Remembering President John Fitzgerald Kennedy


The procession, funeral and burial in Arlington National Cemetery ~ President John F. Kennedy ~ November 25, 1963  

I am among those millions of Americans who can never forget where they were or what they were doing when they heard that President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. I was a senior at Lowell State College having just completed my last day of student teaching at Bedford High School. Passing through the annex of Pollard’s Department store on my way to shop downtown, I was stunned to hear the news bulletin on a nearby television set that the President had been shot! Everything seems to stop. Our family in a state of shock and pain shed tears, said prayers and – except for attending Sunday Mass – stayed fixed before the television set.  History played out before us.

From the BBC – this day in history:

1963: John F Kennedy is laid to rest

The funeral of the assassinated President, John F Kennedy, has taken place in Washington.

An estimated 800,000 Americans lined the streets to watch the coffin’s procession from the Capitol, where the president’s body had lain in state since yesterday.

The crowd stood in silence, punctuated only by the sound of weeping, as the funeral procession made its way towards St Matthew’s Cathedral in central Washington.

The coffin, draped with the Stars and Stripes, lay on a gun carriage drawn by six grey horses. A black riderless horse pranced along behind.

Distinguished mourners

Mr Kennedy’s widow, Jacqueline Kennedy, and her two children, three-year-old John Kennedy junior, and five-year-old Caroline, rode behind in a black car, accompanied by his brothers, Robert and Edward.

Then came the long procession of guests, representing every continent in the world in one of the most distinguished gathering of foreign dignitaries ever assembled in the history of the United States.

They included, for Britain, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prime Minister, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, and the Leader of the Opposition, Harold Wilson.

President de Gaulle of France was among them, as was President de Valera of Ireland, Chancellor Erhard of West Germany, and the Ethiopian Emperor, Haile Selassie.

Also among the mourners, in a poignant recognition of the dead president’s efforts to foster peace around the world, was the Soviet first deputy Prime Minister, Anastas Mikoyan, representing Nikolai Khrushchev.

A child’s salute

The requiem mass at St Matthew’s was led by Cardinal Cushing of Boston.

It included a reading of the entire inaugural address, delivered by John F Kennedy in January 1961, with perhaps his most famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

As the coffin left the church after the ceremony, three-year-old John Kennedy Junior was seen to step forward for a moment and put his hand to his forehead in what appeared to be a childish salute.

The president was buried in Arlington Cemetery to a 21-gun salute and three musket volleys.

As a bugle sounded the Last Post, the remains of John F Kennedy were lowered into the grave.

The time was 2034 GMT, and the short but momentous era of America’s youngest elected president was over.

“Meanderings” by Jim Peters

Frequent contributor Jim Peters shares his thoughts on the recent election:

It has been a good few weeks. In the first place, we (Democrats, or the American People, or some group), won. Three weeks before the election, I walked into the Tsongas Headquarters and told a few of the people there that we would “sweep” the election, Obama, Warren, and Tsongas would be winners. They were. Historians will decide in years from now exactly how and why that happened. My feeling is that women played a major part in the victory, or loss, depending on who you were rooting for and for what reason. Others credit the Hispanic and African-American populations. The fact is that the Republicans became the party of the white American male, which comprises something like 40% of the voting population.

Politics is not something that all subscribe to. Many of my friends find my love of politics to be the antithesis of what they hold dear. But, I remember wanting to major in History in my eighteenth year. Instead, I opted for Political Science and I remember State Representative Connie Kiernan asking me what, in heaven’s name, I intended to do with what he termed was a worthless degree. I had no idea. I wanted to become a lawyer, but I fell in love early and married early. A really beautiful, smart, and savvy Greek girl named Vicki Tsongas, the younger sister of a man who I would look to for advice and political ingenuity. To my often-asked question, “How did you succeed so well?” He would answer the same way everytime, “I was lucky.” When he won the Senate seat, I asked the often asked question and he said, “Like every other person here, I started with a City Council seat, and just got lucky.” Once, when he did want to impress me, he told me that he had just gotten out of a meeting with Red Auerbach. I was suitably impressed.

When I got married, he was not supportive, but he was also not negative. In fact, when I needed a Greek Orthodox man as my Best Man, I asked him and he said yes. Thirty seven years later, I am still grateful. We raised our children together. Katina and Jeremy are three months apart, while Molly and Adam are something like thirteen days apart. They grew up together. Rory and Chloe Peters came a bit later, with careful raising by their big brothers and older cousins. They are still close after many years of playing together and learning together. We have had a blessed life. Not just in politics, but also in education and recreation. We have spent many moments at Cape Cod, even renting a spot on a campground place there and buying a trailer. It is still our favorite vacation spot.

Having Niki be so successful has been nothing short of spectacular. We are very honored that she is our sister-in-law. And a Congresswoman. We probably enjoy her campaigns more than she does. Those active in them are our friends, many going back scores of years. The names are endless, and they are of all kinds of nationalities, religions, and both genders. They are straight and gay, and all kinds of religions. We take pride in their actions enhancing Obamacare, and many of the country’s progressive initiatives. I never believed that my life would be an answer to Connie Kiernan’s question. I never believed in destiny, being a little like Forrest Gump, I believed in a little bit of both.

Lowell is a center for political study. Paul used to think it was the “Center of the Universe.” I believe that it is too. So many immigrants to study and catalog. So many people to get to know. It truly is a great place to live.