Monday, January 19, 2009
I was in the 6th grade when JFK was assasinated and I remember it very well. Although the memory is intact, I don't remember having any real emotional attachment to all of it because I was too young to care much about political figures and what they meant to us as a nation. What a difference a few years makes though! I was in high school when both RFK and MLK Jr. were assasinated - and that was a different story.
Once I hit the 7th or 8th grade I was suddenly interested in what was going on in the world. I began every day by turning on the radio in my bedroom while I got dressed for school, listening to the world and local news segment before I left to go downstairs for breakfast. I started my lifelong habit of reading a newspaper. And each and every night I listened to Walter Cronkite tell me about Viet Nam, always giving the body count for the day, the Civil Rights Movement and what was happening in Selma or Atlanta, and the craziness of the late 1960s, which was in full swing, with nightly reports about what was happening on the corner of Haight/Ashbury in San Francisco or on the college campuses across the nation. It was a world gone wild in those days - unlike anything that I've seen since those turbulent years - and something no one who didn't live them can really understand.
Anyway-I remember well when the news flashed across the screen that Martin Luther King Jr had been shot and killed on the balcony of his hotel room. A feeling came over me that's hard to describe all these years later, but I can safely say that resignation and dread was part of it. What was the world coming to? Where were we going to be in 5 years? 10 years? Was there hope for us as a country? As a young girl I was more than worried - I was fearful.
It seems like a lifetime ago now - and I guess it was. I was so young and so naive. And now I'm so grateful to be able to look back and see that as a country we've come far enough to have elected a black president.
In the 1960s I don't think I'd have believed that would ever be possible. And I'm quite sure that MLK Jr is taking it all in right now and smiling....