Kennedy death evokes memories

Published 12:12 am Tuesday, November 9, 1999

By By Sherry Digmon
My grandfather was a substitute driver on my school bus route on Nov. 22, 1963.
"Granddaddy, somebody shot Kennedy," I told him as I stepped up into the bus that afternoon.
"I know," was his simple reply.
I was 12 years old.
John F. Kennedy was the first politician I took notice of. For the next several days, I became immersed in the national sadness as my family watched the events unfold on television.
Two images from that time have burned in my memory all these years.
One was the riderless horse in the funeral procession. How poignant.
The other is of a little boy turning to salute as his father's funeral procession passed by.
Over the next almost four decades, I watched that little boy. He was shielded in the early years as his mother attempted to raise him and his sister out of the media's glare.
But as John Kennedy Jr. came into his own, he came into the public's own too. He was ours whether he wanted to be or not. Try as he might, much of his life played out in plain view.
Most people who fail the bar exam do so in obscurity. Not John. His two failed attempts made national news.
Then there was his selection as People magazine's "Sexist Man Alive" several years ago. I read later that he was not very comfortable with that title.
However, at 39, he seemed to be growing into the Kennedy mantle that was draped across his shoulders at birth.
John fit the Kennedy persona perfectly – handsome, athletic, smart.
When he started George magazine, I subscribed for two reasons. I enjoy reading about national politics, but I was also pleased to see that John had apparently found his niche. I felt it might have been his first baby steps toward his own political career.
A little bit of me went down with his plane last weekend, but I can't really explain why.
Maybe it was from caring so much about his father. Maybe it was from the little boy's salute. Maybe it's the whole Kennedy mystique.
Maybe it's just grief for the family and for the loss of the one who seemed to be the best of that family.
Over the weekend, I became immersed in the national sadness as I watched the events unfold on television.
It was a heart-wrenching deja vu.

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