Friday, November 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday - Where were you?

Image from GCS graduation announcement 1971

50 years ago I was a little girl in elementary school, Germantown Central School, NY. Every Friday afternoon most of the classes in school had ‘free time’. They could play board games, read books or draw. I was never a part of that because the Catholic children boarded a school bus and rode to the center of town to the Church of the Resurrection for religious instruction.

There was a building next to the church with classrooms upstairs. Carmelite nuns from a nearby convent came and taught us about our religion. They were beautifully serene women who taught us with soft voices. On November 22, 1963 we were with the nuns learning about the saints and reciting our prayers. The lessons had ended and we were noisily lining up to go downstairs and back onto the bus. Unexpectedly, our parish priest came up the stairs, raised his hand for silence and told us that our president, our country’s first Catholic president, was dead. Stunned, we all knelt down and he led us in prayer.

Our little town was far from Dallas and Washington, DC and we were not in fear for our own lives. But we were all shocked that someone would kill our much loved young, handsome president. Our mother and her mother who had been delighted when the Irish Catholic president was elected followed the news closely. There were days of watching television and reading the newspapers for every bit of information.


Fifty years have passed and the world has changed in many ways but it sometimes feels like that day was the beginning of those changes. On 11 September 2011 I was the teacher in the classroom when the world shifted again.

JFK Birthplace, Boston MA




13 comments:

  1. I had forgotten that he was the first Catholic president - it was interesting to read the impact on you, and what a place to be in when you heard!

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    1. Jackie, because of our shared religion he seemed extra special to me.

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  2. I was a college freshman when Kennedy was killed. That day happened to be my birthday.

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  3. I guess that there are many like me who didn't Kennedy was a Catholic either.

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    1. Bob, I can't say I know the religion of many presidents. JFK was different because he was our first.

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  4. I remember Kennedy's being Catholic was a large point in the election campaign - brought up over & over by those who opposed a Catholic president. But I couldn't see the point, really. To my mind, any candidate with a strong belief in any religion was no different. I simply liked his enthusiasm and forward thinking about where he thought our country should be headed.

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    1. Yes, it was a big issue. People thought JFK would follow any orders the Pope would give. Which, of course, was absurd.

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  5. Being a Catholic, it was a tremendous source of pride that the country finally elected a Catholic president, there was a lot of prejudice that the Pope would be calling the shots....flash forward today, well 50 years later, whatever. We all have reflections from 50 years now and yes 9-11 tipped us upside down again...

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    1. We felt the same; the pride in our Catholic president, and later the sorrow at his death.

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  6. At the time I was not aware of the negative view toward Catholics, but I since learned that in his younger days my dad had been denied advancement in the insurance company he worked for simply because he was Catholic.

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