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Monday, Aug. 29, 2016

Tragic days pass deep into history

Friday, November 22, 2002

It was a Friday, just like today. But our world was so much different. You could argue the world of 1963 was better in some ways. You could also argue otherwise.

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated 39 years ago today, it's easy to argue that the world changed. Maybe that's just the emotions of my generation. Or maybe history proves that our world changed after that fateful day. We'll leave that to the historians.

Today will pass with little mention of the Kennedy assassination. Early morning television shows reported on some recently uncovered radio transmissions among American elected officials when they first learned of the assassination in Dallas. But I doubt the schools will address the topic today. And maybe that's the way it should be.

Today's school population, of course, was not alive then. A majority of the teachers were probably not alive then either. So we find that history is somehow limited to those far distant events that shaped this nation. The more recent events will take their place in history over time.

But my generation well remembers that day. And we remember two days later when we were shocked again with the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, the Kennedy assassin. In 48 hours, from noon Friday to noon Sunday, life changed. There's just no other way to put it. And then came the escalation in Vietnam.

Our generation and the one before us can only imagine how our lives and our country would have been had that bullet not struck on Nov. 22, 1963. It's a guessing game without an answer. It's almost certain that Vietnam would have escalated regardless of who occupied the White House. It's also certain that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would have occurred regardless. But it makes you wonder what direction our nation would have traveled. And where we'd be today.

Maybe it's right that days like Nov. 22 get lost in history eventually. Other equally tragic days in the past have fallen from the public memory bank. It's just inevitable.

If I spoke of Camelot, today's generation would offer only blank stares. But for some of us - and you know who you are - it means something. And it leaves us wondering "what if?"

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