At Half Mast Reply

american-half-staff-flagDALLAS – Tous les drapeaux seront en berne aux États-Unis vendredi pour célébrer la mémoire de John F. Kennedy, assassiné il y a 50 ans et toujours au Panthéon des présidents américains. Pour “pleurer la perte d’un extraordinaire serviteur de l’Etat, visionnaire et sage idéaliste”, les drapeaux des bâtiments officiels devaient être baissés à mi-mât, a annoncé jeudi le président Barack Obama en proclamant la journée du 22 novembre “Jour du Souvenir du président John F. Kennedy”.

50 years already…I was 11 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was one of those moments that mark you forever. A loss of innocence…JFK 50th AnniversaryIt was still the morning and it was sunny and hot outside as it always was in Southern California in November. I was sitting in my 6th grade classroom listening to our teacher explain a math problem. As it was Friday, my friends and I were all looking forward to the weekend when we would be able to go to the beach and hang out. Suddenly the principal of our elementary school opened the door and signaled us to be silent. He walked up to our teacher taking him by the shoulder  and whispered something in his ear. We could see the shoulders of our beloved teacher sag slightly indicating to us that something was terribly wrong. He turned around and announced the news that would take away our innocence forever…”children…President John F. Kennedy has been shot. Class is dismissed.” We didn’t know how to react. We all sat there motionless. And the teacher had to repeat…”Class is dismissed. You can go home now.” We slowly got up and while walking out the door in single file, we bombarded the teacher with questions but all he could say was “we don’t know how serious his injuries are but we know he’s been taken to the Parkland Memorial  Hospital in Dallas. We gathered our belongings and lunch boxes and walked outside in a state of shock. The warm and sunny weather seemed out of step with the emotions that were beginning to build up in us. All of us parted ways and walked sullenly home. It was if time had stopped. When I got home, my mother greeted me at the door and we turned on the TV. Surely our favorite CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite would be announcing that he was going to be alright and that we would be able to return to our normal lives in time to enjoy our weekend. It wasn’t to be so. About an hour later we learned that President Kennedy had died.

We just couldn’t believe this was happening. But it was and for the next 4 days our TV would remain on allowing us to take part in the horror, disbelief and grief that our nation was enduring. On Sunday afternoon we watched while a horse-drawn caisson bore the flag-covered casket of JFK down the White House drive and then along Pennsylvania Avenue past the soldiers bearing the flags of the 50 States and thousands of onlookers who were shedding the tears of a nation. Seeing the riderless horse Black Jack prance behind this procession brought it even closer to home as the enormity and depth of this tragedy finally sank in. The following video captures some of the images, the sound of the drums, the clip clopping of the horses and the music which haunts me still:

And the world paid tribute: National Leaders Saluting Kennedy at Arlington Cemetery

And today his passing is remembered for the first time in Dallas, Texas:

Now every November 22 while we lower our flags to half mast, we will commemorate that day during which America lost its innocence and childlike optimism….

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