Today, on the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, I’ve been watching all the historic news footage from the day.
Seeing what downtown Dallas looked like in 1963.
Remembering the cars people drove.
Remembering how men and women dressed.
Women wearing hats and gloves and glasses that looked like my mother’s.
Men wearing felt Stetson hats like my grandpa’s.
The coverage was so primitive, so unsophisticated, in comparison to what we might see today. Reporters and law enforcement officials sounding more like people interviewed immediately after a tornado has swept through their hometown than media professionals.
And then there’s that famous clip of Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald. The way it’s filmed it looks like something straight out of a bad, made-for-television version of The Untouchables. You can almost hear James Cagney snarling, “I’ll get you, you copper!”
Whenever I see those images, my thoughts return to another day, in Lindsey Walker’s eighth grade history class.
Mr. Walker was telling us about the day President Kennedy was shot. He stopped mid-story when he discovered Michael Penn had fallen asleep again. In the midst of Michael’s punishment, which consisted of drawing a circle on the chalkboard and standing for the rest of the class period with his nose in it, a couple of the boys at the back of the room noticed the picture of Oswald in our textbook.
“Hey, he looks just like you!” they called out, addressing another boy sitting on the next row.
“And your name’s Oswald, too – hey, are you related to him?!”
We all turned and looked at the boy, blonde, blue eyed, fair-skinned. A sweet and quiet boy who fit in with the other boys and was nice to the girls. A good boy whose family went to church and lived in a nice neighborhood.
A deep crimson spread up his neck and across his face, but as the boys began to taunt him, some in jest, some in anger, he simply sat there and shook his head.
“Dang, you’re kin to him?! Really?!” came the shouts from across the classroom, with kids craning their necks, gawking, to get a look at the boy who bore more than a striking resemblance to Lee Harvey Oswald.
Because he was his nephew.
Whenever I hear something on the news about that day, about the man who shot President Kennedy, I always think of the sweet boy in my history class.
And I hope nobody judges me by my relation to an uncle I didn’t know.