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On Sept 28, 1963, I saw, at the Las Vegas Convention Center, President John F Kennedy. At that moment, he became a hero of mine.
Up until then, I had the usual heroes, such as actors John Wayne, Dan Blocker (Hoss Cartwright, of the TV show Bonanza), Sean Connery’s James Bond, and my favourite at the time, Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia and, of course, Elvis Presley, the usual assortment of a ten-year-old growing up in America.
Kennedy only spoke for 17 minutes and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but the crowd went crazy. My mother and my friends’ mothers were calling out, ‘Mr President, Mr President’. It was pandemonium.
I saw the Beatles at the same venue less than a year later, and they had the same effect on the young kids that JFK had on the adults.
One of the saddest days of my life was when JFK was killed, on Nov 22 1963. I remember the moment. I was in fifth grade, and in sixth grade reading class. I went to one of only two private Catholic schools in Las Vegas.
A kid named Kenny, who had just got back from the dentist, and who was a bit of a jokester, burst into the room and yelled to the nun that someone had shot the president.
The nun slapped Kenny across the face and yelled at him for saying what he said. Kenny was shocked. He told the Sister that he was not lying and then she began to cry. She knew Kenny was telling the truth. About 30 seconds later, Father Baldus came over the loudspeaker and told everyone to go to the church across the street, to pray for the president who had been shot.
While we were on our knees, praying, Father Baldus, from the pulpit, said that the president had died. Darkness.
Later that day, at home, with my misty-eyed and distraught parents, I sat in front of the TV. I could understand my mom being affected, but not my dad. My mom was a great supporter of JFK and my dad totally disliked him. So I asked my dad why he was crying. He told me it was because “he was one of us”. I’ll never forget that day.
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