Susan Hamalainen
JFK Assassination, November 22, 1963
Wed Nov 22, 2006 12:11

JFK Assassination, November 22, 1963, Susan Hamalainen - MemoryArchive
Who: Susan Hamalainen What: JFK Assassination When: November 22, 1963 Where: ... (Ask anybody where they were on that day and they will probably remember. ...,_November_22,_1963,_Susan_Hamalainen

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JFK Assassination, November 22, 1963, Susan Hamalainen
From MemoryArchive

Who: Susan Hamalainen
What: JFK Assassination
When: November 22, 1963
Where: Boston, Massachusetts

Now well into middle age-hood, I sometimes reflect on one of the first childhood events I can recall with some clarity – the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was 10 years old on November 22, 1963. It was Friday, sometime after lunch. I was in the sixth grade at the Elihu Greenwood elementary school in the Hyde Park section of Boston. It was “library” time, which meant we could borrow a book from the bookcase at the back of the room and quietly engage in some “free” reading as we wound down to the weekend. Our teacher, Mrs. Dunn, was correcting papers at her desk. In a class of 35 students, lined up by height in 5 rows of 7 desks you could hear a pin drop. The “rattan” switch was in Mrs. Dunn’s closet and she knew how to use it, though seldom had to.

I can only imagine that I was day-dreaming because I startled as the intercom “popped” on. It was Mr. Murphy, our Principal who addressed the entire school simultaneously. His voice was gentle – not terse or business-like as usual. Though I don’t remember his exact words I remember the message well. Our President, President Kennedy, has been shot. Please bow your heads and pray for our President. Shock and disbelief froze us for a moment, but we had a plan of action and our teacher led us in a prayer followed by silent meditation. Just a few minutes later Mr. Murphy’s voice rematerialized with the announcement that our President had died. Mrs. Dunn gasped but regained her composure quickly. We were instructed to gather our books and lunchboxes and quietly file outside to go home. It was an hour before the end of school. At this point some of the shock had worn off and with it the cruel realization that we had lost someone very dear and special to us. Tears welled and flowed freely. Our President Kennedy’s picture smiled at us from the side of the room as we filed out. Oh, and he was “Ours” without a doubt. Afterall, he was from Massachusetts and like most students in the Boston schools of the 60’s, he was Catholic.

I don’t remember walking home, but I vividly remember my mother’s face when I got inside. She was quietly crying while watching events unfold on the television. I joined her for some time, but I felt a need to be alone with my thoughts and I went to an area near my home which was an abandoned army camp. I found my favorite spot in a ruined “bunker” and settled in. Trying to make sense of this I grieved for Jackie, and Caroline and Little John-John – people I had never met or even seen, but suddenly knew intimately.

The weeks that followed were a prelude to the news junkie I would one day become. I watched the TV coverage obsessively, created a scrapbook of every news photo or magazine article I could find, and composed several poems in tribute to JFK. Clutching my hankie I sat a few feet from the TV and sobbed through the funeral - Jackie in her black veil, the riderless stallionJohn-John’s salute... I watched without fully comprehending the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald and his subsequent (televised) murder at the hands of Jack Ruby. Images I can effortlessly recall because they were paired with such powerful emotions that they are emblazoned in my mind.

The “tragedy” of JFK’s assassination was not exactly a personal tragedy, but it had its effect on my generation as well as my parents’. (Ask anybody where they were on that day and they will probably remember.)

At the age of 10 I experienced emotions of loss and emptiness that I had never felt before and didn’t really understand. It was a turning point for me. A loss of innocence, if you will. Really bad things can happen. Some people are truly evil. Life is unfair. Maybe I’m not as safe as I thought. I was just revving up for an adolescence of insecurity. Let the games begin.

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