Today is a somber day of remembrance for America. It of course is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, TX. He was a young, energetic man, that brought life and hope to America. His presidency was during some very exciting days as we watched him lead us through the Cuban missile crisis and the space race began as President Kennedy challenged our country to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.
It seems that anyone who was alive when President Kennedy was assassinated can recall where they were that fateful day, and what they were doing. It seems that is a day forever etched in the minds of the generation that witnessed the tragedy unfold, one of the many days of its kind that would change America and the world forever.
I was in ninth grade science class when the announcement came over the intercom speaker in the room. I remember everyone was stunned and most of the girls began crying. There seemed to be a reverent silence over the whole school.
My good friend, Steve is a Dallas native. His parents took him and his sister out of school and to Love Field to witness the presidential plane land and the President and his entourage drive away in the ill-fated motorcade. Then on the way home, heard the news broadcast on the car radio. Later Steve would work for Southwestern Bell Telephone as an installer in downtown Dallas and he was privileged to install the telephones in the first JFK Museum just across from the School Book Depository building.
Our good friends, Bennie and Gloria were living just outside Washington, DC at the time. Bennie worked for the Census Bureau and Gloria was in her first year as an elementary school teacher. Andrews Air Force Base was just a few miles away. In the middle of her class a uniformed airman came in and told her what had happened and said he just wanted to be beside his son at this time and sat in the class with them. The Census Bureau was in lockdown and no calls were allowed in. As they traveled home after work the roads were packed bumper to bumper with traffic, but all in a strange hushed silence.
I remember my grandfather telling me that he had heard a reporter explaining an apparent car chase from the grassy knoll and toward Ft Worth. He had listened for more information on that and it never was mentioned again.
Here are some strange facts that you may or may not have seen that compares the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln and Kennedy and the ironic parallels in the stories:
. Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846; John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946
. Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860; John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960
. The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain 7 letters
. Both men were particularly concerned with civil rights
. Both Presidents were shot on a Friday
. Both were shot in the head
. Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy. She warned him not to go to the theater
. Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln and she warned him not to go to Dallas
. Both were assassinated by Southerners
. Both were succeeded by Southerners
. Both successors were named Johnson
. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln was born in 1808
. Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy was born in 1908
. John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839
. Lee Harvey Oswald was born in 1939
. Both assassins were known by their three names
. Both names had 15 letters
. Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse
. Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater
. Both were assassinated before their trials
It would take someone smarter than I to interpret what all of that means, but they are very interesting things to ponder to say the least.
It seems strange today to see the video from that motorcade and the open air postures in which these dignitaries presented themselves to the public. Today a government official would never dream of riding in less than a covered vehicle, and the President’s limo is a disguised armored tank.
Far gone are those days of innocence and trusting the public to do the right thing and of being accessible to the people.
That November 22 seemed to usher in the downward spiral that we have witnessed through the years. Within 10 years we would have the Watergate scandal and Martin Luther King would be assassinated and all the race tensions that accompanied that. We have all been through 911 and we see the whole world in turmoil today.
But as we reminisce on this 50th anniversary and look to the future we must not despair. This old world is reeling but there is a bright hope. The Bible tells Christians to “set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on the earth…But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Colossians 3; Philippians 3)
We must not withdraw from life and live in fear, but point others to the sure hope that we have in Christ.