Today is the 60th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.
November 22, 1963. Seeing that date in writing still gives me the chills, even when it is abbreviated to simply November 22.
It’s strange to see how unimportant that date is to younger people, even though it remains possibly the most memorable day of our lives for me and my classmates. We were just the right age – old enough to worship JFK as the eloquent, dashing young hero-President who got us through the Cuban Missile Crisis and let his adorable kids play in the Oval Office, but not old enough to be cynical about his recklessness, or his philandering, or anything else that would have shattered the myth of Camelot.
Since he was our unsullied idol, his death was elevated to an immeasurable level of tragedy. For us, he was Achilles, the seemingly invulnerable icon somehow brought down by a cheap shot, and there was nothing to limit our sadness. Because we shared our grief with an entire nation, our feelings were echoed again and again by our relatives and by every talking head on every TV channel across the republic. We were bathed in sorrow, immersed in our sense of loss. The limitless resonance of those feelings made that weekend more memorable than the times when I lost my parents or my dearest friends.
When I look at the calendar and see that it is November 22nd, all of those memories return as if they had happened last week, yet for those in subsequent generations, it’s just the day between the 21st and the 23rd. I suppose life works like that.
– December 7th was that kind of day, but no longer resonates the way it did for The Greatest Generation.
– For at least two generations, April 14th was that kind of day, and then it wasn’t. I can always remember that Lincoln was killed in April because it was when lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, but it’s not in the top of my mind that it happened on the 14th, or that it happened on Good Friday. When I see the date April 14 on the calendar, it doesn’t give me the kind of chills I experience when I see “November 22” in writing.
For those of us in the early boomer demographic, November 22nd is our day, our generation’s, more even than September 11th. Perhaps for me, it reverberates even more than December 25th or July 4th because it is so personal, so particular to our age group and our most powerful, enduring memories.