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2003-11-20 / View From the Middle

View From

The MiddleKennedy Was Indeed Taken From Us Too Soon
By Charles Rogers
View From The Middle By Charles Rogers Kennedy Was Indeed Taken From Us Too Soon

The Middle
Kennedy Was Indeed Taken From Us Too Soon

It’s hard to realize that two generations have come and gone since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. There are those of us who will remember on its anniversary this Saturday just what we were doing on that day in 1963; how "things" — everyday things that people do, like shopping and driving home and walking the dog or doing the laundry — just stopped. Americans gasped and figuratively and literally held their breath after they heard the first bulletin come from television sets in homes and bars and store windows stating that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. They stopped and prayed that the bullets hadn’t found its mortal mark, but shortly thereafter their worst fears were realized when the bulletins said JFK had died.

Until then — at least for the previous two years — the spirit of the everyday American was on the upbeat. Kennedy was not just the President of the United States, he was a young leader who was in the process of instilling a special confidence and a sense of hope that we were just getting used to.

JFK succeeded President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a stoic, serious, military leader who did a hell of a job as one of the main military leaders who won World War II for us…but he was a lousy president. The Cold War was his, as was the beginnings of our involvement in the war in French Indo-China, later called Vietnam. He was also responsible for telling Russia and the rest of the world that the plane in which pilot Gary Powers crashed in the Soviet Union was not a spy plane, but later embarrassed us in front of everyone when he was caught in the lie.

It was this kind of murky political miasma that Kennedy came into as president, having beaten the dour Richard Nixon, who epidomized a continuance of the Ike Administration: more of the same, except not as clean-shaven.

Frankly, it doesn’t seem too hard to express to those who did not live through that era what it was like. They have already connected the word "Camelot" with JFK and his Jacqueline; and that was true. It was indeed a hierarchy there on Pennsylvania Avenue. Royalty reigned, no doubt about it.

But people not only almost expected it from the Kennedy’s, they accepted it. There was that zest for life; that completely distinguishable confidence that Kennedy himself exuded with his every step. He loved his job and it was obvious to us all.

When he was gone, taken from us with the crack of a rifle’s bullet, it was indeed unbelievable. Our inspiration was taken away; our complacency shattered, never to return.

These 40 years after his death we find cobwebs in his past. Frankly, I overlook them now — on purpose. I don’t want to know. I want to remember him as I — and everyone else — knew of him.

As one who covered him as a cub field producer, I was privy to have spoken with him on many occasions and even — the week before he died — had a drink with him at the Carlyle Hotel after I and a camera crew raced him to Manhattan from LaGuardia across the Queensboro Bridge. We in the press knew of some of his peccadillos then, but we never — never — divulged them. Hey, this was his own business; it didn’t affect his job and when he or his press representatives said it was "off the record," it remained off the record.

It was Kennedy the President that we proudly presented. He was the hope, and the future looked so good.

Too good, I guess.

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