John Kennedy Inaugural , 50 Years Today
by Karyl Miller
50 years ago today John Kennedy was sworn in as our knight in shining armor. I was in high school, but I would have voted for him if I could have. For those of you not fortunate to have been there suffice to say, Kennedy was the white Obama. We Democrats just loved him. He was young, he was smart. He was a gorgeous man with a gorgeous family. He shared our values. We just loved him.
50 years have gone by and I STILL can’t watch Kennedy videos without getting as lump in my throat. I remember watching Kennedy’s Inaugural speech – we were so thrilled. So much hope, so alive. And then, the opposite. I realize now I will never get over the loss of Kennedy. Every Kennedy image reminds me of what might have been and brings me back to that horrific day when we were hearing the impossible. “The president’s been shot.” I was thinking Not OUR president. They must mean some president from some backwards country where they’re always overthrowing each other. Not here. We don’t shoot presidents in America.
I was a just-out-of-high-school showroom girl at a wholesale hat company in the legendary garment center in New York. The switchboard girl said “The president’s been shot.” I thought that maybe they meant our boss, Mr. Abramson, the president of the hat company - whom I hated, but not that much. Someone hated Mr. Abramson even more than I did? At least that’s what I told myself when they sent me to the bank to make the deposits.
The garment center was jammed, as it always was back when we still manufactured clothing right there in NYC USA. This was the hub. The joint was jumping. Trucks were honking and double parking and backing in and out of driveways. People are always yelling at each other and flipping each other off. Sidewalks were teaming with Puerto Ricans navigating racks and racks of clothing between the salesmen, the masses, the 6-foot models all painted up and scurrying to their next job.
1407 Broadway was the Mecca of it all. There was always a line up of chauffeured black Cadillac limousines circling the building waiting for their owners – the top designers who worked there. As I got closer I realized every chauffeur had his door open and a crowd gathered around, trying to hear the radio. If you accidentally made eye contact with a stranger, you exchanged worried looks. Everyone was wishing Please don’t let it be true. The people closest to the radios passed the info back to us. I heard what sounded like “presidente” in fifty different languages. Then I heard the word “morte,” which I guessed meant the news was very bad indeed.
My heart sank. I had to stop fooling myself about Mr. Abramson. I had to accept the fact that our beloved president John Kennedy was shot and killed. And just when things couldn’t get any worse, they got worse with more and more dying in Vietnam. Then they killed Martin and Bobby – Bam! Bam! Back to back in 60 days. We boomers and beyond had the optimism beat out of us. That’s what happens when they take away your heroes. It's not just Kennedy I mourn today.