United in Grief and Patriotism: The Memory of a 10-Year-Old Girl

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.

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4 Responses to United in Grief and Patriotism: The Memory of a 10-Year-Old Girl

  1. Susan Douglas says:

    Loved reading that and yes, it also brings tears to my eyes. Your school handled it so differently than ours. We were just let out to walk home in a state of sadness and confusion. We were all glued to our TV’s for days!

  2. Pam Brown says:

    Vicki, I am amazed at your memory of events 60 years ago. We were living near Toppenish, Washington, in the lower Yakima Valley. I don’t recall when I heard the news at school, but I do remember that my dad got off of work early that day, and met my sister and I at the bus stop so we didn’t have to walk the 3/4 of a mile home.

    • Boz says:

      Thank you so much for replying, Pam. Another of my Globe friends, with whom I played hundreds of games of jacks on the steps of Noftsger Hill School, was at the junior high at the time, replied they were just sent home early. It was Mr. Giorsetti who made the day a truly memorable milestone for us. I confess that I didn’t remember that it was Janie who answered the phone until the two of us reunited in Chapel Hill around 2012! It reminds me of Vikkie and your skirt—the way that old and dear friends can enrich our lives by filling in gaps in our memories.

      I pray that you and Greg—and your entire beautiful family—have a wonderful Thanksgiving, filled with joy and love and gratitude.

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