember that for the first time in my life, I saw tears in my father’s eyes.

Two days later was a Sunday, and after church Dad and I drove to Columbus to get lunch for the family. This sounds incredible today, but believe it or not the closest McDonald’s was at what is now the Southland Mall. Anyway, I remember standing in line waiting for our food, outside. Inside there was a small black and white television that had been set up so people could watch JFK’s funeral. As I remember they were cutting back and forth to the Dallas Courthouse. Soon, Lee Harvey Oswald was shown being escorted through the basement of the Dallas Police Station. As I watched, Jack Ruby stepped up and shot him in the stomach. Dad tried to cover my eyes but I’d seen it all. I remember some people in line cheered, but dad told me later in the car that it wasn’t a good thing, that it was another murder and perhaps we’d never know what really happened now. He couldn’t have been more right. We still don’t know for sure.

Even at so young an age, I sensed the world was different after those few days. A certain innocence had been lost, and lost forever.

Fast forward 17-years to 1980. It’s well documented what a huge Beatles fan I am. I was once paid off to leave a Beatles Trivia Contest on a cruise ship because I was dominating the competition and ruining the fun. The DJ running the contest actually asked the crowd to pitch in and buy me off. I think I was paid around $400.00 not to play. But I digress.

On December 8th, 1980 at around 11:30 I was relaxing on my couch with my headphones on, listening to “Double Fantasy”, the new album by John Lennon that had been released a couple of weeks prior. Lennon hadn’t recorded in 5-years so the album was a big deal. The Monday Night Football game was on but I wasn’t really watching, I was just lounging with my eyes closed, listening to the music. The TV was actually behind me and I was facing the fireplace. At some point I opened my eyes and glanced into the glass doors of the fireplace. There I saw the reflection of the TV and John Lennon’s face was on it. Weird. I took the headphones off and turned to the television, and they were talking about Lennon being a former Beatle who had just released an album, just giving a brief bio of his life. Uh-oh. This wasn’t good. I soon learned that John Lennon had been shot dead outside his New York City apartment. I was stunned. A few minutes later my phone started ringing as people were calling to share the news and talk about this unspeakable thing that had happened. Soon my friend Tom showed up and we spent the night just talking about it in disbelief.

The following Sunday he, I and our friend Andy attended a memorial in Columbus where thousands of people stood to honor John Lennon. Yoko, John’s wife, had asked the world for 10-minutes of silence and I’ll never forget standing with 20,000 people outside the statehouse in the midst of a complete and utter calm. Not a noise was to be heard, and even the cars and busses in the street had stopped. At the end of the 10-minutes “Imagine” began playing over the loudspeakers and there weren’t many dry eyes to be found.

Music, such a influential part of my life, would never be the same.

So, not counting personal crisis or losing a loved one, what world events were defining for you?

Originally published on September 12th, 2012.