Friday, November 22, 2013

Deja Vu All Over Again

I had a surreal experience today, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of JFK.

As some of you may know, I've been doing some substitute teaching lately at a local high school, as much to keep myself busy as provide an income supplement to offset the cost of my exorbitant health insurance until Medicare sets in. Plus, I have always enjoyed teaching.

Anyway, I usually have no idea of what subject I will be teaching, nor the material I will be covering until about 15 minutes before the first period. I actually enjoy that so far I am able to shift gears on the spot and use that time to remember what I know about the subject and how I might be able to shed some perspective on the material. As long as it's not calculus. I remember taking it at WVHS. I also remember not having a clue either then nor now.

For those of you who shared junior high classes with me at Anthony Wayne Junior High School, you all remember exactly where we were on this day 50 years ago. We were in Ms. Falco's History class listening to a radio brought in from another room (Ms. Falco Ranaletti remembers it came from Mr. Ancora's room) and we all have remembered so distinctly on that day how we felt and the sheer uncertainty of what would come next. Who was responsible; would the Russians press the button, taking advantage of the confusion and disarray?

And so, on this day, 50 years later, what manner of irony was at work to find me teaching a US history class of high school juniors who know of JFK only from old videos and photos in a textbook. They are too young to remember that day, since they were not even gleams in their parents' eyes at the time. How do I convey the significance of this event to these kids who to my continuing dismay know so little about what has come before and yet are fated to be the ones who will ultimately determine our destinies.

All I could do was to tell the story of where I was, where we were, on that day. I told the story in every detail I could remember, about the tears that were shed, about the horror as we lived it for months to follow. I described the emotions, the fears we felt about the Cold War going hot, how the whole world held its breath for one moment in time.

And when I was done 20 minutes later, there was nothing but silence. I think they understood. I hope they did. I hope I did my part in offering a proper memorial for a fallen President on the 50th anniversary of his death and the death of our innocence.

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