When I was in sixth grade, in Mrs. Young's class, everything changed. After looking at the hole-in-her-head forehead scar for three months, everyone in the class morphed into adults. It wasn't her unfortunate deformity that caused the change in us nor was it our adolescent urgings. The door to our classroom blew open with the words, "The President has been shot!".
A small black and white television appeared in the room, perched on a wooden chair. We sat transfixed at the little screen partly because tv in the room was a first but also because the adults were scared. I don't recall seeing scared adults before then. Sure, we all screamed when LLS took a flying dive off the sliding board in our backyard but this was different.
We sat stunned as adults blew in and out of the room. We'd never seen expressions on teacher's faces like these. Is this what big folks fear looked like?
The school closed early on November 21st. My mom walked to school to get me and we walked home in silence. I was aping the solemnity of the school teachers. I suppose my mom was considering the new world of murdered authority figures. She was 41. I was eleven.
At dinner that night, we talked about the assassination. My father, whose politics I don't understand after all these years, spoke about how horrible the Kennedy's were. He didn't seem upset or scared or even perturbed that the Leader of the Free World was murdered in a Southern city.
I couldn't process what my response to President Kennedy's death was supposed to be. The teacher's behavior made sense. My mother's quiet response made sense. I couldn't understand why my Dad seemed non-plussed and rather pleased.
In I Corinthians 13, Paul says that we aren't to rejoice in the suffering of others. As a Sunday Schooled child, I knew this. My Dad was a Deacon, my mother on her way toward becoming a Presbyterian after years of belonging to the Episcopal Church. After dinner each night, we read from the Good News Bible (see American Bible Society for version). How did Dad's response match what we were taught?
Jaye Ramsey Sutter at her blog, A Winding Road in An Urban Area on Typepad, writes about dissonance. She won't think there is any similarity in her post which spawned this post of mine but I think like a stone in a pond. One plop in the water and my mind begins the circling motions outward. Thinking about the death of the President while watching my parents respond is an outgrowth of her blog post.
President Kennedy's death is a marker event for those of us in Mrs. Young's Sixth Grade Class. We've marker events since then but this one stands out today.
What are your marker events?