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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Where Were You?

US Army Photograph

When I was a very young boy, we lived a couple of blocks from my grandparents, and my parents would take advantage of that as often as they could. For sure, this meant that I spent Sunday mornings with my Grandmother, while my folks went to church. I liked that a lot, since I was the only grandchild, and I was treated well, as you would expect.

I remember I really enjoyed watching cartoons on Sunday mornings, Popeye in particular, the old Max Fleischer classics, in black and white. At least, I remember them in black and white, probably because the TV was black and white.

One Sunday morning, my routine changed. Instead of my cartoons, there was something else on TV. In fact, it was on all 3 channels.

There was some kind of military parade going on, but there was no music. Everyone was quiet.

I distinctly remember one big black horse with no rider. Boots were in his stirrups, and they were in backward.

I didn't know why my cartoons weren't on. My Grandmother came in, and she looked at the TV, and started to cry. This made me cry, too.


This is my earliest memory. It was Sunday, November 24, 1963, and an honor guard was moving the body of President John F. Kennedy from the White House to the US Capitol, to lie in state, following his assassination on November 22. I was 2 years and 8 months old.

For years, I thought this memory was of President Kennedy's funeral, of the procession from the Capitol to Arlington National Cemetery. Then, in 1983, to mark the 20th anniversary of the events, MSNBC replayed the NBC coverage of the assassination and funeral, exact 20 years from the moment it occurred.

There, on the 24th, as the TV showed the President being moved to the Capitol, I saw the military escort, and the big black horse with the boots backward in the stirrups. I then realized it wasn't the funeral I remembered, but the moving of the President to the Capitol.

I remember, in 1983, being 22 years and 8 months old, still being moved to tears by the sight of the horse, by the memories.

Every generation shares a "where where you" moment. For this one, it's the September 11 attacks. For others, it's the Challenger explosion, or Pearl Harbor. This is one of mine.