Ten years ago, I wrote The Gunman and His Mother: Lee Harvey Oswald, Marguerite Oswald, and the Making of an Assassin. It was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and a plethora of new books, articles and documentaries were released to commemorate the milestone. There were plenty asserting conspiracy theories—it was the CIA, the KGB, the mafia, Fidel Castro, Lyndon Johnson, Russian exiles, Cuban exiles—and plenty more focusing on the way a bullet travels and the marksmanship, or lack thereof, of Lee Harvey Oswald.
But my interest was something else: Could study of the life of this 24-year-old help us understand why he, the only assassin ever really named for the murder, was in Dealey Plaza in Dallas on November 22, 1963? What could we learn from the central relationship of his life to understand what motivated him to commit what has rightly been called the crime of the century?
Did you know about his profoundly unstable and troubled childhood? Did you know that he was taken into custody for truancy as a 13-year-old and was examined by psychiatrists who urged his mother to get him help? Spent over two years in Russia and attempted suicide in a Moscow hotel room after trying to defect? Struggled to hold onto jobs in the downward spiral of the last year of his life? Had a Russian wife that he met in Minsk and children? Or that he, just like his mother, carried an enormous chip on his shoulder?
This week, as we approach the 60th anniversary of the assassination, I am excited to share an updated edition of my book, including never-before-seen materials from Marguerite Oswald. These new documents underscore that her myriad grievances, hostility toward the media and mistrust of the government grew only deeper in the decade after her youngest son was killed by Jack Ruby. Preparing the new edition gave me the chance to take a fresh look at Lee and Marguerite, but also understand more fully how this history remains embedded in the American psyche.
Sixty years after that day’s shock, the country has not only not fully recovered, the strains of doubt and disbelief about this tragic act have only intensified. As I write in my book’s introduction, “For most, the idea that one disturbed young man could commit a crime of this magnitude and change the course of history simply does not add up—it offends our basic notion of right and wrong. Our intrinsic sense of justice and proportion demands another response.”
A decade ago I was particularly drawn to the similarities between Oswald and many contemporary mass shooters whose failure to integrate into society and desperate need for attention lead them to the darkest recesses of human possibility. Since then, Marguerite’s story of grievance has played out over and over in the grim attraction so many have to demagoguery and bigotry as a way to manage a world they feel to the core has done them wrong. What once lingered in the fringe, the stigmatized margins, has gone mainstream, causing great harm to the body politic. (Yes, I would say Marguerite Oswald, who died in 1981, likely would have been a Trump supporter.)
So at a point when this story begins to recede in direct memory, it’s worth considering whether the events from six decades ago remain a valuable reflection to understand our own times. What do you think? Does the JFK assassination still matter? Do you have your own remembrances from that fateful day? What is your view on whether Lee Harvey Oswald killed our glamorous 35th president and changed history?
You can find more about The Gunman and His Mother here on my publisher’s site.
*Photo of the motorcade from 11/22/63 via Bettman and Getty Images.
I was in college, the Harvard football team
Was in New Haven Ct to play Yale football
Team (my future husband played for Yale as did four of his roommates and The Harvard quarterback was Best man at our wedding…Everything STOPPED life reality
And still Cronkite taking his glasses off
To wipe away his tears…Tom Bilodeau was close to the Kennedy’s and had a PT 109
Tie bar…we all stayed together grieving
Remembering stories…I watched every
Second of televised reporting and it still
Breaks my heart….in 1970 I was teaching
At The Brearley School in NYC and had
Caroline Kennedy as a student and
Jacqueline Kennedy attended Every
Parent Teachers conference she was
Quite remarkable and loved her daughter her son John went to St David’s School
As did my younger son Bill k-8th grade
All the heartache of JFK’s murder still
Remaining wondering all he could have accomplished ending Vietnam war as he
Wanted …he succeeded in getting The
Russians to remove nuclear warheads
From Cuba preventing Nuclear War…
Then the Murder of Martin Luther King…
Then the murder of Robert Kennedy….
All of these memories are deeply felt embedded in my soul.. JFK would have been the Very First President I would have been eligible to vote for…death, lies, corruption and injustice… thank you for the questions and answers and the
Reflection and information… look at the
State of of democracy today! Marsha
Please America VOTE Blue for USA 2024
Jackie Kennedy gave me a PT 109 tie bar!
