But the stifled sobs were something we hadn't heard before...the wiped tears as our teacher came into the classroom and dismissed us for the afternoon. There was no doubt for any of us that something was wrong.
Last time I had walked to our babysitter's house to find her husband there, slightly snockered, telling her how we were all going to die from the radioactive fallout of the missiles that were going to hit the SAC base at Omaha, Nebraska and the Air Force base at Topeka, Kansas. I didn't really understand the Cuban Missile Crisis at 6 going on 7, but the fear of every adult in my life was palpable.
This time I didn't know what to expect...
But the last thing I expected was to walk in the front door of the babysitter's to see Walter Cronkite removing his glasses as he announced the death of John F. Kennedy. The lump still rises in my throat these many years later, and the tears still well in my now old eyes.
I told someone not long ago that sometimes I think I've lived through too many events like this. Too many times the vise has gripped my heart and extracted its price. Still, though you'd think I'd be smart enough to steel my heart against the horrors wrought by human against human, I've never been able to.
Not so many years later, I was invited to attend a summer band camp at the University of Kansas. My first extended trip away from home, my mother lectured me all the way there about do's and don'ts and not "disappointing" my parents. As we arrived she finally stopped and I turned on the radio.
The announcers were discussing the death of Robert Kennedy, early that morning. In my luggage was his book "To Seek a Newer World", my first "venture" into modern political thinking. Fueled by all I was seeing on television of the Vietnam War and the protests; the race riots both on television and at home in Kansas City following the murder of Martin Luther King, I had heard Kennedy reading a bit of one piece of it and was spellbound by not just his voice, but by the words he spoke; by the heart that spoke through them.
I've written before of that feeling of a bright burning flame that was dimmed to a flicker that day. Of the spirit of "can" and "can do" drowned out by the voices of selfishness; of greed; of dividends and tax-cuts.
I've seen the America I grew up believing in reduced from a country that was "ours" to "mine". A place for "everyone", to a place for "us".
I've watched as those I served with gave their all off the coast of Vietnam; I've mourned as they died in their barracks in Lebanon, on rescue missions in the desert of Iran, or while in peaceful harbor aboard the USS Cole. Never "ours to question why", history will judge some of those who spilled their blood much more harshly than they could ever dream.
I've watched as the nation that (justly) pursued, prosecuted and executed war criminals for waterboarding civilians turned her back on history; on all that was good and just about her self, and did the very same thing to others...
On this sad anniversary, I look back and wonder how different things could have been...
And I wish, sometimes, I could close my eyes, for just a little while...
I'm tired of seeing train wrecks!
May the week be kind to each of you!
And on Thursday, whether you celebrate the holiday or not, I'll be giving thanks for each who find their way here!