A sad, historic anniversary

Fifty years ago tomorrow, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas.

For those of us between 55 and 75 years old, it was our Pearl Harbor moment – the moment you will never forget. All of us in that age group remember where we were and whom we were with, and we followed the grim events on television or radio as the sad story unfolded.

Nov. 22, 1963, was a Friday and, for those of us in school, classes were suspended as radio news was played over the intercom. First came word that the president had been shot. Then, within 30 minutes of that announcement, came word that Kennedy had died.

We watched television that night as Air Force One arrived back at Andrews Air Force Base carrying Kennedy’s body. Jacqueline Kennedy, still wearing her blood-stained outfit, stood next to her husband’s coffin as a door at the rear of the plane opened. She and the casket were lowered slowly to the ground by a freight lift.

For the rest of the weekend, most of us watched the events sadly. Almost everybody saw Jack Ruby gun down accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the hallway of a Dallas police station the following Sunday. Later in the week, we witnessed the funeral procession and watched live as 3-year-old John-John saluted his father’s casket.

It was the first truly historic moment that played out before our eyes on television – the precursor to the moon walk, the Challenger tragedy, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the horror of 9/11.

Because of the advent of television, there are more pictures etched in our minds of that sad date. Just as Kennedy was the first president to truly know how to use television as a tool, that tool documented his death in a way that had never been seen before.

It was a sad day because of the death of the young president. It was a historic moment not just for his death, but also because it marked the coming of age of television.

(Tomorrow: Remembering Kennedy and his legacy.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.