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He Will Win

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.

My first grade self

My first grade self

Christopher's first grade self

Christopher’s first grade self

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.

He Will Win

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About treacycolbert

I make my living by writing about health care. I've always written about life's chastening effect, but just as a way of sorting it out for myself. After years of doing this and keeping these essays quiet, I decided to put some of these impressions out there on this blog. Thanks for reading, and let me know what you think.

5 responses »

  1. I just loved that story. It made me think about my memory of that day, coming home to watch the black & white TV with my mother, knowing something very bad had just happened. Christopher was certainly a much more aware child than I was too.
    Great to see Mom and son as first-graders.
    Keep writing Treacy!

    Reply
    • Linda, I remember watching the B&W TV too. I remember watching the whole funeral, and feeling bewildered. I had never seen a mournful horse-drawn procession like that. I don’t recall, but my mother said that I asked her, “Why are they dragging him through the streets?” Thanks for reading.

      Reply
  2. I loved this one Treacy. Evokes such powerful memories. I was a teenager and I remember those black and white images too. My parents and I were all crying. Riveted to the screen in wrenching sadness and yet unable to turn away. Horrified and terrified. Images still emblazoned in our collective memories. Love the pictures of you and Christopher at the same age. The acorn does NOT fall far from the tree, that is for sure. xoxox

    Reply
    • Sad that most of our memories are of JFK’s death — few are of his life, esp. for people who were young when he was killed. As always, cm, thanks so much for reading my posts! xxoo

      Reply
  3. Oh my goodness.. I love this. I wrote a comment the other day which somehow I didn’t manage to post. Well, it wasn’t as well thought out as this post, I’m sure.

    Reply

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