What were you doing 60 years ago today? (If twinkling somewhere in a galaxy far, far away, don’t bother to reply.)
I was sitting in Mr. Giorsetti’s 5th-grade class at Noftsger Hill School just before lunch on a warm November day in our little town on the verge of the Sonora Desert. Our teacher was also the school principal, so his classroom had a small attached office with a telephone. Students had the regular duty of answering that phone if it rang during class. On November 22, 1963, Janie Lopez answered the phone and told Mr. Giorsetti his wife was on the line. He came back and told us that President Kennedy had been shot, but nothing else was known. We went home for lunch and sat glued to the TV, learning from a tearful Walter Cronkite that the President had died.
When we returned after lunch, the entire student body gathered around the flag pole to watch the 6th graders assigned to flag duty lower the flag to the bottom, raise it back to the top, and then lower it slowly to half-staff. In my memory, at least, there were few dry eyes as we then sang together the National Anthem and said the Pledge of Allegiance before returning to class.
As I write these words, the tears return—tears of memory for such an innocent time in my life and the life of the country we had been taught to love and tears for the forces of divisiveness that now threaten our very identity as the greatest country ever to be conceived in the mind of man. I guarantee you that no one was kneeling that day as we sang about the land of the free and the home of the brave—in Globe, Arizona, or across the United States of America.