I Remember the Plane

By: pbcmedia

Nov 22 2008

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Creativity, History, Personal, Photography, Presidential Assassinations


Focal Length:18.633mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon PowerShot SD850 IS

45 years ago, on this day, President Kennedy was assassinated.

I was in a college on a hill alongside the Hudson River and in the basement of my dormitory in “the smoker” playing cards.  The adjacent room had a 19 inch black and white TV and the soap operas were on and had their usual viewers.  My card game was Bridge which makes me laugh just thinking about it.  My mother taught me the game which was truly a blood sport to her and one time while playing with her and some of her friends, I trumped my own ace and I believe whatever love she had for me vanished in that instance.

I don’t ever remember playing again after this particular November day, either, but I could be wrong.

The game was interrupted by girls yelling that their soap opera was suddenly off the screen.  Then, we heard why.  The rest of the day is a blur of this TV set, crowds in front of it, standing room only for the rest of this day and throughout the weekend.

I remember watching dry eyed for the first few hours with this strange feeling in my stomach that I now know was fear.  Then, I simply lit up another cigarette.

I fell apart when I saw Air Force One land back in the Washington, DC area with the harsh spotlights on the rear of the plane where the coffin was off loaded.  After the coffin was taken from the plane,  Mrs. Kennedy appeared with Robert Kennedy holding her hand and she was lifted off the plane from the cargo platform by what appeared to be a sea of raised arms waiting for her on the ground.

I don’t like remembering this image.  It was my first example of history being personal and invading my soft tissue like the assassins bullet.  The scar is still there but our nation is, too.

That aspect is good to remember 45 years later, with fear gripping my insides in similar ways.   In 2008, it is remarkable to remember that for a moment there in the chaos of that November afternoon, no one was sure of their future.

We were all waiting in a dim, smoky room for raised arms to catch us.

©Pat Coakley 2008


5 comments on “I Remember the Plane”

  1. I so much love the fact, that there is a thing, you remember doing for the last time, because you remember, that you never ever did it again. After, I mean.
    Memories of the last time, usually go with big things, you memorize, for yourself, for your country.
    I once built a sand castle with my father, me being 4 years old, at the beach in Italy. Men came and destroyed the castle. It was the beach of a 5 star hotel, we had used not knowing the situation and the localities.
    My father never ever after built a sand castle with me. 10 years later, my parents divorced.
    It feels like a piece of lost childhood.
    And you mentioning Bridge and never playing it after again, makes me understand and feel, how your nation must have felt. Like a fist clenching around my heart, pressing tears out.
    Sorry for my English today, it might be more messy than normally, since I am in Amsterdam, 1st time in 10 years. I used to study here and am refreshing my Dutch skills on the IDFA, the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival. – Dutch skills do not necessarily help English expression…
    I was very moved by your entry and am waiting for the arms to catch me.

  2. Oh hells bells Pat. You’ve said in the most painterly of ways as if never said this way before, how it was that life as we thought we knew it changed forever.
    ” Invading my soft tissue like the assassins’ bullet “. More than any one thing in my history, this signaled the end of safety.

    Very few dates stand out in my selectively diminishing memory but this one never has.
    This very morning, I looked up at the top right of my computer screen and saw Nov.22.
    I remembered immediately that it was 1963.
    Going to my bookmarks of the NY Times, I was surprised that I didn’t see a story on the home page.
    Maybe that’s why I came right here.

    I’d rather refer to your narrative.
    It’s not from the perspective of the Grassy Knoll.
    It’s from that very tender soft tissue.

    L’chiam- to life.

  3. Sannekurz, O, my. Your story tears my heart out. Often, when I write this blog, the comments deepen my whole experience of whatever I have written about—-your castle story is now forever in my memory, too. Thanks for this.
    Bonnie: I’ve heard “L’chiam” before but never saw it spelled out…It fits perfectly to end this complicated day and to prepare to greet another.

  4. I was only a child of six when Kennedy was shot but I can remember how shocked everybody was when they heard the news. It was only years later that I realised who he was and the significance of his death.

    In a way I find Sannekurz’s experience more disturbing than a political assassination. Politicians stick their heads up and attract all kinds of unwanted attention and I suppose it’s part of the deal (tragically), but adults messing with a little kids because of some stupid idea of duty is really appalling. Goes to show what myrmidons some people are willing and happy to be, and it’s one of reasons there is so much grief in the world. Some people just don’t get it.

  5. I agree, Razz. Sanne’s experience has haunted me since she wrote about it.

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