Friday, November 22, 2013

Fifty Years Without JFK

by Dick Mac

It actually doesn't seem possible that fifty years have passed since that awkward afternoon at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Grammar School.

I remember it like yesterday.  Actually, with my now-feeble mind, I actually remember it more clearly than yesterday.

We were in math class, the first class after lunch break (if I remember correctly) and we were studiously grinding away at First Grade Math:  1+4=5, 5-4=1, etc.  The really challenging stuff.  My teacher was Miss Concannon, one of two lay teachers in the grammar school.

There were fifteen classrooms in use at that time:  three rooms each of Grades 1-5.  We had just a thousand kids or so in the old school building on Smith Street, in Mission Hill.

Sister Loretta was another First Grade teacher, in the room across the hall.

She came into our classroom without knocking (unheard of) and rushed to a very startled Miss Concannon's desk.

Sister Loretta was old.  She had been my mother's first grade teacher, and she was old then; and would also be my little sister's first grade teacher.  It was rumored that she taught until she passed 100 years old.  I think it is actually true.  She never lost her clarity of mind, just developed that human curse:  feebleness of body.

Sister Loretta never rushed anywhere and never expressed any emotion.  EVER  She was visibly shaken, and that scared the daylights out of me.  i remember getting really nervous, worried that I was in trouble.  I racked my brain to try an remember any transgression that day.

Miss Concannon rose and the two of them rushed into the hallway, leaving the door open.  Another thing that never happened.

There was commotion, well, movement and the opening and closing of doors, and eventually the sound of a grown woman sobbing.

Miss Concannon returned, visibly shaken, pale and dumbfounded.  She just stood there in front of the class for what seemed an eternity.

Eventually, the PA system chimed and the principal announced that the President had been shot in Dallas, and that school would be dismissed shortly.  We were to go right home.

When I got home, my mother was sitting in front of the fancy black & white television, watching one of the talking heads (probably Walter Cronkite), with a tissue in her hand, sobbing.

It was years, of course, before I really understood what happened; and even more years until i understood the dramatic impact this event had on the American trajectory.  Today, I see it as the incident that moved America off the path to greatness and on the path to well, the dead-end, of avarice without charity.

Fifty years.

It seems like a long time, and it seems like yesterday (which I can barely remember anyhow).

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