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Excerpt from THE FIRE ESCAPE STORIES, Vol. II

Excerpt from THE FIRE ESCAPE STORIES, VOLUME II...
THE JFK ASSASSINATION, NOV. 22, 1963...

By Chuck Cascio

JFKWHP-ST-C420-51-63.jpg
 
President Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy
descend the stairs from Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, Texas,
November 22, 1963
Episode #21
THAT FRIDAY

     On that Friday in November 1963, the final high school football game of the season was canceled.

     On that Friday, Ginny wept out loud as she sat next to me on the bus ride home from school; except for her cries and a few other kids sniffling or whispering, the bus was silent.

     On that Friday, my mother and I watched the nonstop news from Dallas in disbelief, in quiet, in fear, wondering what it meant for our country, our president shot, reaching for his throat, gasping for life, his wife standing in the accelerating convertible groping for something—her husband? her safety? her future?

     On that Friday, my father called from work to say that he did not know when he would be home again, that we should be careful but strong, that we should pray, that we should know that he was thinking about us, loving us, even as he did whatever his job demanded to help deal with the situation, to help settle the country, to help provide some degree of sanity to a world suddenly gone mad....

      I looked out at the back yard blanketed in darkness. A small light shone on Ginny’s porch, so I went outside to see what it was. Someone moved in the narrow stream of light. “Ginny?” I called softly across the yard.

     “Yes, Mike, it’s me,” she said, shining a flashlight toward me. “Meet me.”

     We met where our yards touched.

     “You okay?” I asked. 

     She had been holding the flashlight toward the ground, but now she turned it to her face, revealing a bruised, swollen eye. “He did it,” she said. “Randy. He said I was a ‘queer’ for cryin over a dead president....  When I didn’t stop cryin, he punched me. I got one good scratch on his face ’fore Paw grabbed him and threw him out the house. Maw, she started cryin and put ice on my eye. She tol’ Paw he’s gonna have to do somethin ’bout Randy, else she’s gonna take me and move out.” Ginny looked at me, the flashlight’s beam illuminating the colors of her bruise like a flashing pinwheel. “I don’t want to move, but I jest can’t keep gettin punched. I don’t want to fight like a scared animal ’most every day. And I don’t want the president to be dead, Mike. It’s jest not right that he’s dead.”...

     The Thursday following that Friday in November was Thanksgiving. My father still had not been home, so my mother and I rode a quiet train from DC to New York and then took the subway to Brooklyn. In the small tenement apartment with Uncle Sal, Capricia, and Sally-Boy, we ate turkey and sweet potatoes, none of the Italian fare we normally consumed. Nor was there the usual noise and loud talk that went along with our dinners together. The world was still somber, contemplating what it had witnessed, the assassination, the swearing in, the arrest, the murder of the president’s assassin on live television while in police custody, the new president, the unanswered questions. 

     Still, during the Thanksgiving dinner, an occasional laugh slipped in, a warm gesture, a kiss.  My father called in the middle of dinner to say that he would be home when we returned to Virginia that weekend. He had my mother give the phone to each person individually, and he told everyone, including Sally-Boy, that he loved them and gave assurances that things would be okay.

     On the fire escape after dinner, Sally-Boy and I each nibbled a piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie....

     “I don’t get it,” he said. “He’s up in a building. He sticks a rifle outta the window. He spots the president’s car comin. He makes three shots. Boom! Boom! Boom! President’s head blows apart. That guy was a hulluva shot. I don’t get it. Wish I could shoot like that.”

     “Why? What are you going to shoot?”

     “I don’t know. Not the president. Some bad guys. There’s always some bad guys to fight.”

     “Did you like the president, Sally?”

     “Yeah, sure, I guess. I mean, I don’t really give a shit ’cause the stuff the president does, it don’t really matter to me. Tomorrow it’ll be a week since he got blown away. It’s too bad, sure, but, hey, I’m still here, and I got stuff to do.”

     “We all do,” I said, wondering if that Friday in November actually changed the world at all...

...the Friday that I thought affected everyone...

...the Friday that brought daily life to a halt...

...the Friday that channeled horror directly into our homes...

...the Friday that would eventually merge into a lifetime of other Fridays.

     That Friday.

Copyright: Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

Readers' thoughts always welcome: Send to chuckwrites@yahoo.com