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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Questions about Death

This is, as most Americans of a certain age - what a quaint phrase - the 45th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I remember it well, I think. Or, as I have surmised in the past, I may have shared the story with acquaintances so often that now I recall the retelling rather than the actual event. No matter.

The facts were these: I was in my fifth grade class at Daniel S. Dickinson school in Binghamton, NY when our teacher, Miss (Marie) Oberlik was called into the hall by someone. She came back into the class to announce that the President had been killed. then she left. Immediately our 10-year old minds were reeling. What happened? And what does this mean for the country. I'm fairly sure that we were not versed in the rulkes of Presidential succession and I doubt that I even knew who Lyndon Johnson was. Suddenly, Miss Oberlik returns to the class screaming, "Everyone else in the school is being quiet in respect fior the President!" Well, yeah, but I bet their teachers didn't drop a bombshell on them and then LEAVE.

BTW, I also saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot on live TV that weekend.

My questions, which I request that you answer:
1. Who was the first tragedy (death or other traumatic event) you know that was NOT personally involving your sphere of family and friends. For me it was JFK's death; for my wife, who is younger than I am, it was Richard Nixon's resignation, probabl;y for the reason I felt about JFK - what now? (Wheras I was rather pleased by Nixon's departure.)

2. Who was the first person you knew personally to die?
For me, it was all in one short stretch of my great-grandfather (my paternal grandmother's father), my paternal grandmother, and my great aunt (my maternal grandmother's sister). They may have been a year or two apart, but they all feel now as though it were the same gloomy stretch.


Scott said...

1. John Hinckley's assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan. I was 10 and a half years old. I don't remember how I found out, but I remember watching the replay over and over that day.

2. My great-grandmother (who was my mother's maternal grandmother). I don't know exactly when she died, but it had to be rather close to the event I mentioned in question number one.

Uthaclena said...

1. JFK, with a very similar experience. Our teacher came in very quietly, very seriously, and announced, "Boys and girls, our President has been shot an killed." We were all stunned, and they put the radio on over the PA system while arranging early dismissal. I remember somehow getting the impression that Cuba was involved, although that may have simply been a discussion of the Bay of Pigs incident.

2. My maternal grandmother, an elderly Polish immigrant who I always knew as being old. The concept of mortality - of my personal mortality - hit me, and I had many a sleepless nights following the funeral. Also, Mason Williams' piece "Classical Gas" was poplular then, and, much as I love the music, it has been forever after associated with Death.

Nik said...

1. When the shuttle Challenger blew up in '86, I remember I was in seventh or eighth grade and we all got called in for a special announcement. Rather shocking, we didn't think such things could happen.

2. All my grandparents died when I was too little to remember, but I do recall a kid I vaguely knew about the same time, eighth grade, who died over the summer when he fell off a cliff. I didn't know Sam very well but still, it was kind of awful to come back from summer and find out one of your mates died!