Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dallas November 22, 1963

Forty-six years ago, in the autumn of 1963, I was in ninth grade. I had Miss Mildred Brown again as homeroom teacher for the third year in a row. She was a rather plain looking geography instructor. But I guess she liked me. For citizenship she gave me an A double plus. That's really rather embarrassing.

My brother Sherry (Sheridan) was a senior at Princeton. For his junior year thesis, he had written a paper on Laos and Vietnam. Sometime when I was in elementary school, Sherry had suggested a future career for me. I should go to Princeton, of course, major in Arabic studies and become an expert in petroleum. This was 1960 or 1961. Today, Sherry doesn't recall suggesting that to me, but it was rather prescient for the time. Needless to say, I didn't do any of that. Although, for years I did have my heart set on going to Princeton for undergraduate studies.

Senior year, Sherry escorted Madame Nhu (the Dragon Lady) and her very attractive daughter (who later died in a Paris motorcycle accident) around the Princeton campus. This was just before the coup, which toppled the Diem regime in early November.

Friday November 22 started as an ordinary day. In second year Latin class with a severe Miss Halbert –while we were translating Julius Caesar's Gaul Commentaries— Miss Halbert started fiddling with the radio. As murmurs arose, she snapped at us: "For your disorderly information…... the President has just been shot!"

The class went into an uproar. Students screamed and sobbed. But we went on to the next class, typing, I believe. Finally, an announcement came from the Principal on the intercom that we were excused to go home early.

As I walked past Italian Lake, toward the Zembo Shrine Mosque, and the Scottish Rite Temple— just before the McFarland Rose gardens— my Dad came by in his Ford, looking for me and drove me home.

Remembering the events of that weekend, I regret I didn't insist on going to visit Aunt Marg and Uncle Elmer Staats in Washington. I should have liked to have gone to the viewing in the rotunda. Instead, like everyone else, I stayed transfixed to the television screen, and watched Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald in real time.

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Titian in the Frari (Venezia)