Opinion: Revisiting a dark day
I can’t get through the month of November without revisiting John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the days that followed.
It was 1963 and I was a junior naval officer in Washington, D.C. Our commander-in-chief was a navy hero, so it was a great time and place to wear blue and gold. A lot of us were proud to be navy.
I was in charge of a special photo lab at the Naval Photographic Center, which was used only for White House projects. Even though I never saw the inside of the White House or met the president, I felt connected.
Soon after the news came that the president had been killed, I was ordered to the Pentagon. There, I called in eight of my best photographers. We would be photographing the funeral.
Each of us was assigned a spot along Massachusetts Avenue where we were to take pictures – not of the funeral procession – but of the crowd. Every few minutes a guy in a dark suit wearing sunglasses came by and collected our film.
My guess was they were looking for persons of interest. Understandable, since nobody yet had a clear picture of what had happened or why. Anxiety hung over everything like a dark cloud.
After the funeral procession had passed, we were taken to Arlington National Cemetery to cover the crowd during those ceremonies. My photographers again turned over their film for scrutiny.
When things were finished at the cemetery, I was told to release my crew and go home. I hitched a ride to St. Matthew Catholic Church, where the funeral had been held. As I was waiting for a bus, Jackie Kennedy, Robert and Ted Kennedy all emerged from the church just a few yards from where I stood. I snapped pictures as they walked down the steps and got into a limousine.
Somehow, standing there, I felt as dark and crushed as they did, and a couple weeks later I requested a new assignment. I spent the rest of my time in the navy at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, where it was warm and sunny.
But even now when November comes, I remember a cold day when the sun never broke through the clouds.