Sunday, November 17, 2013

From Screen Saver: That Day in Dallas

A few days before Thanksgiving  the not very stable world  wobbled even more precariously on its axis.

I was in my History of American Thought and Culture class.

Someone had pulled the pull-down screen down far enough to allow a man’s hat to be tied to the pull. The class was allowing itself to be amused by that fact as we waited for Mr. Frazier our instructor to arrive.

Time ticked by.

Mr. Frazier was late.

That was unlike him.

Finally, just before the fifteen-minute limit that protocol reserved for late instructors he appeared.

He came in, took one look at the hat and took a swing at it as if in anger.

That was really unlike him. He was a laid back calm sort – a graduate of Reed College - who just didn’t let anything bother him. He had our attention.

He turned around facing the class and said, almost accusingly, “well, I suppose you have heard that they shot Jack Kennedy.”

As a matter of fact we hadn’t.

We had been sitting there looking at the hat and waiting for him to show up.

All I could ever remember about that moment, other than what exactly Mr. Frazier had said was wondering who “they” were.

It turned out that we were never to find out who “they” were.

Taking what might have been an action of some significance, but as things were to turn out, apparently wasn’t, the first person I sought out was Barbara.

We went into the Park Blocks, out of the buildings, into the open air and walked, hand in hand.

Everybody was out there.

There was some kind of device or there were multiple devices that were filling the air with updates on the president’s condition.

We had stopped where a group had gathered, among them my fraternity brother Tom.

The words “John F. Kennedy is dead” insinuated themselves into the air like a malevolent spirit.

Barb dropped to her knees on the grass.

We all stood, or knelt – there were others on their knees – frozen and looking like the statues of the victims of the Irish potato famine that I would see many years later in Christchurch.

It seemed as if the world was in the process of fading to black.

I had looked at Tom and said, “thank God Lyndon Johnson is Vice President”.

Tom nodded his agreement.

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