There is nothing like a presidential assassination to put your life into perspective.
There I was sitting in my tenth grade French class, staring at the cute boy two seats to my left. Something I did everyday. Would he ever notice me? Would he ever ask me on a date? Would anyone ask me on a date?
Our French teacher was speaking half in English, half in French. I was only half listening to her conjugate verbs. The only French I was interested in involved kissing.
And then suddenly the PA system crackled to life and our principal called for everyone's attention. His voice didn't sound quite right. Rather than booming into the classroom, he seemed to be struggling to speak.
I heard the words "motorcade...Kennedy...shot...Dallas." It was difficult to grasp his exact meaning.
Our teacher began babbling solely in French as her body crumbled onto her chair, her head fell onto the desk. Her shoulders rose up and down. It was the first time I'd ever seen one of my teachers cry.
As I left school, I realized all of the adults were crying.
At home, my mom sat at the kitchen table, sobbing. She thought it had to have been a mistake. They got it wrong.
Being only a teenager, I wasn't that political. I didn't understand the implication for our country or the government. I saw only a pretty woman who had lost her husband. And those two adorable kids, John-John and Caroline were now without a father. And a mother was grieving for her son.
Back then we couldn't text or tweet or Facebook our thought and feelings (so much data might have caused a major crash) but we were content to sit in front of the small TV and watch the news. In fact, it was more input than my brain could handle. We kept the news on all weekend, eating our meals in the den.
Since that day I've wondered how different life would have been different if JFK had lived. The Beatles would still have invaded the USA. We would still have been faced with the civil rights movements. A man would have walked on the moon. As for Viet Nam? I'll leave that to the historians.
But something died that day. Our country shifted off its optimistic axis. My parents became mortal in my eyes. I realized a man could die for what he stood for. And I began to question the path I wanted to make in this world.
As for that boy two seats over. I eventually did go out with him. And with a dozen other boys who I can barely remember.
But to this day, I'll never forget November 22, 1963. The day my life changed forever.
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