I was two and half years old when Kennedy was killed. I was toddling around the house when the soap opera my mother was watching came to a halt. The news came on. I paid little attention, but knew something bad had happened, since all my family did for the next few days was watch television.
It was several months before I figured out what had happened. We lived in a small home by a walnut orchard. It was owned by an old man named Mr. Ellis. One day, presumably in early 1964, he came by and gave me and my older brother brand new 1964 Kennedy half-dollars. This was very exciting. I was confused, however, when he said we shouldn’t spend the Kennedy halves on candy, but should hang onto them in memory of our late President. My consciousness had grown in the preceding months, and I’d come to understand that Lyndon Johnson was Mr. President, and ran the country, but it hadn’t occurred to me that he had only recently become Mr. President.
It then hit me. The young man on the coin was the last President. I saw tears in Mr. Ellis’ eyes. I knew something really bad had happened to Mr. Kennedy.
That vague impression–that something really bad had happened–and that I need to figure out what it was–remains.