Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blowin' in the Wind

It is Friday, November 22, 1963, and the sun is shining in LeRoy, Illinois. Suzanne is two months old, and I am giving her a bath. The TV is on in the family room and I’m listening to frequent updates on President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas, Texas:

“Cooler weather was forecast, but it’s a warm, sunny day in Dallas," the newsman says, "So Jackie Kennedy is wearing a wool Chanel suit.” He chuckles. “She might get a little warm before the day is over!”

Suzanne loves her baths; she coos and gurgles as I soap her tiny bald head. But she stops, blue eyes studying my face, as I begin singing to her:

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry...
In the background, the newsman continues: “The motorcade will go to Dallas where he will speak at a luncheon with civic and business leaders at the Trade Mart.”

I wrap Suzanne in a towel and turn off the TV, and then I mix her oatmeal and heat her bottle, looking forward to getting back to the book I plan to read while she’s taking her nap.

But first, I’ll feed her while watching my favorite soap opera.

In Dallas, the motorcade is arriving at Dealey Plaza and turning right from Main to Houston Street. And then it takes the 120-degree turn into Elm Street passing the School Book Depository Building.

Shots ring out.

The right side of President Kennedy's head is blown off, a huge mist of brain matter and blood spewing over everything nearby, including Mrs. Kennedy. She crawls onto the trunk of the limo, reaching for a piece of his skull.

"I have a piece of his brain in my hand!” she screams, "My God…they have shot his head off!”

I have dressed Suzanne and I’m settling in my chair to feed her and watch As the World Turns. Between bites, I glance at the TV where Nancy Hughes is giving advice to daughter-in-law Lisa.

As I pause to wipe oatmeal from Suzanne's chin, Walter Cronkite suddenly appears on the screen.

“Here is a bulletin from CBS news,” he says, “In Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.”

I stop, spoon in mid-air: What?

Suzanne begins whimpering, but I am frozen, unable to move.

She whimpers again, tiny mouth open.

“Shhhhh,” I whisper, “Shhhhh…”

I panic, not wanting to be alone. I must to talk to someone!

As I head to the phone in the kitchen, I hear Cronkite’s voice again.

"From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at one p.m. Central Standard Time, two o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago."

When I get back to the TV, Cronkite is pausing. He takes his glasses off and looks down, and then he puts them back on and swallows hard.

Our young, vibrant President is dead.

Why? Why would someone do this?

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.


Suzanne said...

Loved this post.

Suz said...

Another well-told memory.

Thank you.

Rhonda said...

I remember watching Jackie's tour of the White House after it was remodeled. She was quite a woman. Good Post. Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

Jeanna said...

This gave me chill bumps.

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley