On the day that President Kennedy was assassinated, the Catholic nuns at my grammar school dismissed class early. My sister and I held hands and ran all the way home. We were afraid. We weren’t sure who or what had killed the president. Was it the Soviets? Were we under attack? Would bombs fall on us before we got home? On the run home we saw people – both men and women, black, white, brown and yellow -- in the street openly sobbing. I didn’t think I’d ever see anything like it again -- until September 11th, 2001. Once home, we didn’t leave the house for days. Every channel on every television station carried nothing but news of the assassination.
When it was announced this week that the JFK assassination papers would be released, I instantly dreaded it even though I knew it was inevitable. We have gone through decades of endless assassination theories. It would be heated up again; bodies post-mortemed for the millionth time. Perhaps it’s not the speculation about what happened, but the reminder of a paroxysm of high-profile violence in American history. (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee; Robert F. Kennedy, brother of President Kennedy, was assassinated on June 5, 1968 in Los Angeles, California.)
Two days after Kennedy was killed his then alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was himself gunned down by Jack Ruby. “Jack, you son-of-a-b!tch!” We got to see the first murder ever broadcast on live t.v. – yes -- in real time. We thought that was something? We were numb.
In time we’d see the endless loop of the Zapruder video tape. "Wasn’t those bits of brain being sprayed?" Mrs. Nellie Connolly, Governor Connolly’s wife, who was in the car with JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy, remembered that the bouquet of flowers given to her and Mrs. Kennedy were all splattered with blood: "It's the image of yellow roses and red roses and blood all over the car ... all over us."(Gov. Connolly sustained serious wounds and endured four hours of surgery.) As a child I thought: “There's (blood) even on Mrs. Kennedy’s legs.”* Then over time reports surfaced that Mrs. Kennedy had picked up bits of brain and skull tissue. Some thinking was that she may have hoped that doctors could use it to patch President Kennedy together again. Mrs. Kennedy was, no doubt, in shock; how so very close she came to being killed herself, which she may not of even thought of at those moments.
And so I accept the onslaught of the conspiracy theorists. How could there not be some energy trying to figure out what happened? For some things I accept that there will never be a clear rhyme or reason. However, I won’t read the archives. Fifty-four years later it’s still a lot for an adult to digest, much less a child.
*Owlcation.com: Whatever happened to Jackie Kennedy’s Pink Suit?
The image of Jacqueline Kennedy in that pink suit, stained with the blood of her husband, is still seared into the nation's collective memory over fifty years later.
National Archives: JFK Assassination Records – 2017 Release
The National Archives is releasing documents previously withheld in accordance with the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act. The vast majority of the Collection (88%) has been open in full and released to the public since the late 1990s. The records at issue are documents previously identified as assassination records, but withheld in full or withheld in part.
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