Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK touchstone will fade with Baby Boomers

It is a touchstone question of Baby Boomers: Where were you when you heard that John F. Kennedy had been shot?

With the eventual passing of the Baby Boomers, however, the question will be irrelevant to subsequent generations.

The assassination of President Kennedy 50 years ago today in Dallas, Texas, is an event that ties Baby Boomers to their parents, the members of the Greatest Generation.

Their and our memories of that day are intertwined. It marked the end of the post-war euphoria for our parents and the beginning of the turbulent late ‘60s and ‘70s for us Boomers. “Happy Days Are Here Again” shifted to “We Shall Overcome.”

On each anniversary, I try to remember the details of where I was, who I was with, what I remember of my Mom and Dad that day.

I was in Mr. Mollica’s fifth grade class at the Douglas Valley Elementary School at the United States Air Force Academy outside Colorado Springs, Colo., where my Dad was an Air Force officer and a professor of English.

I don’t remember the announcement. I don’t remember if we were dismissed from school, but I remember being outside on the playground with my pals, talking about how the assassin might have escaped. Our little brains developed a scenario where he got into a submarine and escaped by traveling underwater under the country. As I said, little minds.

I don’t remember the scene when I got home, whether my stay-at-home Mom was listening to the radio or television or anything at all. I don’t remember my Dad’s reaction.

It is, for all Baby Boomers, a shared experience in one way or another with our folks 50 years ago. But it is not an event we share with our children. And as we Boomers die off, the question of “Where were you” becomes less and less relevant. By the 100th anniversary of the JKF assassination in 2163 there might be no one left to ask the question of who actually remembers.

Our shared event with our children is 9/11, when terrorist-controlled planes struck in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. It’s a day that I can’t help but think of where my kids were and what they were doing when I think of where I was and what I was doing.

If we assume that parents and children, through history, have an iconic moment they share, it makes me wonder what historic event my children will share with their children. Something awful? Something good? But something?

Those generations, I’m sure, will have their own: “Where were you?” to bind them together in history.
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember exactly where I was when JFK was shot. I was home from elementary school, sick with a sore throat. Funny thing, my wife remembers being home sick too!