For those of us over 50 years of age, a question that may have arisen over the past few weeks leading up to today’s 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, is “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot and killed?”
Most of us can remember some details of where we were, or what we were doing, when President Kennedy was shot. I was in the first grade at Ponce de Leon Elementary School in Decatur. Kennedy was shot in Dallas at 12:30 p.m. central time, which was 1:30 p.m. our time. We were let out of school early, the majority of us in the first grade not understanding the gravity of the situation or why we were sent home.
My most vivid memory of that day was being told what I thought was a funny joke about the assassination by a friend of mine who was a year or so older. When I got home from school, my mother’s eyes was glued to the television set, watching the news coverage of the shooting. Having no interest in anything more than playing with my friends, I asked her if I could go outside and play, and she said yes.
While we were playing my friend came over and told us the joke. I still remember what it was, and to this day cannot find any humor in it, nor does it really make sense. However, I’ve only repeated it once in my life, and after what happened when I did, I’m not about to repeat it here. Thinking it was funny, I went inside to get a drink of water and told my mother the joke. She definitely did not think it was funny, and made me sit inside and watch the news reports with her until my daddy got home. Thankfully, he decided that not being able to play with my friends had been punishment enough, and I didn’t get a spanking. But I’ve never forgotten that day.
That’s the way it seems to be with people. For whatever reason, we always seem to remember the worst times for our nation, instead of the best times. For example, I’m almost positive that if you ask anyone age 76 or older what the date December 7, 1941 stands for, they will recall it as the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and drew us into World War II. Those of us younger than that also remember it because we’ve learned about in history books and movies. But how many people, no matter what age, know what the significance of May 7, 1945 and September 2, 1945? May 7, 1945 is known as V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day, for the day the Germans signed their surrender to Allied Forces. September 2, 1945 is known as V-J Day, for the day Japan surrendered.
If you are more than 15 years old, you know what the meaning of September 11, 2001 is. That is the day terrorists crashed two passenger jets into the World Trade Center towers in New York, and a third jet into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing almost 3,000 people. But do you know the significance of May 2, 2011? That is the day a U. S. Navy SEAL team killed Osama Bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind and financier of the 9/11 attacks.
We should never forget the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of President Kennedy, or the 9/11 attacks. We should and have learned from them and are actively seeking ways to keep such tragedies from happening again. But we need to learn to remember and memorialize the good days and dates as well, and not let the negatives rule our world.