Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Ruby and Oswald

I was 11 in November of 1963, much more concerned about Mantle than Mao. The realities of the world barely intruded, the Cuban missile crisis merely a footnote. The somewhat annoying ritual of hiding under one's desk at school to ward off evil was but an inconvenience in my life.

But those days beginning on November 22, a half century ago, left an indelible mark. In a time when television coverage was still in its relative infancy and the notion of capturing events in real time was not a given, the live image of Lee Harvey Oswald meeting his demise while doing his version of a perp walk, was overwhelming.

Even now, 50 years removed, it is that moment, more than any other in the swirl of the hysteria surrounding the killing of our President, that remains most vivid. The rest, the image of Walter Cronkite half choking on his words of the passing of the President, of John-John giving a military salute while saying a goodbye that he little understood, and all else that came in the days after Oswald fired from that book depository, I don't know if these are seared memories from that time or teachings memorized over the succeeding decades.

I think it must be hard for today's youth to understand the distance between event and image back then. Now we have cameras on our phones and our ski helmets, and little or no separation between what is and what is broadcast. We are intimately, immediately aware of war and death, of famine and flood, of triumph and tragedy, and of almost everything big and small.

But then, the immediacy of the intersection of Ruby, Oswald and the rest of the world was unique. And for me, it was a wake up call. The television screen brought me face to face with the ugliness, the depravity, the worst that dwells within us.

And while Mantle still remained my central focus, there was after watching the events in that police precinct unfold, a difference in what I saw when I looked out at the world.


El Ganso said...

I can remember walking down the stairwell of my high school, and hearing the news. I can remember the incredible sadness and sobs that my friends and I experienced. I can remember being glued to the TV and seeing it all - Oswald, Ruby, the funeral, Zapruder's video of the President's motorcade and the shots fired. Whether it was one gunman or two or a conspiracy, fifty years later we are still asking questions. And, even now, I am still overwhelmed with sadness and tears for what happened.

diane said...

I still "run the movie" in my head and see/hear everything the moment I heard JFK was shot. I was at Berkeley walking down Shattuck Avenue through a sea of shocked faces. There was an eerie silence. Someone near me asked what had happened and a young man chocked out JFK had been shot. I turned around, wandered for a few blocks, crossed the street at Sather Gate and walked to the Music building. I went into one of the listening booths and listened endlessly to Bach - the music was measured, rational, reassuringly predictable - exactly what the world was not. It was dark when I came out. I remember thinking how appropriate it was that the daylight had slipped away, because my world, maybe "the" world, had descended into night. When I watched it on TV that night, it was as if it weren't real. The hopes of a generation were gone.

diane said...

That should read "choked ", not "chocked"- the perils of not proof-reading:)