Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering John Kennedy

I was ten when Kennedy was shot, fifty years ago today, so I remember it but it didn't hit me as hard as it might have were I five or ten years older.  But I've been reading some stuff that I thought I'd share.

First, by way of The New York Times, from Lt. Bill Lee, who led the Marine Corps honor guard that carried and guarded the casket ...

The February before, during a reception at the National Gallery of Art, the Kennedys were supposed to take an elevator to greet their guests.  But the elevator was not working, and when they stepped out, the lieutenant said, he was so close to Mrs. Kennedy that he could smell her perfume.  Here is how he remembers what happened next:

"I'm in my mannequin face, and she said words to the effect, "Jack, let's take the stairs.'  And he said, 'We can wait.'  They go back and forth a few times, and then her tone changed just like any other wife.  'Jack, people are waiting.'  'O.K.,' he answers her and, turning his head toward me, says, 'Don't worry -- I make all the big decisions.'"

And this famous one from James Reston, The Times' Washington Bureau Chief ...

"America wept tonight, not alone for its dead young president, but for itself."

Which is a pretty crisp line, composed under deadline.  Also from The Times, in an article written by Jill Abramson, the executive editor.

And finally Caroline Kennedy, who said she understood the national attention being paid to her father's death but preferred the notion that his life and accomplishments be celebrated, pointing to May 29th as a good day to do so.  That being his birthday.

If you're in the mood for more reading, The Daily Beast published two award-winning columns written by Jimmy Breslin for the New York Herald Tribune.  Which, along with The Times, was for many years my grandfather's employer as well.

The second of the columns, the one about the grave digger who dug Kennedy's grave, is a pretty good example of why Breslin became a legend.

As for me?  Two thoughts:

First, I once had a face to face with a pair of Kennedys.  In the late 90s I ran into John Jr. and his wife Carolyn at the Beaverkill Valley Inn.  I was sitting in the reading room, staring out the window, and the two of them came in.  They told me they were hiding from some big-time Democratic fundraiser who was also staying at the inn and asked if they could join me for a while.   We chatted for five minutes or so.  Carolyn was considerably more attractive in person than her pictures might lead you to believe.

Second, I always thought Bobby was going to be the best of the Kennedys.  It would have been interesting to watch.


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