Friday, November 22, 2013

Remembering 1963

Nov 15, 1963, was a bright , sunny, beautiful day in New York City. The weather was much like another bright sunny day in New York several decades later ( September 11th, 2001),  Back then, I was a high school senior attending a National CYO Convention in NYC at the Hilton Hotel. At about 12:15, a bunch of us were returning from
The NBC studios in Rockefeller Center where we watched 'The Price is Right" and as we neared the Hilton on Sixth Avenue there was a hubbub of police activity, and someone shouted that the President was here to make a surprise visit to the CYO Convention. He was speaking earlier that day at the Americana Hotel ( now the NY Sheraton) a few blocks away, at the AFL-CIO Convention.
    We hurried up onto the crowded escalator to get up to the Hilton ballroom which was wall to wall teenagers, and we pushed our way into the ballroom. Nancy Sereno actually got up on my shoulders so she could see what was happening as I forged ahead through the packed crowd, when we heard an announcer say "Boys and Girls, the President of the United States...! " You can imagine the roar of the crowd, and then, out stepped John F. Kennedy who said " My uh, my uh, fellow CYO ers!" Absolute pandemonium and cheers erupted at that moment of solidarity. The president was one of us!. I don't remember anything else he said after that, and actually , we hustled out of the ballroom and hustled back down the escalators to catch a glimpse of Kennedy's motorcade, which , I had read in the news, was stopping for stop lights ( a controversial move at the time).
     We moved out onto the curb at the corner of 54th St. and Sixth avenue, and in a few minutes, I looked about ten feet away, and there was a black Cadillac vehicle heading east on 54th St., stopped, waiting for the light to change, and there in the backseat passenger side, with the window down, sat John F. Kennedy. I froze at first, then called out, "Mr. President!" He looked at me and smiled, and extended his hand out the window to shake hands, as I ran over toward the limo. At that moment, the light changed, and the limo pulled away, and I  was inches away from touching his hand. But it was not to be. Nevertheless, that moment is forever etched in my memory,, in a kind of slow motion, freeze frame way.
    It was a moment in time I shall never forget. It was sealed even more firmly into my memory banks by what happened, exactly one week later, to the hour, in Dallas Texas, on a bright sunny day, November 22nd, 1963. 

     Fast forward one week....I will never forget that first of the season pep rally at Oswego Catholic High, 50 years ago, when Father Yennock asked us all to stand and sing the Star-Spangled Banner together in the middle of the pep rally, which we all knew was weird, and his announcement after that, that the President had been shot in Dallas, and had died. Our collective grief was unbearable as we wandered out of St. Francis Hall in a daze. Our lives were never again the same. Nothing has ever been the same since, and nothing ever will.

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