Friday, November 22, 2013

Let Memory Go Forth

Fifty years later, I'm traveling and wish I had more time to blog because I remember the tumultuous events of that long weekend 50 years ago. Briefly: on Friday, the intense shock of President Kennedy's assassination, the hurried swearing in of his successor on Air Force One, the second murder by the shooter, the manhunt and his rapid apprehension; on Saturday, the national and international mourning; on Sunday, the sensational revenge killing of the assassin in full view of live television; then on Monday, the state funeral, the intense grief and silence of the crowds, interment at Arlington National Cemetery, the lighting of the eternal flame.

President Kennedy gravesite

A lot of moss has grown between the stones in 50 years -- three generations have come of age. "Jokes" about assassination are routine staples for a certain type of humorist; some boorish visitors to Arlington routinely need to be reminded to observe silence and respect. For them perhaps there is no history beyond personal experience. Perhaps they tire of the question, "Where were you?" when the answer is nowhere. Perhaps they've never seen a New York Times headline (they're rare), perhaps they consider the news retrospectives self-indulgent, even maudlin. Yet somehow, as it must, the word continues to go forth, the torch continues to be passed, and the dream of a more perfect union never dies.

ETA: Thanks to the Internet, I've found the data for what I've been haltingly pondering above. According to Pew Research, for those who remember it the JFK assassination is almost as vivid a memory as the 9/11 attacks. But only 28.9% of Americans are of an age to remember.

I remember both. And I've been wondering if those who don't are suffering a sense of fatigue and impatience at the retrospection – dare one say nostalgia? – of their elders. As perhaps – dare one add? – someday in turn their juniors may feel about 9/11 memorials. O tempora, o mores.

1 comment:

Kaye said...

When Dr. Mad Scientist describes it to his students, he describes it as the older generation's "9/11 Moment." Of course the kids he's teaching now were barely old enough to remember 9/11. Sigh.