Friday, November 22, 2013

Can It Really Be 50 years ago?

I was in my middle twenties and working at a large bank in the Wall Street area. My department was on the 30th floor and at the end of the hall, a window looked out to the Hudson River, where I could see passenger ships arriving and departing from the West Side Piers. I was at my desk as usual, that Friday. I sat in the middle of a kind of foyer, with various offices around it where bank officers worked. It was a day when I was probably thinking of going out with friends that night, the beginning of the weekend. None of us expected someone to walk into the office and annouce, "The President  has been shot!" Someone found a radio and we could hear it playing somewhere. We stayed at our desks, wondering what was going on. The President was hugely popular. Who on earth would want to attack him? Of course, he had political foes, but this was something unheard of. Jack and Jackie were people who seemed like a Prince and Princess, with their two beautiful children. She was an elegant woman who wore designer clothing that every woman wanted to copy. He was a dashing figure from a wealthy Boston family. All this came crashing down that day. It was a only a short time before the person with the radio informed us that the President had died. He had been assasinated on a trip to Dallas, Texas. Everyone seemed to be dazed, sitting at their desks, or wandering around. I walked down the hall and looked out. A ship I knew and had travelled on, the Mauretania, was on her way out. For a moment, I wished I was on her, going back to Ireland. I wondered what kind of country this really was. But that was only the beginning. It was only a few years until Martin Luther King was killed and then the President's brother, Robert Kennedy. The country seemed to become dark and violent with rioting in the colleges and in the ghettos. So that day seemed to be the one when life changed forever. Maybe our calm and ordered world of 1963 was only an illusion, after all.

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