For many of us who can recall the impact of the news that day, it will always matter. I’ve seen in real time the lessening of the effect as it has washed through two generations to today. Oddly I can still recall the grief I felt at 13, although I had been to family funerals by then.
Mental health remains neglected. The step child of a brutally flawed health delivery system. Until that is addressed not only in the context of the sheer cruelty of it, but the ramifications of it in conjunction with gun violence, we’ll have little claim on being a moral nation.
“I and the public know
What all school children learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.”
WH Auden 1939
It still matters. Ask any number of Boomers and Jones gen their first vivid, historical event and they’ll tell you exactly how it felt.
I was in third grade. The teacher left the classroom and came back crying. She didn’t say anything except that school was dismissed and we could go home. I walked home and saw Mom ironing, watching the news, crying. It was Walter Cronkite - I remember it vividly.
I did not know you wrote a book about it. I’ll be reading it. Thanks, Steven.
It matters to me. I was a young, nineteen-year-old USAF Airman stationed in Bremerhaven, Germany. JFK was our Commander-in-Chief. He was loved by the Germans. I learned about his assassination while enjoying beer with a fellow Airman in a German pub. A couple German youth approached us, tears streaming down their faces. I had learned enough German to understand when they told us our "president" had been killed. "Er ist tote". Dead. I recall grabbing my buddy's arm while explaining to him what I had just learned from young German lads our age. We hastened back to base, which was on lockdown and high alert. To this day, as I write about that moment, the tears well up. JKF's assassination should never be forgotten.
I read the book when it originally came out and just bought the new edition. I also got the Audio for free.
And like Patris above, I was also 13 when Kennedy was assassinated. I never believed in a conspiracy for the simple reason is no one in this country can keep their damn mouths shut about the most famous event in US History.
I was in third grade at Catholic school. Our principal, a nun, came in crying and told us the president had been shot and she was dismissing school. Being a Catholic, he was revered in our household. It was a long walk home that day, coming in to my grandmother crying.
I vividly remember that awful day in Nov 1963. Until then, my view of the USA was simply glitz and glamor and where as a young child my father would pack up the car with my mum and jam 4 kids for a long trip to Maine for 10 days by the seaside. My only early recollection of Kennedy was that a Catholic had won the election and would occupy the highest office in the US . Our then national treasure, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. decided to telecast Kennedy’s inauguration and my family and I were all mesmerized by the beauty of the Kennedy couple and the rest of the Kennedy clan. Then November 22 came and it is indelibly etched in my psyche. I was in school when the Principal’s quivering voice announced over the intercom that classes were being dismissed because President Kennedy had been shot. Tears were overflowing as we stood there in disbelief, until our home teacher decided that a group prayer was the best she could muster at that place in time.
My family and I watched the news most of the weekend where the Canadian network had purchased one of the American feeds and for the first time we had been made privy to the pain that so many of you were dealing with. It was also a painful time for us as a nation, because Canada had welcomed the President and his wife with open arms in 1961. For almost 7 years, the Kennedys were our models of grace, charm and intelligence until Pierre Elliott Trudeau was elected to lead 🇨🇦 in 1968.
I DO remember that day, very well. I was a high school freshman and they broke into the school day to tell us. Our Fall dance was scheduled for Friday that week, my first, and it was cancelled because of the assassination. That started days of non-stop television watching coverage of all the events. My children don't understand the impact it had on us. In the sphere of my life then we were not used to violence on that scale. My adult children and kids today are more inured to violence, unfortunately. The study of that event and the players is still relevant I believe in understanding what motivates people and what leads to their beliefs.
For me, a member of the boomer generation, it still matters. It is still my first, where were you when, questions. Sadly though it probably isn’t taught in schools. I bet the majority of the population doesn’t know about it. For many 9/11 is just something read about as well.
A three night event of JFK will begin on The History Channel tonight.
Oswald led a sad, lonely, loveless young life, his mother married three times, his father died before Lee was born, he was placed in an orphanage, then, he attended 5 different schools due to his mother's moving around, and he finally quit school, then, joined the marines. He was bullied, a truant, recommended for psychiatric help which he never got, yet tested at above average intelligence.
John Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, were a most attractive pair, young, rich, excellently schooled, into sailing, the good life.When Jack scored higher on an IQ test than favored brother, Joe, his mother complained to the school that they had made a mistake.When elected president, he and Eisenhower had mutual dislikes, but as time went on, they came to admire each other, and Jack often asked for and took Ike's advice. His biggest mistake was the disaster of the Bay of Pigs.His biggest accomplishment was the prevention of war with Russia over the Cuban Missile Crisis. He followed Ike's advice not to take the CIA and every Tom, Dick and Harry's advice and compromised by removing missiles from Turkey. To his credit, he disagreed with his father on many occasions, especially Joe's pro Hitler stance.He will be remembered as working to put a man on the moon, tho Ike called him nuts. Of course he will also be remembered as a womanizer, "friend" of a mafia's mistress, and sung Happy Birthday to by Marilyn Monroe. What a different life from that of Oswald who found the acknowledgement and attention he craved after death tho' horrendous it was. His mother sold cards with her autograph on them afterwards. There is new attention being paid as of late on whether he committed the assassination by himself or whether it was a cabal. It is probably an unsolvable mystery as much of history is.
Yes it matters, the course of American History was altered. For better and occasionally for worse. We will never know except for the beautiful rose garden and grounds at the White House were destroyed by 45. Thank you for keeping JFK in our consciousness because soon, when no one else does, he will be forgotten.
That was one of those "Do you remember where you were when" events. And I do remember. I was at work, and when I got home I turned on Walter Cronkite. He was so solemn and so serious as he told what had happened. I've wondered since what our country would have been like if he'd had two terms. I'm sure it would be different. Kennedy was an inspiring President. I think he would have inspired us to do more good things.
I was a freshman in college sitting in a calculus class when I heard the news. Being a member of the Young Dems, I hurried to our meeting place. The president of the Young Dems, my future husband, his brother and I decided to drive to Washington, D.C. to attend Kennedy's funeral. Not a dry eye in the crowd. What a monumental loss for this country.
Thank you so much for this information!!! I did not know anything about Oswald other than he had been to and from Russia and that he had a Russian wife and kids. Not sure I really cared about him or background! I just wanted the world to get back to normal!!!
I had just turned 17 on November 20th and was sitting at a lunch bar waiting to go back to campus for a final class that day when the radio and then television with Walter Cronkite told the news. No one was sure at that point whether he had died or not.
All high school students and faculty were herded into the gymnasium where we sat on board bench seats for the rest of the afternoon.
We were all full of grief and sadness! I had gotten new clothes for my birthday and I wanted to wear them so badly! Isn’t that crazy to be yearning for at that awful time!!!
The rest of that weekend shock was terrorizing! And the forever questions and assertions were exhausting!!! And to think that was just the beginning of assassinations that followed and we’re SO traumatizing! Still!!! The reality of no safe place agonized me--still does!!!
Yes, the JFK assassination still matters. Before reading your post, I had already started thinking about JFK and that fateful day. The History Channel is airing a documentary on JFK tonight. My first thoughts when I think of JFK and the assassination are about how it changed my generation, how it took away our innocence, how it revealed to us the really ugly, traumatic side of society. We had read in history books about the assassination of :Lincoln. However, that was always history. The assassination of JFK was live; and we lived through it as a nation. I will always remember that I was sitting in math class in Anthony Wayne Jr. High and the principal came into the classroom and whispered something to the teacher. The teacher then told us that JFK had been shot while riding through Dallas in his motorcade. We had little detail, except what the principal had heard on the radio and reported to the teacher. Then we went to gym class; and the teacher told us that we didn't have to change into our gym uniforms. This was a sign to me that events in Dallas were very serious. Shortly thereafter, as we chatted among ourselves in the locker room there came an announcement that JFK had died of his gunshot wounds, that he had been assassinated, that school was closing early and the buses would be here soon to take us home. We spent the weekend with our families, stunned that something like this could happen in our country, where as young teenagers we previously only had visions of positive things that could happen in our country. Especially with JFK as President, we lived Camelot and enjoyed the good feeling of this young vibrant President and his family and the hope and visions of good things to come. With television covering every moment of that weekend (and