Katie felt numb. No, less than numb. She felt as if the whole world around her had suddenly been given a shot of anesthesia, like she got when she had a tooth filled at the dentist’s office. She couldn’t feel anything. She didn’t move, wouldn’t let herself move, for fear that what she was seeing might be true, that it might not be a dream.
She stared at the black and white television screen. She had turned it on as soon as Sarah Palmer had telephoned with the terrible news. President John F. Kennedy had been shot.
Walter Cronkite was explaining on a CBS News report that it had happened while the President was riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. The scene was chaotic. Cronkite sat at a desk, with a thin microphone before him, reading from one report after another on the incident. Katie couldn’t turn away. She, like the rest of the country, it seemed, was glued to the television.
She prayed that, somehow, the reports were wrong. She prayed that the President was still alive. She prayed that the madness would go away. Her prayers went unanswered.
This was reality. President Kennedy had been shot, and now, everything would change.
Tim and Robby were released from school early. They rushed through the front door shouting, “Mom, did you hear about the President?”
When they entered the living room, Katie wiped the tears from her cheeks and opened her arms wide. Her boys hugged her from either side. They all settled back on the sofa to watch the horror unfold on television.
Katie watched her distraught family closely during dinner. Just a few weeks ago, the boys had been excited about building a fallout shelter over at Wagoner’s Field. Now, Tim was buttering his bread several times over, and Robby looked confused, trying to make sense of a tragedy so far beyond what a ten-year-old boy should face. Ray ate little; he just twirled his fork in his spaghetti.
Marilyn Watson called Katie after dinner, and they talked for half an hour without really saying anything. As soon as she hung up, Tim took over the phone and called several of his school friends to talk about the shooting.
Robby seemed antsy, as if he felt smothered by the silent and somber house. He moved from chair to sofa and back again, and finally sauntered toward the front door. Katie watched him step out on the front porch, letting the screen door slam behind him. A few minutes later, she went out to find him with a couple of glasses of lemonade. He sat on the porch rail, with his back against a small support pillar, staring down the street.
He took the glass and sipped his lemonade without a word. Katie sat in a rocking chair and sipped her own lemonade. She didn’t know what to say. She had no idea what to do. She only knew that people should not be alone during such tragic times.
After several long minutes, Robby said, “Listen.”
Katie stopped the rocking motion of her chair and cocked her head to hear … nothing. The street in front of their house, usually busy with passing traffic, kids riding bikes or neighbors walking by, was completely empty. If she strained her eyes, she could see the flickering glow of televisions through the Edwards’ house across the street, but it was too far away to hear any sound.
Tonight, it seemed like everyone had locked themselves away, away from the awful world in which a promising leader’s life had been so savagely destroyed.
Tonight, it was best to just stay home.
* * *
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish