Every year the nation recalls that day of collective sorrow on November 22, and this year we’ll pause for the 50th time. Like anyone old enough to remember, the day stands out vividly. I was a first-grader at Christ the King School in Lexington, Ky. in November 1963. When the word came about the president’s assassination, the nuns shepherded all the students into the church to pray. I remember being confused, not understanding precisely what was wrong but recognizing that it was something terrible because the nuns were crying.
In a strange coincidence, November 22 also marks perhaps the happiest day of my life: Christopher was born that day in 1995. He showed up three days ahead of his due date, which is unusual for a first baby. Like many of his fellow members of the Millennial generation, Christopher has a rather elastic concept of time. However, I’ll refrain from telling him on his 18th birthday that his early appearance in this life may have been the only time he was ahead of schedule or punctual.
Christopher had an oddly parallel experience when he was in first grade on September 11, 2001. He was attending a Catholic elementary school and, just as had been the case at Christ the King on the day of Kennedy’s assassination, all the children at St. Barnabas were ushered into church to pray. However, Christopher didn’t share my dim awareness of the scale of the tragedy that day in 1963. He knew exactly what was happening on 9/11, telling his teacher, Miss Wolf, “Terrorists bombed the World Trade Center.” She remarked later that his succinct, accurate declaration about the morning startled her.
David’s great-uncle Fred Jones passed this Kennedy campaign button on to us. The button was quite high-tech for the day, with a hologram that flashes between Kennedy’s handsome, patrician profile and the bold “He Will Win” slogan. Wins and losses—we’ll mark them both on Friday.