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Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22

On this day fifty years ago today, when JFK was shot in Dallas while riding in that motorcade, I was in Kingston, Jamaica inside our house on Edinburgh Avenue. A hurricane threatened the island. Our windows had been boarded up and the house was dark. The only light in the living room slanted in through a side door. I was not yet in kindergarten and our family was in the midst of packing up to travel to England, where we would live for an extended period. My mother was seated in the living room, suitcases open before her. As she repacked our bags, she monitored the hurricane reports on the radio, trying to gauge whether we would be able to fly in two days as planned. We were to stop in New York on the way to England, spending a week with my mother's sister Winnie and her family. When the news bulletin broke into the hurricane coverage, my father had just pulled into the driveway, the trunk of his Morris Minor full of plywood sheets to cover the sliding glass doors that led to the patio. I don't recall where my brother was. I think he was in his room lying across his bed, reading as he often was. I was on my stomach on the cool terrazzo tile floor, my chin in my palms, daydreaming about what it would be like to go to school in London. And then my mother screamed. I sat up. She sat frozen, staring at the radio, her hand over her mouth. My eyes ran to the door, where my father stood in silhouette, his face unreadable. I tuned in to the radio newscaster and heard him say the American president had been shot, and he had died. My mother began to cry quietly, her shoulders rocking. My father came and sat beside her. He put his arm around her and listened intently to the news report. I became aware that shattering events were occurring in some land I had never seen, where were were going in only two days. All that afternoon and evening, and then the next day, I stayed glued to the radio. The hurricane swerved away from us at the last minute, barreling through the strait between Jamaica and Hispaniola and striking Cuba instead. We unboarded our windows and flew to New York as planned, then traveled aboard the Queen Elizabeth to London. All through the trip, grown ups huddled and talked in sober tones about the unbelievable tragedy that was unfolding in America. I sat to the side and listened and tried to take it all in. So much was unexplained, so many questions swirled in me. By the time we got to London, I believe a journalist had been born. This is my first crystal clear memory. 


7 comments:

  1. What an amazing memory of that day Angella. There are so few significant events in life that are marked in our psyches like that day despite our young age. And a truly incredible journalist was born on that day at that. Sweet Jo

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  2. What an amazing account. That really was the birth of a journalist because you remembered the sights and smells and the detail, just beautiful!

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  3. I was not alive when JFK was shot but my mom told stories of being in class and everyone being sent home. She remembers everyone crying. Even in Canada it hit hard.

    I often wonder what the world would have been like if he had been able to live out his presidency.

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  4. I'm impressed that you remember so much from such a young age -- but then, a lot was going on in your life at the time, wasn't it? I hadn't been born when JFK was shot but that event, as well as the assassinations of MLK and Robert Kennedy a few years later, was still everpresent in my childhood. I remember seeing Kennedy's face everywhere, on books, in magazines, on postage stamps.

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  5. There should be a word for these events which EVERYONE recalls with such utmost clarity. They are rare and few but they are universal.

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  6. You recall this time in your life with such bittersweet clarity. The journalist was there before you were even born, dear Angella, it seems as if she was just awoken on that day.

    You have been on my heart and mind, lately. I must catch up on your blogposts.

    Miss you, my sweet friend <3

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  7. I loved this --I think I was transported back there, for a minute, with you.

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