By Tom BUSSELBERG
Countless personal stories have been shared about where people were, what they remember about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
I was a 6th grader at the time of the 35th president’s death, 50 years ago tomorrow, Nov. 22.
Like so many, as a young boy I was impressed with this young president. To my mind, at the time, Kennedy was a stark contrast to his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower.
I saw that looking only at the difference in ages and looks. Certainly, that said nothing about his many accomplishments in defending this great nation, or otherwise.
But then I was hardly aware President Eisenhower’s accomplishments, at the time.
But back to JFK, as he became known by headline writers and millions of others.
My family was staunch Republican, so I sometimes had mixed feelings about him.
But one little known aspect piqued my interest, early on.
I believe I was in the fourth grade, shortly after Kennedy had been elected. Already being a cub reporter, having started my little neighborhood paper a year earlier, I was all eyes and ears when it came to anything newspaper.
Apparently, Rose and Joseph Kennedy, JFK’s parents, had their large family read articles in the newspaper every morning.
If I remember right, the exercise went beyond learning of the day’s news.
After JFK and his siblings had finished reading a few articles, each one was asked to recount the major points in each piece.
I’m told the elder Kennedys used that as a way to sharpen and focus the minds of their then young family.
JFK indirectly also created a lot of fear in my developing soul.
That very real fright was caused by the failed Bay of Pigs, the preparations to figuratively “pull the trigger,” unleashing an atom bomb on the Soviet Union.
I had trouble sleeping for many nights, worried a lot about my safety, that of my family, and what would become of the world.
In church, there were occasional sermons about the end of the world. Was it all to end so soon, when I hadn’t even entered the world of teenagedom?
I eventually calmed down.
By the time of this tragic day, Nov. 22, 1963, I was among those who quietly mourned JFK’s death.
Seeing young Caroline and John John, at their mother Jackie’s side, watching the solemn funeral on TV Р it all had an emotional impact.
JFK’s death was almost three years to the day after my grandfather, my dad’s dad, passed away.
That had brought death home to me in a personal way.
But JFK’s passing was something I could share with family, classmates, indeed, the rest of the nation and even world.
After all, it was this president who had stood in a then-divided Berlin to utter, in my dad’s native German, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”