JFK Recalled

It’s 48 years to the day that John F. Kennedy, U.S. President, was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a Nobody who turned himself into one of the great Someones of American history, right up there with John Wilkes Booth, Charles Guitot, and Leon Czolgosz, I’ve heard some maniacal speed raps from people who decided based on their ingestion of speed and coke that Oswald didn’t do it, that everyone from Fidel Castro to J. Edgar were facilitating the murder. I can’t buy into it, not now. Maybe not ever, if ever. I’m willing to believe that Oswald, a disaffected left-wing Communist recently returned from the Soviet Union, acted on his own. I don’t much like conspiracy theories anyway, and the Oswald conspiracy is the best I’ve ever heard, if you can call something “best” that is so hopelessly harebrained.

Personally speaking…In the autumn of 1963 I was a Junior at Hunter College in the NYC City University system. I was enrolled in an Esthetics course that I did not begin to get. It met from 1 to 2 PM. At 1:55 PM the door flew and some guy came into the room. He was wearing a lab coat. He lean over to the professor and whispered something that made the professor go pale. Someone said, Kennedy’s been shot down in Dallas! The guy I was sitting with said “Oh my God, I hope a Jew didn’t do it.” Funny how ethnicity always wins out….

We walked out into the sunshine like a pack of zombies and found companions on the steps of Student Hall and in the cafeteria. People were crying if they weren’t already numb. Someone I knew quit the student production because he refused to rehearse. The director told us we can’t do anyone any good sitting out there. She was right. What can you do to revive a dead man? But he quit anyway.

Then one of my fellow writers for the college newspaper took the D train all the way downtown and assembled the paper for Monday distribution. It was joyless and somber work but it had to be done and we had to do it.

And on Sunday my best friend and I went for a walk and someone came out of a bar and said that Lee Oswald had been killed. We had the same reaction: “Oh my God, now we’ll never know what really happened in Dallas.” We still don’t.


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