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Whether Mine or Manufactured, Memories of JFK’s Death Part of the Rain of Sorrow

John F. Kennedy
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

John F. Kennedy retrospectives in the run-up to the 50th anniversary of his assassination have been my TV viewing staple the past couple of weeks.

CBS, PBS, CNN, the History Channel, whenever, wherever, whatever about JFK, and I’m berthed on the couch watching.

At age 54, I’m on the younger end of the “where were you when JFK was murdered” generation.

My recollection is that on Nov. 22, 1963, living in a small, gray house in Yankton on Douglas Street when I was four going on five, I was playing in the room where my mom had the TV tuned to CBS and “As the World Turns.” I remember Walter Cronkite announce that the President had been shot in Dallas.

I later saw on TV Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald in the basement of the Dallas police headquarters. I then watched all the funeral coverage on TV.

At least I think I did.

As a history buff, history major and a writer of history, Kennedy’s assassination is one of the pivotal moments of my life and probably of the 20th century. So, starting at a young age, I hardly missed a TV program about the Kennedy assassination or the Kennedys.

So I have spent parts of the last 50 years watching what I thought I had watched as it happened or maybe did not watch but now think I watched concerning the Kennedy assassination.

Did I really hear Cronkite’s first bulleting about the shooting? Did I see, in real time, the celebrated newsman remove his glasses, rub his eyes and announce the President’s death? Was I a witness to the killing of Oswald by Ruby on live TV? Did I see John-John salute his father’s passing caisson?

Or did all those “memories” come later?

And worse yet, was I as sad as I think I was over President Kennedy’s death?

That’s the funny thing about time and memory, particularly now in the Information Age. Have my memories been supplanted with fake memories about true events like the replicants in the movie Blade Runner?

Does it even matter? Are my memories of the assassination like tears in the rain, as one of the replicants sighs before his death?

I’d like to think my tears of 50 years ago, which I also think I had–were in–are in–a monsoon of national and international grief over a young, handsome, charismatic leader struck down before he could fulfill his promise and promises?

But when it is all said and done, the timeline of my JFK assassination memories and when they developed in me is far less important than my tears—your tears—and everyone’s tears. Tears that add to a rain of loss that hasn’t really stopped in the 50 years since the tragic events in Dallas.

And the full monsoon of tears returns 50 years to the day this week, Nov. 22, 2013, regardless of how the memories were created.

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