Few who watched the president’s funeral will ever forget watching the world’s leaders walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, the sound of the muffled drums; little John’s final salute to his Dad; or that look on face of Jacqueline Kennedy — like that of the Virgin Mary in the Pieta by Michelangelo.
The editor of the Derry News that week wrote: “The death of John Kennedy was the death of a superior man but still only a man. The nation paid respectful homage this week not only to that man, but to the powerful institution of the presidency ... The passing of President Kennedy came to remind us of ourselves, of our national direction and of our institutions. It brought this nation together for the past five days in thoughtful introspection as might only happen once in a lifetime. And so in passing, this tragic, untimely death might still serve some purpose — if we will but let it.”
I am now 49 years older. The teenage boy in the loading dock of Benjamin Chase Company is now a grandfather four times over. My Dad — and I suppose most of the mill workers — have now passed away. A lot has happen in my life since 1963 — college, a war, marriage and a million, million other things; some remembered, most forgotten. Despite all that, I — and millions of other middle aged and elderly Americans — will always pause to sadly remember the events of that warm November Friday in 1963. Those events of that horrible day in Dallas seem like they had happened only yesterday.
Rick Holmes is the official town historian of Derry and plans to hold office hours at the municipal center. He is the former chairman of the Derry Heritage Commission. Several of his books on local history are available at Mack’s Apples and Derry’s libraries.