The 22nd of November in 1963 was a momentous day in the lives of many of us (tomorrow I will share where I was at that moment). It was one of those pivotal moments that saw the loss of innocence, a clouding of vision and hope, and the end of an era of freshness and optimism that had just begun to surface in this land. I am sure that most see and remember that day as a day of sadness and tragedy, but for many of us in our teens it was a gut wrenching day, a weekend of devastation and we have never been the same.
For those who may not have been around - from my perspective as a kid - the country was coming alive. We had just come out of the war, and the cold war, while still there, was showing a few signs of warming. We had just come out of the presidencies of good men, but men who were older. Now we had a young and handsome president in John Kennedy. Nothing against Bess Truman or Mamie Eisenhower, but they did not have the glamour of Jackie Kennedy. There were youngsters in the White House, and a spirit of young optimism growing in the land. People were becoming inspired to see what they might do for their country. The Peace Corps was established and young people rallied to help others. The president was young and made mistakes, but we looked beyond them. The future lay ahead, and there was a brightness and liveliness that saw good and idealism as their hallmark.
Even in the Church we were in the midst of a revolutionary Second Vatican Council, and things that had always been the same seemed to be changing. That newness and vitality was catching.
Then came Dallas and November 22nd and the assassination of the president and the death of that hope. We did not despair, but everything was now different. Other great tragedies and assassinations and wars and struggles occurred. It was like "the day the music died", but this was the death of innocence (even if that were an illusion) and the loss of optimism. I believe that there are others like that junior in high school at Saint Vincent that day who not only remember what they were doing, but remember the devastating effect of those moments in time. Our remembering is necessary for us to look to the future. Camelot may be long gone, but there is another Kingdom that is of greater importance, and our Lord is King.