22 November 2013
I was a young child, and my memories of that day are a bit jumbled, but some events that day I remember like it was yesterday. The sky in Oklahoma was a bright but deep blue, and not a cloud was in the sky, just like Dallas 200 miles away to the south. My Dad always called at lunch hour everyday and sometimes Mom would let me say hi, and so it was at 12 :35 PM on Friday November 22, 1963.
I was eating a sandwich sitting on the tiled floor, and I remember being uncomfortable because the couch behind me was out from the wall (Mom had been sweeping behind the couch when Dad called, and I had a tight space between it and the coffee table). While my parents talked, I was stuck looking at the most boring thing in the world to a child, the CBS soap opera As The World Turns. Just as Mom was hanging up, that black slide with the words CBS NEWS BULLETIN appeared on the screen. Mom told Dad a bulletin was coming on and asked if he wanted to wait a second to find out what it was.
That’s how Dad found out.
I remember that after the first bulletin my Mom said that he was probably OK and would “probably walk out of the hospital smiling in an hour”. A few moments later the next bulletin changed all that, and my next memories are of my Dad coming home from work early that day. Later that evening I remember crying while my parents tried in vain to explain to me why I could not watch Tom & Jerry cartoons.
When I was older, my Dad told me his story of that day. When he hung up from Mom he went straight to his boss’s office, and told him the President had been shot. Dad said he was having no success in convincing him that it was no joke when the company operator called asking why the entire switchboard had lit up, and the color drained from his face, as he hung up. Just five years later I watched on TV as Senator Robert Kennedy spoke at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, and a year later that the fuzzy image of Neil Armstrong’s foot coming down the ladder at Tranquility Base. It was a decade like no other to those who remember it. The 1960’s in America were almost as traumatic as the 1860’s.
Epidemic Of Paranoia
I love history, and have read a lot about the verifiable facts of that day, and it surprises me how many still believe that someone other than Oswald shot President Kennedy. If you really look at the evidence, (and have any critical thinking skills) you realize quickly that the evidence against Oswald is overwhelming. Not only that, the evidence that anyone else fired at the motorcade is not just scant, there really isn’t any!
Could Oswald have been doing it on behalf of someone else, yes but when you look carefully at Oswald, it seems very likely that he was just your typical nut case with a gun. The science agreed with the Warren commission in 1964 and it still does today. That includes the famous film shot by Abraham Zapruder, not that any evidence (no matter how convincing) will satisfy the conspiracy theorists.
Slate magazine had a fascinating piece about the psychology behind this kind of thinking and it is well worth a read, and CNN did a good special this week that shows why all those conspiracy theories just don’t hold water. Two good books about that day are the recently published work by James Swanson, and for the media perspective Dan Rather’s The Camera Never Blinks.
Ask anyone like me who gives a weather broadcast on TV, and they will tell you there is without doubt an epidemic of conspiracy theories and their supporters these days. Before the internet, it wasn’t that easy to find someone to believe your crazy conjectures about the Moon landing, Oswald, and more recently chemtrails (those white lines behind high-flying aircraft are mind/weather control chemicals you know). The online world has changed all that because in cyberspace there’s always someone online who’s ready to reinforce your paranoia!
Before long someone will probably claim the current President is an illegal alien from Kenya!
(Well, ok, that may be a bit too crazy, but you never know!)
Note: you can watch what I and millions of others saw 50 years ago today below. The entire broadcast of As The World Turns from the beginning is below:
If you are wondering why it takes nearly 30 minutes before a camera is on Walter Cronkite, the reason is simple. In those days, the big cameras took sometime to warm up and then had to be charted. When I started in TV in 1979, we still had to warm up and chart the color cameras before each newscast. It was a far different world (and a far different America) in those days.