I remember the day President Kennedy died. I was 25 years old. I was living on East 86th Street in Manhattan. I was walking home to my apartment. A shopkeeper ran out on the street and shouted, "They killed the President." More people started coming out of shops, looking stunned, weeping and in shock. I ran home. My husband was at work, my one-year-old was napping. I told the babysitter to go home. I turned on the television and remained glued to it, crying as the facts emerged from the early confusion.
I met John Kennedy twice. When I was in college in Massachusetts, he was Senator. He came to meet with the political science majors in 1958, and we spent an hour or so talking about the issues facing the nation. He was charming, handsome, funny, well-informed. We had no idea that the Senator would be President in two years.
In 1960, I graduated from college and was married a few weeks later. That summer, I volunteered to work in the Kennedy campaign. I worked at the headquarters at 277 Park Avenue (an old and beautiful building that has since been torn down and replaced by a skyscraper). I still have cards inviting wealthy matrons to a tea party at the home of Mrs. Elinor Gimbel, signed by Rose Kennedy, the candidate's mother. During the fall, he came to thank the volunteers individually. I was struck by how freckled he was. Funny what you remember.
I was part of the generation that was moved by his eloquence, his humor, his charm, his intellect. He encouraged us to dream of a new world.
I felt shattered by his assassination. It was one of the darkest days the nation had known. Five years later came the terrible deaths, the murders of Martin Luther King, Jr., then Robert F. Kennedy. It seemed we would never dare to dream again.