Funeral for a President – 50 Years in Retrospect
I said a while back I would do this, and so here they are – my memories of President Kennedy’s funeral, 50 years later.
And these really are memories, not something hazy that might or might not be based on what I’ve heard and read.
As I’ve said before, I was in the 7th grade when my teacher turned to my class and said President Kennedy had been shot and killed. I was 12, going on 13 and already a student of history. We were sent home that Friday, and school was called off until after President Kennedy’s funeral.
I also remember the Sunday morning when accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. I didn’t see it on our old black-and-white Admiral television, but we were having Sunday dinner after church at the home of my parents’ friends. And when we got there, their college-age daughter told us Oswald had been killed.
To this day, any time I hear “Hail to the Chief,” the Navy hymn “Eternal Father” or “Ruffles and Flourishes,” all played slower than usual to the point of being dirges, it all comes flooding back, JFK’s funeral, especially the procession. The muffled drums, the riderless horse with the boots turned backwards in the stirrups…
Jackie, the young widow, and the slain President’s brothers, Ted and Bobby, both in those long, formal. morning coats, walking in the funeral procession.
Mrs. Kennedy and daughter Caroline, touching the flag as they knelt at the coffin. John Junior’s salute.
And finally, the eternal flame at Arlington National Cemetery, near where JFK reportedly had recently said “I could stay here forever.”
The memories are all there, and believe me, they are vivid.
And I suspect they always will be.