On Nov. 23, 1963, a feeling of malaise was settling in on the general population in the United States, with a numbing effect that would linger for many months to come.
That's because the day before, an assassin robbed the world and humanity of President John F. Kennedy.
Who can forget that grainy 8mm film of the assassination in Dallas and first lady Jackie Kennedy crawling on top of the trunk of the presidential Lincoln Continental, reaching for remnants of brain matter that were forced to exit and splatter by a projectile from a high-powered rifle?
Prior to this tragedy, America had already endured chaotic times during Kennedy's short tenure: The Bay of Pigs invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the fight for civil rights.
Tensions between the U.S. and Russia escalated, and the Berlin Wall was being built. The war in Southeast Asia was percolating.
On a positive note for the U.S. in 1962-63, astronaut John Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth, James Meredith became the first African American student to study and graduate from an all-white college, an estimated crowd of 250,000 showed up in Washington, D.C., to support civil rights legislation, and Kennedy spoke in West Berlin, exclaiming "Ich bin ein Berliner" to show solidarity.
The election of John Fitzgerald Kennedy as president in 1960 provided a breath of fresh air for the nation. Kennedy had charisma, youthful exuberance, and fortitude on his side while campaigning for the highest office in the United States.
As the son of Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., who not only built a dynasty of wealth through investments in the stock market and commodities, but a dynasty of family, JFK seemed destined to run, perhaps to please his father, who had strong ties with the Democratic Party.
He was driven to lead and likely felt an obligation to his fellow Americans to carry out his political ambitions.
Aftershock reverberated loudly as a result from the Kennedy assassination. How could this happen in this day and age? The public demanded answers.
President Lyndon Baines Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, designated United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the assassination of our 35th president. The Warren Commission concluded that a lone American citizen with Russian ties (and a Russian wife to boot) was responsible.
Many didn't agree with the commission's findings and cried "Conspiracy!" which some still believe today, despite overwhelming and well-researched evidence.
By early 1964, American youth began to get more involved in politics, organizing and protesting the involvement of U.S. troops in the Southeast Asia war. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed, and the arrival of the British Invasion, notably The Beatles, seemed to give hope and happiness to American youth. Martin Luther King Jr. would go on to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
It's hard to comprehend that it's been 56 years since the death of one of America's most popular presidents. Had he not been assassinated, one wonders where America would be today. Would we be better off?
That is an unanswerable question.
We can only surmise. Or hope.
Randal Berry retired from the Little Rock Zoo in 2016.
Editorial on 11/22/2019
Print Headline: After 'that' day