Remembering the shock, fifty years later By Jeffrey Compton November 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm I was eight years old, in the third grade – and about to begin a rare Friday afternoon off from school, because there was teacher conferences at Adrian Elementary that day. I was playing with a friend on the third floor of our home in South Euclid Ohio when my mother came up the stairs screaming “The President has been assassinated.” “What does assassinated mean?” I asked. “He was killed, he’s dead.” My friend ran home (and found his mother crying); we turned on the black and white TV. Thus began four of the most surreal days of my life. All regular television and radio programming were off the air for the four days, while we stayed glued to the sets “secretly hoping” as my mother said “for someone to tell us that it never happened.” We all know that this weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John Kennedy, and oddly enough (and there must be a better word) the days and dates match exactly. The assassination happened on November 22, a Friday afternoon. The state funeral (a national day of mourning – all businesses and schools were closed) was on Monday. Anyone over 55 can probably remember the most insignificant details (my mother was wearing a brown dress with maroon paisley designs when she told me) alongside the biggest memory: the shock. Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected President; he was 27 years younger than his immediate predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, and was the father of two small children. (Although later reports would tell us that it was a bit of a ruse) Kennedy appeared healthy and vigorous. There had not been a President assassinated for over 60 years (long before most people, including my parents, were born). And while there were some ugly racial incidents in the South, plus some annoying drills where we had to huddle under our school desks, the world did not appear all that violent, especially to an eight year old who didn’t understand the Cuban Missile Crisis nor had yet to hear the word Vietnam. In the summer 1963 my parents had purchased a brand new house under construction in semi-rural Brecksville, Ohio, about an hour’s drive (and a universe away) from our South Euclid home. Every Sunday, we drove out to the house. My mom and dad would wander around checking the progress while I played in the woods surrounding the property. Around noon, my father called “Jeff, let’s go.” I jumped into the car and we headed to a favorite restaurant near Akron for lunch. The radio was on. The suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald, was being transported from one jail to another. Then there was a shot, some shouting – and my father stopped the car. “They just shot the guy, this is unbelievable.” We went on to the restaurant and while eating our lunch the waitress (an older woman who knew us as regulars) came and sat down between our table and the next to tell us that Oswald was dead. (It was the only time I have ever seen a waitress sit at a customer’s table – but it seemed totally natural at the time). And I will never forget her words “We will probably never really know what happened” Why am I talking about this, particularly on a gaming industry website and with so much coverage of the anniversary in other media? Because I feel the need to, and I expect that over the next few days many others my age and older will also feel the need. We will seek out each other, exchange stories of where we were when we heard the news, how people reacted and mostly, we will remember the shock. I would not be surprised if more than a few folks cry. If you were not there, you will not completely understand. Probably the comparable incident in that younger Americans remember most is 9/11. Yes, there was shock, but by 2001 we had (sadly) become much more accustomed to violence (Oklahoma City was only a few years earlier). And most of us were not acquainted with any of the 9/11 victims as we were with the telegenic President of the United States. So to those 50 and under: Cut us some slack, this weekend. We are thinking not only of a Friday fifty years ago, but that we are now at the other side of our lives. And we are still somewhat surprised that 50 years have passed since the day the world turned upside down.