For people of my generation, it was one of those days etched indelibly in our memories. Fifty years later, I can still remember what the weather was like and how I felt as a fifteen-year-old high school sophomore when we learned in an English class that our president had been shot. A few minutes after that, the bell rang and I went to my biology class. It was there that we learned that John F. Kennedy had not survived.
November 22, 1963 was on a Friday. This past Friday marked the fiftieth anniversary of that day.
I remember being glued to the television fifty years ago as further information was learned and as further events developed. I did not see the live coverage of the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby, but I saw the reports later.
I remember seeing pictures of our new president, Lyndon B. Johnson. I remember that he made some remarks, though I don’t remember the remarks themselves.
I watched the coverage of Mr. Kennedy’s funeral which took place fifty years ago today. One of the iconic scenes of that day was that of Jacqueline Kennedy standing and watching the casket containing the body of her husband go by. I remember that she was flanked by her children, Carolyn and John, Jr. (John-John). Of course, I remember the salute that John-John gave as the casket went by. As I was preparing this post, I learned something I did not remember. I did not remember that the funeral took place on John, Jr.’s third birthday.
Last week, as the news media prepared us for the fiftieth anniversary of Mr. Kennedy’s death, we heard a lot about the people whom I’ve mentioned so far: the slain president; his successor; his wife; his children; his assassin; and the man who killed the assassin.
Did you know that Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for killing two people in Dallas on that day? During the past week, I’ve read or watched interviews with the widow of the other person killed and with his partner on the Dallas police force. They are still living. They are still emotionally affected by the events of that day.
J. D. Tippit was a thirty-nine year old police officer in Dallas, Texas. He was married and the father of three children. When he stopped Lee Harvey Oswald to question him about the murder of the president, he was shot three times. There were twelve people who witnessed this shooting and/or its aftermath. Oswald was at first arrested for this murder, not that of the president. Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of his funeral, as well as that of the late president.
So, who was J. D. Tippit? He was just as much of a human being as was the president. Like the president, he was loved by people and is still remembered and mourned by those who were close to him. The value of his soul was/is equal to anybody’s; including the person who holds the highest office in our land.
I’m hoping that the mention of J. D. Tippit will remind all of us that there are a whole lot more “ordinary people” like us in the world than there are the “rich and famous.” We love; We hurt; We are important to others and to God; We have souls which will exist somewhere forever.
In the interview I read with Mrs. Tippit, she recalled the last time she saw her husband alive: “J.D. had come home for lunch that day, had a sandwich and some fried potatoes, then he took off — everybody was busy that day because the president was coming to town.” She had no idea that both her husband and the president would die that day.
Instead of getting all worked up about the latest government policy or getting all excited about the news about some entertainment or sports “star,” why not let the people you love know you love them? How about letting them know they are not “ordinary” to you?
Better yet; why not talk to a friend, neighbor or relative about his or her soul?
Today could be the last opportunity we have to do that.