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Outside My Realm of Comprehension

Wednesday 11/22/2006 12:05 AM

I remember 9/11. It was my wedding anniversary after all.

I remember Challenger. How sad it is that I can't simply mention when we lost the shuttle because then you wouldn't know which one I was talking about.

I remember when John Lennon was shot. The news interrupted my after school TV programs that day, and I (who was not raised on The Beatles like almost everyone else my age) wondered what the big deal was about the death of this middle-aged guy with glasses and long hair.

For the most excusable of reasons, I will never remember the assassination of John F. Kennedy. That doesn't mean, though, that I haven't been touched by his passing.

Until 9/11, I had never experienced the bereavement of an entire country. Alone in my living room, in front of the television, I cried like a little girl during the live feed of the opening ceremony for the Olympics that winter in Salt Lake City. When they brought out the flag from Ground Zero, and with it the accompanying quiet respect and solemnity, I felt a part of me had finally grown up in the saddest of ways.

This is what it means for a nation to mourn, I told myself. May I never feel this way again.

This summer, Candy had a business trip to Dallas-Fort Worth during the week of Independence Day. I tagged along and hung out in the hotel room most of the time.

We decided the best place to spend the Fourth of July was at the former Dallas book despitory, now converted to a museum and memorial called The Sixth Floor Museum. It is your Link of the Day.

Inside, the walls are dripping with history. Like some mythological character who re-creates the world everyday took long sheets and chunks of November 22, 1963, and flung them all about the insides of the book depository for safe keeping. They have everything. Film, video, photos, newspapers. Anything and everything about John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his terrible final day.

I didn't know how I would react. By the time I was almost done with the tour, I hadn't cried, but then I saw the unexpected. There was a single place setting of beautiful china and real silver silverware. It was intended for Kennedy's use at his destination that day. A simple, elegant setting for a lunch that was never served (let alone enjoyed).

I don't know what it was about that plate and cup and saucer. That fork and knife. That napkin. Somehow it made it real. This was an actual man who lived, and he was taken away from us.

I staggered away with a hard knot in my throat only to find a film running of all the different tributes around the world that occurred shortly after his death. The prayer vigil in India. The light parade in Germany. Here was how the world mourns.

Now, after 9/11, I think I understand why my family spoke about Kennedy the way they did. The subtext was, "You will never understand. You are blessed for not being here then. But you are cursed for not being able to hear the dirges sung and the death bells that rang out in real time around the world when they happened as they happened, instead of seeing them in retrospectives on television many years after with commentaries of what you missed."

Unfortunately, my generation now has its own subtext for those men and women yet to be born, doomed to their own birthright of ignorance.

An ignorance we may one day envy.

Link of the Day: The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza Home Page

File Under: Death; History; Holiday, Of Sorts; Link of the Day
Music: The Beatles "Love"

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