this was way before the 24/7 cable news cycle) we got to grieve with our families over the violent death of this young vibrant Present, watch the assassin subsequently being shot s he was being transferred through the Dallas prison building, and then watch the young widow, Jackie Kennedy, and her 2 young children, honor JFK at his funeral through Washington. It was a painful, numbing long weekend. It also seemed like an aberration of reality. Little did we know that over the next decades gun violence by people who held a grudge, people who had a mental illness, people who had a difficult childhood, people who found guns so easy to obtain and use in negative ways to express their emotions, would make killing with guns a very sad, very meaningless part of American life. People are killed by guns every day, for no reason. Mass shootings happen much too frequently. So, as we approach the 63rd anniversary of this societal upheaval, we have to ask ourselves what we have learned about those who kill others with guns. We have to ask ourselves what we ar going to do with that information. Sadly, I say that we have not done enough, because it continues to happen. Buns are too easily accessible, for the wrong reasons, and for purchase by people who have no right to own a gun because of their profiles. The assassination of JFK shocked the nation. However, since then there has been Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook (which I had thought would finally get our leaders to act to pr3vent gun violence, but it didn't), Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the supermarket in Buffalo, NY, and many others too numerous to name. I say again, we must commit ourselves to studying each horrific event and learning from it. We must make some progress in ending gun violence, the kind that goes on every day in every city, and every corner of America, and the kind that gets news coverage because it is done on a mass scale. We can't let gun violence continue to take innocent lives.n We can't let this violence and this mental health issue define us. We can don better.
I was a freshman in my high school French class. While horrifying, conspiracy never entered my mind. Who shoots the President of the United States? And then Jack Ruby? I felt as though I'd entered a new stage in life, one that was dangerous. President Kennedy's assassination still matters in so far as it was probably the first time many of us were introduced into the gun culture of our society. Our country and so many of us within the country have suffered from the illusion that allowing virtually unchecked gun use as a "right" makes us stronger or safer. Exactly where has that gotten us? History changes at the tip of a bullet.
To those of us who lived through it, I would say yes it does. I was ten years old; in 4th grade. Our school hooked the radio to our PA system and we sat in the dark listening to the news. We went home early that day and didn’t go back until after the funeral. We watch TV obsessively to see what was going on. The images of that week live in my mind. There was a documentary recently with new footage from that day and I could only watch a little while, it brought back too many awful memories. JFK’s election in 1960 seemed to bring sunshine to a new decade. Even with Bay of Pigs, it was sunny. With the assassination,, everything turned on a dime; and got worse - before the decade was out 2 more high-profile assassinations, riots, Vietnam and its increasing death rate of our youth. The only bright spot for me was music- starting with the Beatles and going through the rest of the decade. It was my solace anyway.
I was very young but remember JFK’s funeral. My mother noted in her journal that I asked “how can the President breathe in there?”--there being his casket on the caisson.
I was driving back to high school after lunch when I heard it on my car radio. I rushed into the school office, told them what had happened and asked them to turn on the radio. They confirmed my story and announced it over the school PA system.
I'll never forget or forgive the bible-thumping bigots in my home town who expressed their satisfaction at being "rid of that papist in the White House."
Thirty three years to the day, almost to the hour later, my mother, a lifelong Democrat and a great JFK admirer died. A large part of me is grateful that she didn't live to see the sorry mess we're in now.
In reality, no it no longer matters except to our history -- it happened, it was shocking, it was terrible and horribly wrong. But all the conspiracy theories etc can be shelved because there will never be answers.
To this day, it makes me terribly sad but lived it and life forces us all to move on
I was 19, living in Florence on a university year abroad. A group of us were sitting in a bar discussing American vs Italian rock with some Italian teens when a man rushed in shouting (in Italian) "Kennedy's been shot."
As it happened, in Italian class we were reading a book about Italian soldiers in WWII. So we knew the word for "shot." But it didn't compute .... until it did. I tried to say "it is a catastrophe" but managed to say "he's been castrated." That gave a brief giggle through the shock.
All the news on TV from America was dubbed into Italian. We learned a whole lot of Italian very quickly as we sat glued to the creaky old TV.
