JFK Remembrance



The following is an excerpt from a book written about my junior year in college. I was a creative writing student at the University of the Americas, in Mexico City. The year was 1963, and the month was November. Our president was murdered.

I’ll never forget those horrific days – and certainly, I shall never forget the funeral Mass held in Mexico City. I attended with friends. We shared a moment in history.

From my book an excerpt about that time – JFK remembrance:

It was a time for our somber pilgrimage to honor our martyred president.

While John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s coffin was taken by caisson to Saint Mathew’s Cathedral for a funeral Mass, the American colony of Mexico City assembled at the Basilica of Guadalupe. Seats had been reserved for Americans.

As young John-John was saluting his father’s flag-draped coffin, my friends and I were a country away, saluting Kennedy in the only way we could. The final leg of our journey across Mexico City to the basilica was by streetcar. Nora, Leigh, Carlos, and I traversed the city in silence.

Arriving, there was still only minimal conversation. We made our way through the plaza, passing wooden-faced merchants. We stopped for Nora, Leigh, and I to put mantillas on our heads. While we busily pinned down our lace head scarves, a Mexican handed Carlos a small American flag. Carols fished his pocket for change, but the peddler moved away. He had wanted to give an American one of this flags today.

I was in awe when we entered the basilica. It was magnificent. Transfixed by the image above the altar, I wished my Gran could see this. At the atrium was the venerated, miraculous painting of the Virgin Mary. I recalled hearing that Kennedy had visited this place. He had worshiped the image of the Madonna. I reflected, wondering if he had prayed for guidance and peace. Or if he prayed for a world without violence.

I bowed  my head throughout the Mass.

And when it was finished, we filed out onto the plaza as if we were weary warriors returning from a lost battle. Kennedy’s charisma and vision had ended. The Mass had ended. But the memory of blazing candles, the aroma of incense, the Latin chanting, and the congregation of fellow Americans would remain.

None of us could grasp it. But we all knew we’d been transformed. The chill of reality caught us. The fragile thread that ties us to life’s most precious aspirations had been weakened. Our leader was lost. The life of our youthful, vigorous president had been severed.

It not only shattered Camelot, it had rearranged history. It had rearranged us. It was seared into our memories. It painted our justice system with the primary colors showing our deficit – our infamy. It displayed our inability to resolve a complexity that yielded only faded images on tattered canvas. Throughout the muddied investigation, a futile search would continue. Our frailty was to be exposed. It would also brush away our own beliefs of immortality. For a portion of our best hope had been destroyed.

No one lives forever. Youth of the 1960s, as all youth, believed otherwise. But this act intruded upon our security.

We shall miss him. We shall miss the part of us that was Camelot.

Copyright: Kieran York


Fiction by Kieran York: Careful Flowers, her latest release. Appointment with a Smile, is a 2013 Lambda Literary Award Finalist. Both books are available in book form through www.bluefeatherbooks.com.  Or order through Bella Book Distribution for books or e-books. Books and e-books are also available through Amazon.

If you’re interested in poetry, please check out her poetry in the best-selling Sappho’s Corner Poetry Series: Wet Violets, Volume 2; and Roses Read, Volume 3. The collections are edited by award-winning poet, Beth Mitchum. they are available through http://ultravioletlove.com and Amazon.


7 thoughts on “JFK Remembrance

  1. I remember how everything came to a grinding halt that weekend. The eyes of the country were focused on TV and the reporting of every moment of note. I know that the only reason I left my house was to go to Sunday Mass. It was while I was there that Oswald was shot and killed.
    Looking back now you can see it was the moment that so much in this country and the world began to change. We were indeed transformed. Our world was tilted off its axis and was never quite right again.

    • Mary Anne, thanks for sharing. I think it’s important that those of us with memories of that event share it. As you so eloquently stated – we changed. That might help those who don’t remember it to better understand our heritage. Your final line says it all.

  2. My sister and I discussed this last night. She was two grades behind me in school. My years had been all innocence and fun and this happened my senior year. It was a rude awakening. She said, her next two years of high school were wrought with problems, of students smoking, drinking, and doing drugs with violence erupting in the school and racial unrest, daily. I had experienced none of this, whereas her high school memories knew nothing but.

    So, yes. Everything changed on all levels.

    And not for the best.

    • The words I said above, to Maf, can be duplicated for your words. Thank you for sharing, Marguerite. The events were written into our history books – but you and your sister understand the true impact.

      • The words above, so eloquent. I fear my simple comments inadequate. But I remember.
        I remember being on active duty driving in for my night shift at the Pensacola Naval Air Station. Guards were posted and identification required to proceed. Everything had changed. I remember the feelings of loss and overwhelming sadness. I especially remember the day our Nation’s Heart was Broken !

  3. Barbara, thank you for your words. Also thank you for your service to this country. I imagine things must have turned upside down during that time in the military. And I love your words, “our Nation’s Heart was Broken!” That’s a wonderful summation. Hugs, my friend, K

  4. Kieran, the night before he had been in Houston and I was unable to go see him. The next day I had taken my mother in law for a ride and had a flat tire. As we waited for the man to come change it we heard the news. We got home as fast as we could. Her maid was sobbing, we were crying, the children could not understand our tears. They were too young. My mother called and in her horror about his death. blamed the state of Texas. She had adored him. It was a terrible time for all. Young and old. I was 23 years old. It was a defining moment in my life.

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