A Day To Remember
A Day To Remember
Have you had something spark a recollection of a day that you remember vividly? Well, I’ll always remember the first time that I saw my wife, our wedding day and the day that our daughter was born but most of us remember days of historic significance. Yesterday while my wife and I were watching television and something came on the screen that reminded me of one of the most unforgettable times in my life.
People of a certain age will tell you that they would never forget December 7, 1941. My father once told me that he could remember every detail of that “day of infamy” when his country was plunged into a world war. It changed not only his life but the lives of his brothers and friends irrevocably.
Other people will tell you that they can remember September 11, 2001 as if it was yesterday. They can remember the beautiful blue sky which contrasted with the burning north tower. The sudden crash of the second aircraft into the south tower will be forever embedded into the minds of those who watched it live.
The third plane crashing into the Pentagon, followed by the fourth crashing into a field in Pennsylvania erased any doubts Americans about this being a coordinated attack on the United States.
Others will say that July 20, 1969 when men first walked on the moon was a day that they will always remember. For all Americans and others around the world who were watching the telecast that night, there is no question that the moment that Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon while be remembered in the minds forever.
I remember all of those days except,of course, Pearl Harbor day, which I can only see through my late father’s retelling. But the day that I remember most vividly, and was reminded of yesterday was the day our young President was killed on a Dallas street. Every detail of that day is embedded in my memory as if it was yesterday, even though it is over 48 years ago.
Let me take you back to Brooklyn, New York on November 22, 1963. It was Friday like every other Friday in the life of a high school student at Nazareth with one exception. After lunch we were scheduled to see a live performance of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
I was a sophomore at Nazareth Diocesan High School in Brooklyn. It was a new school and I was in the first class. My parents had paid for a desk during the fundraising drive and I felt compelled to sit in that desk when I went to high school.
Nazareth was an all-boys Catholic high school and as such there was plenty of questions about the afternoon’s thespian selection. “Julius Caesar” (video) or “Henry V” (video) might have been more appropriate but somehow this comedy was the selection.
After the first act, the lights unexpectedly went up and Brother Thaddeus, our principal, appeared on the stage. In a voice that was profoundly sad, he announced that President Kennedy had been shot and was at the hospital. We were all instructed to return to our classrooms. There, we were told that the President was dead and we were dismissed from school.
The ride home was the longest bus ride that I have ever been on, even though it was the same one as every other day. Arriving home, we stopped at the corner diner where it was the first time I ever saw a grown man weeping in public. The hard-bitten short order cook was quietly sobbing while he made sandwiches and sodas behind the counter.
I always had the impression that people were so stunned that they didn’t know what to do. My mother quietly wept at home while the news was repeatedly flashed on the black-and-white television. Over the next several days, all of America was enmeshed in the solemn rituals of the burying of the President. We all watched the eulogies in the Rotunda of the Capital, the funeral mass and the funeral procession to Arlington National Cemetary where our President was buried.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was an American hero before he was ever a politician, much less President. In the Straits of Kolombangara on August 2, 1943, his PT boat was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. Swimming from the wreckage of his burning command, Kennedy, who had been on the Harvard University varsity swim team, used a life jacket strap clenched between his teeth to tow his badly-burned senior enlisted machinist mate, MM1 Patrick McMahon.
For his that night and his leadership in the saving of his surviving crew, he was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. His citation reads: “For extremely heroic conduct as Commanding Officer of Motor Torpedo Boat 109 following the collision and sinking of that vessel in the Pacific War Theater on August 1–2, 1943. Unmindful of personal danger, Lieutenant (then Lieutenant, Junior Grade) Kennedy unhesitatingly braved the difficulties and hazards of darkness to direct rescue operations, swimming many hours to secure aid and food after he had succeeded in getting his crew ashore. His outstanding courage, endurance and leadership contributed to the saving of several lives and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.”
Try to think of the historic days that you remember. Keep them fresh in your memory.