November 22, 1963 was a defining moment for kids growing up in post-war America, a date we recalled to each other for years, and still recall to each other when younger (more employable) people aren't in the room.
Our memories aren't of Warren reports or conspiracy theory, but of how the world a kid took for granted, its safety, its social orders, was shattered in the space of a single afternoon. (As our own kids' vision of world order would be similarly detonated, 38 years later.)
I was in third grade, enduring arithmetic class. Suddenly, Sister Superior burst through the door and whispered something to our teacher, who began to cry. She fumbled in her mysterious robes, pulled out a hankie, and told us the news: the President had been shot, but not killed. Then, schoolbuses magically appeared outside the windows, hours before it was time for dismissal.
When I got home, the television was on, which was unusual in our house during the day. Even more unusual was that all three channels showed the same thing, so that we watched what was previously unthinkable come to pass, not just once, but over and over.
Of the events shown, the one most shocking to me was unseemliness on the part of Jackie, who'd been held up to me as a role model, being the first Catholic First Lady. One minute, she was seated beside her husband, looking proper in her pink pillbox hat, matching coat and white gloves. The next minute, she was clambering across the trunk of a car⎯behavior so inappropriate for a First Lady, not to mention one who was Catholic, that every time the scene was replayed, I half expected she'd do something else, and so was astonished again and again.