That winter break, I went with an Italian student group to visit the Soviet Union and Iron Curtain Eastern Europe. What I remember was the incredible outpouring of sympathy from the folks we met there. Khrushchev might have been pounding podiums with his shoe, but the people were simply human.
Does it still matter? For me it cannot "never" matter. Just as for my parents, Pearl Harbor wasn't a few paragraphs in our history book. As 9/11 wasn't for my children. (Apparently the latter is "ancient history" to some 'TikTokkers." )
Could it have been just Oswald? Look at all the "lone wolf" mass shooters and tell me why not. (None this week? Wait a bit). The fact that we think the instigation of an act isn't "enough" to satisfy some need doesn't affect whether it happened or not.
I was in 7th grade. Our teacher came into the classroom and softly told us that JFK had been assassinated in Texas. She then collapsed at her desk, sobbing. We left our room and I began to walk home. On my way out, I heard a young male say “Yeah! That n***er is dead!”. I was so scared that I ran to my house and once inside, I ran into the bathroom and locked the door. I cowered in there for hours because I thought Kruschev and the Russians were going to take over America. My parents finally convinced me to unlock the door after explaining that we had LBJ to take our president’s place. We watched the funeral procession and what I won’t forget was seeing the tall black boots turned the opposite way on the lone horse. It was my foray into politics after going through the assassinations of JFK, MLK, Jr., and RFK.
I was six years old, and my family was coming home from the movies at the Army base theater in Baumholder, West Germany (as it was called then), when both American and German people came up to us and said, "The President's been shot!", "President Kennedy's shot!" in both English and German (which we all spoke very little of, but figured out quickly from context). We went home and turned on the television: Back then we had an American TV set we'd had sent over, so we could watch Armed Forces Radio and Television Service's American television in Europe*.
I don't remember much other than snippets, and I don't remember if I remember them from back then, or from later years when I saw documentaries about JFK's assassination. I do faintly remember watching the funeral procession on a black-and-white television, knowing something was very wrong without understanding what had happened, really, because I was six years old and hadn't even had a pet die on me, let alone any family members....
* It wasn't until Dad's second German tour to Frankfurt that he got the brilliant idea of buying a German television, because German engineering was so much better than Americans, ja? Problem was that German television was broadcasting in a completely different color video standard, PAL, than Americans used, NTSC. (Try watching a PAL DVD on your NTSC DVD player sometime—unless it's multi-region, you can't do it.) Dad told us some BS story about the U.S. Government scrambling their signal to keep the Communists from watching which, now that I think about it, might have been him misinterpreting what electronics-savvy people on his base have told him! I didn't know about any of this until I took Video Production in college over a decade later.
On Friday afternoon a young man walked into the lobby of the New Hampshire Hospital, a secure psychiatric facility operated by the state of New Hampshire, and fatally shot a security guard and was then shot and killed by a state trooper. In the media, this person immediately became "the shooter" and "the gunman," branding him as a monster - something other than human. Now the description of him in the press as "a vagrant" is being repeated endlessly, as if to ease our minds that there is nothing that could have been done to stop him because he was a fatally flawed being, separate from society. Will we learn about him as a fellow human, and get the answer to the question, "What brought this person to decide one day to kill and be killed?" There are many more like him, and they have guns. Can they not be helped, so that we can all live in peace, and lives not be wasted? Steven Beschloss' updated book on Lee Harvey Oswald is so important, especially at this time in our societal evolution.
Steven, It absolutely matters! Those of us who were alive that day will never forget a day in history that may well have changed our political party makeup. After running downstairs to where the television was surrounded by 40 plus brothers and catching up on the news, I call me girlfriend to hear her sobbing on the other end. It felt like the democracy was being pulled away. The two political parts have pulled further apart.
Just as another assassination a hundred years earlier is important.
I was in the second grade, Smith Avenue Elementary, when the an announcement was made that all teachers were to come to the office. Our teacher, Mrs. Haile, returned crying. She gently told our class the president had been shot. Awhile later, the principal announced we were to go home. The president has die.
For the next several days, I watched events I did not understand play on our black and white television. It seared into my memory.
I still remember that day and how I felt. As a young teen I was angry and moved by the government’s response to the assignation. We all watched the video over and over it was obvious that Oswald did not act alone. We were always left with the untold truth.
