Sometimes to calm my nerves, I tell little stories. I tell myself stories. Or rather, I remind myself of stories. Many of the stories in my head are from my father, who is a master story teller. He makes you have a feel for the story by painting a picture of the emotions of it, and the people in it. One such story just came into my head.
It was Friday, November 22, 1963. My mother had somehow reached my father at work, and told him she’d heard President Kennedy had been shot. He took the elevator from his office up to the main news floor, at “the station.” The radio station where he was employed at the time. (Though he is my father, I actually don’t know which radio station he worked for in 1963, and I was not yet born.)
On last year’s anniversary of the JFK assassination, I said to my father: “For some reason, this year, I am focusing on it, as it must have been for all of you. Trying to imagine and picture it. It must have been so traumatic for you. I don’t know why I never thought of it the way but everything is always about the bullets and the theories…”
He said: “Have I ever told you how I learned it was true?”
“No, I don’t think so.” (I say that even when he has told me, so I can hear a story one more time.)
“I took the elevator up to the main news floor. ” (As he was telling me this, I was transported to that elevator car, and can see my father frantically trapped in there, like a giraffe in a cage, waiting for the slow elevator to get to the right floor. When I “imagine” things, it’s always these kinds of details that get me. Was it silent? Was it packed? Were there elevator buttons that lit up? White light? Were there men in damp overcoats and fedora hats? Had they all stopped wearing fedora hats, by then, because JFK stopped wearing one? Were you in shock? Disbelief? There was no “fake news” then. No Twitter rumors. Just sober newscasts one would have a hard time disbelieving.
“The elevator doors opened,” he said. “There were two men carrying a woman, horizontal, who had fainted. As soon as I saw that, I knew it was true.”
My parents left shortly thereafter, took a train to Washington D.C., and got in a very ling line, to view the casket. They stood in that line all through the night, and in the morning, reached the casket, and paid their respects.
That is one of a small handful of stories I have and hold, from my parents, as a couple. Children of divorce collect these stories like sea-shells. The photo of my parents is its own kind of “fake news,” but I like to look at it, because it represents “before.” They look so happy.
We all have a JFK assassination in our memory bank, when something dark came in, and wrecked our innocence–our lives.
Why did it all have to be taken away? Who was the gunman? Can’t he be stopped?