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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Sepia Saturday - A Shot that Rang Around the World

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history and memories  through photographs.

This week's prompt has a serious tone with a 1914 photograph of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo, shortly before his  assassination - an event which proved the spark  leading to the outbreak of the First World War.
We are asked to write about a  momentous moment. 9/11 immediately came to mind, but I have blogged about that a few times, so have chosen  to go with this week's anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.  
"The shot that rang around the world"
22nd November 1963 - The Assassination of President Kennedy
Photo Courtesy of Encyclopedia Britannica Online School Edition I interviewed my dad Doyle Ivon...
 We were watching TV in the early evening when a special "over to our newsroom" announcement cut into the programme we were watching - that usually heralded news of a disaster or a major royal story.  But instead  we heard about the shocking news of President Kennedy being shot in Dallas.

During Kennedy's election campaign I was still at school and JFK was someone we admired - he combined charisma, looks and idealism.   Young and energetic-looking for a world leader, he made such a contrast with our own elderly Prime Minister Harold Macmillan who seemed to epitomise the stuffy Edwardian period  of 60 years past.  We also  poured over the photographs of Jackie Kennedy  (the Princess Diana of her day), with her flicked hair, little pill box hats and stylish shift dresses.     

 We saw on TV JFK's powerful inauguration speech, his meeting with Khrushchev, his speech at the Berlin Wall and my father got up during the night to hear on the radio  his statement on the Cuban missile crisis which threatened world peace in a nuclear age.  We felt part of a new era.  

I had never lost anyone close to me, yet President Kennedy's death hit me hard.  For a long time I kept the newspapers covering the tragedy and I bought a memorial book of his life.  Perhaps it was something to do with the impact of television bringing it much closer to home - we saw the motor cavalcade and the shots being fired;  Jackie Kennedy  still in the bright pink.  now  blood splatted.  suit as she witnessed  the swearing in of the new President:  the solemn lying in state ceremony at the Capitol as Jackie and her little daughter Caroline knelt beside the coffin;  and yet more violence with the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.  I stayed off university lectures to watch the funeral on TV and wept at the sight of Jackie and her two young children. 

Only three years later I was in Boston, USA on a year's work exchange programme.  With another British girl we travelled around the country on the Greyhound bus, before returning home. On our itinerary were Dallas and Washington DC where we  visited Arlington Cemetery to see  President Kennedy's grave.  Today this would probably be termed "grief tourism", but we saw it a paying tribute to a world leader - a man shot down in his prime.


We were also part of the crowd at  the opening in Boston  of the JFK Library, attended by Robert and Edward Kennedy.    It is amazing to think back at the low level of security, as I was able very easily to  take  these photographs and even had Robert Kennedy sign the souvenir programme.  Two years on and Robert Kennedy himself was shot dead in Los Angeles whilst on a Presidential election campaign.

I know the Kennedy legend has long since been tarnished.  But that tragic day 50 years ago in November was for me, over 3000 miles away in Scotland,   a momentous event that has stayed in my memory.  

 Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved.

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"Momentous Moments  
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  1. A most lovely tribute your post is, complete with photos. I feel so sad for the many losses that the Kennedy family suffered, each and every one of them. Poor Caroline, left basically all alone, other than her own children. The loss of her brother was just as horrific.

  2. You have some wonderful photographs, taken yourself in person, to treasure. I was working when the news came of Kennedy being shot & I clearly recall staring out the window behind my desk trying to comprehend the reality of such a thing. The office was immediately shut down & we were told to go home. The streets were crowded with people in shock looking confused, angry, crying . . . On the bus ride home, no one spoke. Everyone just stared numbly out the windows. Unfortunately that wasn't the end of terrible things. But thank you for a fine tribute to the Kennedy family. I find it interesting & hopeful that the Kennedys are still in the political limelight, but it also worries me a little . . .

  3. I'm all in favour of a bit of grief tourism as you call it. I think it helps concentrate your thoughts if you can associate a person or an event with a place you are visiting. Like you I remember the day. We were in a car travelling to another town so I presume we had a car radio. I can't remember that detail ! You've made some interesting points, such as the low level of security around Robert. Thanks for the memories.

  4. Those are great personal photos and mementos

    November 22 is always easy for me to remember. President Kennedy was shot on my birthday when I was a freshman in college and away from home for the first time..

  5. Wow, great post. His grave is unusual with that mound in the middle. Amazing you got a photo of a Kennedy up so close.

  6. I think my parents got the spelling of my name from Jackie Kennedy - being born around the time the couple were in the news.

  7. You are certainly right that JFK's death impacted people all around the world. His influence continues today.

  8. I didn't realise at the time that JFK was the fourth President to be assassinated. I only knew of Lincoln then. Your personal take on that day in Dallas and your subsequent 'tours' bring it to light in a different way.

  9. It is interesting to read how people around the world reacted to the death of JFK. I didn't realize the impression he made outside the US. Wow - to have your personal photos of Robert Kennedy. You would think security would have been better for him....

  10. A fine example of how this affected the entire world. Your "grief tour" is another interesting tribute.

  11. The contrast you noted between Kennedy and Macmillan is probably what drew people to JFK in the first place. He certainly gave the political scene a new look.


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