I was born November 22nd . About ¼ of one percent of the population calls today their birthday. We all share this birthday with world leaders (Charles deGaulle), American personalities (Wiley Post), and actors and actresses (Mariel Hemmingway, Rodney Dangerfield, Jamie Lee Curtis). We are on the cusp between Scorpio and Sagittarius, closer to Scorpio. More than several famous American luminaries and personalities died on this day (Aldous Huxley, CS Lewis, Mae West, Walter Reed, Mary Kay Ash). But all of this pales in comparison to that dreadful day in 1963 when we baby boomers lost our innocence.
Friday, November 22, 1963 was my 15th birthday. I was in Latin Class when we heard the news. I have kept this page, penned later that afternoon, for 50 years, carefully folded, in a small Anglican military prayer book in my dresser. Allow me to share it with you today:
When we arrived in Latin class for sixth hour, Mr Morse was not in the room. We were all pretty noisy so Mr Avery (the chemistry teacher) had to cross the hall and quiet us down. He got pretty mad the second and especially the third time. Mr Morse came into the room. He had a grim look on his face and closed the door. He asked, “Have you heard the news?” All of us looked at each other. “What news?” we asked. “The President has been shot – very seriously.” We stared in disbelief. Then everyone started asking questions. Mr Morse didn’t know much. He asked if anyone who lived close to the school could go get a radio. Jim Albaugh left. While he was gone we asked questions about the horrible deed. Jim came back with the radio. I closed the door and turned off the lights. It was very cloudy outside and the room was very dark, but at least we didn’t have any radio interference. The radio announcer kept going over and over the known facts, often adding supposed rumors. We all listened in silence for about ten minutes. I was wondering what would happen if he died.
Just then the announcer was interrupted by a special news bulletin. In a slow, almost cracking voice, the man said, “Ladies and gentlemen of the United States, the President is dead.” Mr Morse turned off the radio. Three girls sobbed out loud. I had tears in my eyes. I hunted for a passage in my Latin book – something like “of the dead nothing should be said in malice” ( De mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est.) I closed my book. We all sat in silence with sobs here and there. In any class there are always some of those “asses” who just don’t care and were fooling around. Tom M… and Bob C… went straight down in my opinion. Finally, Mr Rose (the principal) came over the PA. “Boys and girls,” he said crying, “Our President is dead. Let us all stand in silence for ten seconds.” He then continued about what, of course, a terribly ghastly thing it was then and to resume classes as normal. We didn’t. We stayed quiet until the end of class and went home.
[As everyone else, my family andI remained glued to the television through the funeral on Monday.]
This was not the only time my family was visited by assassinations on our birthdays. On June 5, 1968, my father’s 48th birthday, Robert Kennedy was gunned down. And again, on March 30, 1980, my little sister’s 23rd birthday, Ronald Reagan took a round in his lung.
We are all reminded to live life to its fullest; to enjoy every day; to be the best you can be; and to be as good as you can be! But we always must be vigilant, for there is evil. And Burke reminds us: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”