I Can’t Believe I’m Historical! (Sort of)

The sophomore English class in which I spend two periods has a really good teacher. She’s my son’s age, 28, but I love the way she gets kids thinking about what they are going to study. They are about ready to start JULIUS CAESAR, so she had them doing a computer scavenger hunt to find out things about both Shakespeare and Caesar. Then she gave them a character list and they played a game called “Quiz, Quiz, Trade” before she quizzed them for a grade. They went around the room with cards asking one another questions about the characters.

Then she asked me to speak because I have lived through three assassinations. She wanted me to talk about JFK, but the kids asked some about Bobbie Kennedy and MLK as well. What I remembered about JFK sort of surprised me.

I was in third grade when JFK was assassinated. Because of the time difference between Ohio and Texas, we got the news at school right before it was time to go home. I loved my teacher, Mrs. Hildebrand. She sat down to explain to us what an assassination was. When she got done, this red-haired girl named Lois popped up and said, “Well, good. Maybe we can get a Republican president now!”

I thought Mrs. Hildebrand was going to explode. What she did, though, was sat down again and explained to us that OUR PRESIDENT was dead. It didn’t matter what party he had belonged to. He was our leader, a husband and a father. And someone had taken his life.

Things were a lot quieter in those days, seems to me. People didn’t have their TVs on all the time. My mom did have ours on when I got home from school because my dad had called her, and we watched the news together.

I told the kids that the closest thing I could compare the atmosphere to then was the atmosphere after 9/11. Nothing like an assassination had happened in anyone’s lifetime, and nobody really knew what was going to come next. I mean, we knew LBJ had been sworn in, but he was an unproven quantity as president. At least that’s what I felt. I was only eight, after all. And people didn’t talk much, as I recall. They watched and waited to see what came next.

I think what really brought the whole thing home to the kids that I knew was this picture of “John-John” saluting his father’s casket. We probably didn’t understand much, but we knew that nobody should have to do without a dad.

Kids in school often wonder why we teach them the things that we do. They are too young to have seen that history does indeed repeat itself. I doubt that I would ever have thought of having someone talk to my class about an assassination, but I was pleased to see that the kids were relating what I said to both Caesar and the present day. I guess they figured that if such a thing happened in my lifetime, it could happen in theirs. I applaud their teacher for leading them to that connection.


2 Responses to “I Can’t Believe I’m Historical! (Sort of)”

  1. 1 Carol April 13, 2007 at 5:53 pm

    That’s neat that you were able to share your memories of the Kenneday asassination with the class. I was only an infant when it happened, but I have heard many people tell stories of what they were doing when they received the sad news that our president had been killed.

  2. 2 amy April 14, 2007 at 8:40 pm

    I, too, like Carol, was too young to remember the JFK assassination. I also do not remember Bobby or MLK being assassinated. I do remember Anwar Sadat being assassinated. But more defining was the death of Mama Cass, the death of Elvis, and the Launch of the first space shuttle. I do remember exactly where I was for each of those.

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April 2007
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