I remember reading the accounts of Lincoln’s assignation, to see if the government of that time also tried to hide the untold truth. Yes, many years later the reports and history accounts pointed to people within his military were involved.
Sometime in the future after maybe 100 to 125 years some incredible journalist will do an investigative telling of what really happened. For sure all the people who were alive during the event will have died and the story will only live in history.
Yes, Steven, this terrible event, tragically, for many of us, is one of the darkest days in our memory. As it is often said, with cataclysmic events like 9/11, The Challenger Explosion, Pearl Harbor, The Death of FDR, or The JFK Assassination, if you lived at the time it happened, you can remember exactly where you were when you heard the shocking news.
I was a 13 year old, 8th Grader at St. Peter's Catholic Grade School in Akron, Ohio, on November 22, 1963. After lunch and recess on that sleepy, late Fall afternoon (I researched that it was a Friday before Thanksgiving), I think we were doing quiet seat work, and I looked forward to the next week being only 3 days of school, before our, much anticipated, Thanksgiving Break. It may have been even warm enough for our school casement windows to be open. Everything seemed to be serenely peaceful, and then, suddenly, the classroom door burst open, and the mother of one of my classmates, (who worked in the old church, converted cafeteria, about 90 yards from our classroom), stood breathlessly at the door, gasping, "Sister, turn on the TV, quick! President Kennedy has been shot!" The tremor of shock and emotion that came, like a tidal wave over our classroom, was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Some of my classmates began to cry. I felt sick to my stomach. Sister Francis Joseph tried to calm us to a reasonable level, and then turned on our (one of three channel black and white TV), which brought the image of Walter Cronkite on to the screen, as he was just announcing that President Kennedy had died at 1:00PM, 2:00PM Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes before, so it was about 2:38PM that day that our worst fears had been confirmed. Since we were a Catholic School, and our teacher was the Principal, she announced from our classroom, on our loudspeaker system to the school, this tragic news, and we all then processed over to our adjoining parish church, where we all solemnly prayed the rosary. Like the rest of the world at that time, we were all in total shock, and we did not know how to process this. After that brief prayer vigil, we were all dismissed and told we must immediately report home. Since most of the students in the school were within walking distance of their homes, this is what we did. For the next week, or so, we were all glued to our TV sets in total disbelief as to what had happened.
I remember the muffled drums, the riderless horse, with the boots placed backward in the horse's stirrups ahead of the caisson that carried Jack Kennedy's Flag draped coffin. The deep grief of Jackie, Caroline, John Jr., Bobby, Teddy, and Kennedy's closest associates, and the world dignitaries and leaders. Every so often in the funeral cortege, the Marine Band would break into Chopin's Elegiac Funeral March. The hundreds of thousands that lined Pennsylvania Avenue, and Jackie's stoic walk through all of Washington D.C., including her walk passed The Lincoln Memorial, over The Potomac, to just below The Custis-Lee Mansion, at Arlington National Cemetery, where Jack, and now Jackie, son Patrick, and Bobby are all buried. The place where Jack reportedly had stood on the previous Veteran's Day, peered back at the grand view of the Capitol , and said, "I could stay up here forever." All of these sorrowful memories are forever etched in our minds.
Many years later, I read Jim Bishop's "The Day Kennedy was Shot" and William Manchester's "The Death of a President", and I relived in detail those tragic days.
Both authors, if I remember correctly, reach the conclusion of a lone gunman, and both go into a good bit of detail about the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. Don't know what to think about their conclusions for sure.
The huge lingering question that remains with people like Lee Harvey Oswald and many others that take a dark and terrible path is "Why?".
Steven, I look forward to reading your book, "The Gunman and His Mother", in search of some answers on this "Why?" question. Thank you for asking your readers these in depth questions, and continuing to elicit thoughtful responses from your readership. Please continue.
I was in 8th grade, almost 13 years old. The big event of the day was supposed to be going to the high school to see a play. After we boarded buses to return to our school, we waited. More buses arrived. We saw the superintendent board bus after bus. (Lucky for him it was a small school district.)
Eventually he came to ours with the terrible news. At first silence, then crying, questioning and shushing. We went back to our school, quietly collected our things and left for home.
