I was in second grade. It was warm for late November, warm enough that my class took our recess time outside, romping around the swing sets, slides and seesaws. The late fall sun cast long shadows across Wilson School’s red brick face. I was within earshot of our teacher, Mrs. Hutchinson. Andy, the elder janitor at Wilson School, a tall, bulky man with ice white hair who always said hi to me – and I expect many other kids as well (it was like having a grandfather at school all the time) was suddenly standing next to our teacher. I don’t remember him walking onto the playground, he was just there all of a sudden. A look of worry creased his craggy face. That struck me as odd because he was always smiling. “The President has been shot,” he said. My memory stops right at that moment, the rest of the school day is a total blank, until I get home later that day and walk in the door. “Did you hear the President was shot?” I asked my Mom. Just in case the news had not traveled that far off the school grounds yet.
The other vivid memory I have is of the funeral. I went outside, while my parents remained glued to the black and white TV, and there was not a single sound. No kids were playing, no cars were chugging on the street – I swear even the birds had stopped chirping. Total and complete silence. It was as if the world had stopped, sleeping – resting up for the events of a tumultuous decade yet to come.