The picture above of Senator Kennedy was taken on October 16th, 1960 at the airport in Wilmington Delaware. He was campaigning for the election he was just about to win that would make him the 35th President of the United States.
Years before I knew the man in the picture was a Senator, a President, a Father a Husband or that he had been assassinated and certainly before I knew enough about him to decide whether I would have voted for him had I ever been given the chance, I only knew that he was what I considered to be a handsome man that for some reason would occasionally show up on magazines and in newspapers. I asked my mother who he was and she told me. She also told me his story in OUR history and made information readily available so that I might learn more about him on my own. Like so many others, I became completely fascinated with him and all things Kennedy. Not because I agreed or disagreed with his politics(I was far to young for any of this and not even studying Presidents in school) but because his family seemed to be the closest thing to royalty that we Americans had. Charismatic, wealthy and attractive people that seem to have it all are often times people we admire and this family seemed to have it all. I learned about his huge family, his rise into politics and his beautifully young and vibrant wife. I also fell into fascination with her and their children. Over the years I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on about the Kennedy family, their Camelot, their politics and the assassination of the 35th President of the United States. Whether you agree with him, his politics or anything about him really, you should agree that the assassination of a President is a sad thing, a terrible thing and a failure for a country. I remember being devastated at the thought of someone hating a person or their beliefs SO badly that they would be willing to kill them. It just did not add up for me. Maybe I was to young to comprehend but, this is when I first remember realizing that the world in which we lived was not always a wonderful place.
The story behind the picture
I was working for a Chemical company in research and development of Polymers. I was traveling to visit chemical plants to watch the product I made go into scale up. After a long morning in the plant I was to have a meeting with the plant manager. I arrived early and he was not there so I sat and talked with his secretary for what was one of the most interesting conversations of my life. I was walking around her office drinking a cup of chemical plant coffee (left ALOT to be desired) when I began to notice pictures of John Kennedy all over her wall. She had pictures from so many different places and times in his life that it was like I was in a library or inside a book itself. I came to a picture of a girl shaking the hand of Senator Kennedy. She came up behind me and said, "That young girl is me." I knew this was a story I wanted to hear. We sat down at her desk and she pulled a folder out of her bottom drawer and we started to talk. Together we riffled through pictures and newspaper clippings for well over an hour. She looked at me and started telling me that she was the girl in the picture with him because she and several other girls from her class were chosen to present a globe to Senator Kennedy right before he made his speech. She said they presented it to him on behalf of themselves, their school and the State of Delaware. He thanked them and began his speech.
The girls went to their seats and listened to him make his speech. When he was finished he thanked and shook the hands of the necessary people and then walked over to the girls. Her face lit up as she explained the rest. She said, "He walked over to me, bent down and asked me if he could interview me back on the airplane." "I was so shy and could not figure out why he would want to interview me but I was so excited that I do not remember the walk to the airplane." She told me then that once they got to the airplane that Senator Kennedy told his staff, the press core and everyone else that he was going to interview this young lady and that he did not want to be interrupted. They explained to him that if he took the time to speak with her that the remainder of the day would be thrown off and something would have to be moved. He said, be that as it may, I am going to interview this young woman and I do not wish to be interrupted. At this point in her story her eyes began to well up with tears. She said, "He sat me down and asked me if I would like anything to drink." "I told him no thank you." She then said that he asked her questions about herself, her town, her school, what it was like to grow up there and wanted to know all about her family. He asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up and if she had given any thoughts to college. This is when she began to actually cry. She said, "He sat with me for over 30 minutes and we just talked, we were the only ones in the room and I felt like the only person on the planet." "This man, Senator Kennedy that was the husband of Jacqueline Kennedy and a busy father and politician who was running for President. Her voice weak and cracking, she said, "He took his time to interview me, without interruption or concern for anything else and I was not even old enough to vote for him." Now we are both crying. She then told me that he walked her back to where her class and the other girls were waiting, he shook her hand and told her it was a great pleasure to meet her and thanked her for taking time out of her day to speak with him. He thanked the girls again and he turned and headed towards the airplane. She said, "That was the greatest memory of my life and something I will never forget." "It was 1960, I was 13 years old and he was elected President the next month."
Her story continues, "I was in school three years later on November 22nd when he was killed and so many things for me stood still that day and have not yet moved." "Like everyone else I cried." "I cried for what felt like the loss of my moment, the loss of the President that I met before he was President, the loss of a husband, a father and the terrible loss for a country." The next thing she said broke my heart and is something I think of each and every time I vote. She said, "A piece of me stopped being an American that day and as a result of that, I have never voted and I never will." I had tears rolling down my face and I was shaking from how spellbound I was at her story and how shaken she was at telling it 38 years later. For her it was as if it was new and I was so touched by this. I did not agree with her decision not to vote but I respected it. The story finished with her telling me that many people over the years have disagreed with her regarding her decision not to vote. She said, "I have never told anyone other than my husband, my children and now you why I made that decision." She said, "I guess you CAN say that it is not only my right but my civic duty to vote, but there is nothing civic about the assassination of a President and he was my President and I still want no part of any of it."
I asked her why she decided to tell me the story when she barley knew me. She said, "Because when I saw you looking at those pictures I could see the wonder and the fascination in your eyes and in your body language and it reminded me of how I felt." "I thought you would be interested to know and I guess I sort of felt like talking about it." She then reached into the folder and handed me the picture above. "Would you like to have this, it is an actual picture taken from that day?" I was so touched that all I could do was take a deep breath and try to push back tears as I nodded yes. I have this picture in a frame in a small room like a library inside my house. It sits on a shelf with books by passed Presidents, books about Presidents and countless books about The Kennedy family and Jacqueline Kennedy. To date, I still am not sure what kind of President I think he was or would have been but I know he should not have been taken from this earth in the time or the manner in which he was.
“Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.”