I remember little after my siblings and I arrived home, except the news was on the TV. My mother was preoccupied. She held the Kennedys in great disdain (greater than she held most people). Even so, concern for what might happen in the aftermath was quietly discussed by my parents. I confess to not paying attention much to what she said. Experience had taught me she was not a reliable source of information. My dad almost never discussed anything political.
What I remember clearly is sitting at a TV tray while my parents were in the kitchen getting snacks and sandwiches ready for us, November 24th. A family day, eating in the living room and playing games. Suddenly ‘live coverage’ of Lee Harvey Oswald leaving the Dallas police station. I was curious about this murderer. Some random guy in a suit reached out and shot him. Mayhem ensued. I was stunned and then ran to the kitchen. My announcement was met with eye rolls. “No. Kennedy was shot.” I insisted. Grudgingly they came to look. They were more than stunned. (I think I gloated)
The next day, the funeral and my sister’s birthday. Then came Thanksgiving. A roller coaster week.
It didn’t take long for the conspiracy theories to begin. Then high school and the assassinations kept coming - Malcom X in 1965; MLK and Bobby Kennedy just weeks apart in 1968. More theories.
Our little town buried its first Vietnam War casualty in 1968. We had a silent candlelight walk (no signs) on Christmas Eve to the cemetery. A local pastor led the walk while the “auxiliary police” patrolled with their shotguns aimed at us. It was so cold. The only sound was snow squeaking as we walked. (I took a little pleasure in knowing the “patrol” experienced a major chill from driving with their car windows rolled down to aim at us.)
I don’t know about truth in conspiracy theories but there were a lot of dark days in the 60s. Darkness, real or perceived, does seem to feed all sorts of dark thoughts and theories.
> Sixty years after that day’s shock, the country has not only not fully recovered, ...
I'm beginning to wonder what "recovered" means. Will we ever be as we would have been were Kennedy not assasinated? I doubt it as much as I doubt we'll ever be as we would have been without tRUmp. It changed history -- substantially. We have normalized on a different world because of that.
So, yes, we have recovered. I think we'd have been better off without the assassination.
I was 12 when Pres. Kennedy was assassinated. I was in the hospital and had just been given pre-op
medication when my father walked in and said the President had been shot. Roughly 6 weeks later my
sister suddenly died.
Then Malcolm X, Martin Luther King & Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated before I graduated
from high school. At the same time the U.S. was
becoming more firmly entrenched in the Vietnam War. Boys who were a few years older than me were coming home from the war in body bags.
All of those tragedies melded together in my mind at a very impressionable stage in life. But of course the
most profound, life-altering event was my sister’s
sudden death. When I think about how those events
affected me, I remember feeling un-anchored, like the ground under my feet had shifted and I didn’t know what to expect anymore except for one thing--there are no guarantees for how long anyone will live, so I had better live my life knowing it could be cut short without warning.
As far as President Kennedy’s assassination and what it was really about, I don’t think we’ll ever know. I haven’t read a lot about it over the years,
but I’ve read enough to wonder what motivated Oswald. Yes, he was a seriously disturbed, unstable young man, but at that time there hadn’t been any notable assassinations of public figures so it wasn’t a copycat situation. (unlike the current copycat behavior of disturbed young men mowing down classrooms full of children or randomly murdering strangers at Fourth of July celebrations, etc.)
So we don’t know for sure what Oswald’s motivation was. But the most curious thing about it is why Jack Ruby killed Oswald at point blank range as officials
were escorting him through a very crowded area. I don’t buy the explanation that Ruby was so distraught about Kennedy that he immediately grabbed a gun and shoved his way to where
Jack Ruby, a character who was involved in
gambling, narcotics and prostitution had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and apparently
owed a lot of money to some shady characters according to some researchers. Their
conclusion is, Ruby knew he was dying of
cancer and he needed money so he made a deal
with an unknown person to kill Oswald, allegedly
so Oswald couldn’t ID whomever it was that
wanted Kennedy dead.
But as I said, we’ll very likely never know the answers to many questions about President Kennedy’s assassination, like whether there was more than one shooter, whether it was a mafia hit
as some people have said or whether it had to do with Kennedy’s civil rights agenda. A lot of time
has passed since then.