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My Little-Girl Memory Of JFK

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Allow me to be a little different when it comes to President Kennedy.

I'd like to remember when he was alive.

I was 6 years old in January of 1963. I got all dressed up in a light-brown, double-breasted wool coat with a darker brown, velveteen collar and a matching dark-brown, velveteen hat.

My parents and grandparents and I were going to the Oklahoma state capitol, where President Kennedy would deliver an outdoor address following the funeral of U.S. Sen. Robert S. Kerr.

At 6, I remember thinking, "This is is the President of the United States." And, then, "Why does he keep saying 'Oklahomer'?"

I remember everything about that January day. Maybe that's why, later that year in November -- that day 50 years ago when I was home from school sick with the measles -- and my mom had put me in my parents' bed so I could watch the little black-and-white TV, and they broke in with the news.

And I started yelling: "Mommy, they've shot the President. They've shot the President!"

And she came bustling in, thinking I must have a fever and be delirious -- what kid would say that? And then she turned from me to look at the little TV.

And she sank down on the bed, stunned and speechless.

Maybe it was that earlier day in January when I saw President Kennedy speak. Maybe that's why it is still so vivid.

I think what was already horrible for an entire country was even worse for the generations that were my parents and me. Perhaps we didn't know about the politics or the philandering or anything else we might pick apart today, but we did know this: We were their age.

My mom and dad looked like them. They dressed like them. I could have been Caroline's twin. What happened in Dallas happened to us.

Then the days blurred. I saw Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV and the world was upside down all over again. The funeral cortege with the riderless horse and the boots turned backward.

So sobering, so sad.

John-John saluting. Caroline without her father. Jackie might have been my mother. I cried for them. Because they were my family.

Even at 7, I knew it was the end of innocence, at least ours. Yet I didn't even know what innocence was.

I'm crying a little now. Because, after all these years, it still hurts.

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