November 22, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the fourth president to die from a bullet. For those of us old enough to remember November 22, 1963, that day and the events of that day don’t really seem that long ago.
When I heard the news: I was a fourth grader at Littlebrook Elementary School in Princeton, New Jersey in November of 1963. I was just leaving the school’s library on my way back to my classroom, when the principal came into the hallway and spoke to a teacher and said “The President has been shot.” I didn’t understand what he was talking about nor did I pay much attention to it. It was only after I got home that day and my parents explained to me what had happened that I remembered the principal’s statement.
I studied the assassination in detail: As nine year old boy, I was very interested in history, having read most of the biographies in the school library, but I don’t think I fully comprehended the enormity of what had just happened, or how the assassination marked a watershed event in American history. As the months and years went by, I became engrossed in the details of the investigation of the assassination, reading and collecting newspaper and magazine articles about it that I carefully cut out and put in clear plastic folders that I kept in three ring binders. I also bought and read all the books that came out about the assassination.
Adams and Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence: I’ve been thinking this last week about the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. It has made me think of a set of presidential deaths that occurred on July 4, 1826 when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. People were alive then who had lived through the events of the American Revolution, just like today there are people who lived through that traumatic day of November 22, 1963. In one sense, 50 years is a long time, but in another sense it’s not so long that there aren’t people around who experienced the history and were shaped by the events of the times.
History each day: We mark half-century anniversaries and remember events and people. But it’s also good to remember that each of us makes history every day by our little and big decisions in our own spheres of influence. History isn’t just about the distant past or events of 50 years ago, but it’s created every day. Having this perspective can help us to live and choose well each day as we keep the days of our lives in perspective.
Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog
© 2013 by Michael E. Purdy