I just wrote about this below. But I wanted to say a bit more. I think all of us have probably seen that iconic video of Walter Cronkite announcing President Kennedy’s death live on CBS and then struggling, not entirely successfully, to hold back his own tears. It’s incredibly affecting but almost worn into cliche by decades of repetition.
What I’d never seen before was the half hour or so lead in to that moment. I just posted the video here.
I don’t expect to be affected by this stuff. The commemorations don’t move me that much. (The speech by the Mayor of Dallas struck me as almost ridiculous, though I don’t doubt it was difficult to come up with something to say.) It was after all half a century ago. 6 years before I was born. And it’s as deeply woven into American history and experience as really anything that happened in the 20th century. Yet, watching these initial reports, I found my heart rate quickening and many of the accustomed signs of physical stress. And now, having followed the video past the crescendo, I find myself still more than a bit shaken.
You have to watch yourself to decide. But I think it’s a matter of watching the uncertainty and trauma unfold. We know how the story ends. It’s almost impossible to imagine the contours of the last fifty years without Kennedy’s assassination. But here you hear that the President’s been shot, an ‘attempted assassination’, then reports that blood was gushing out of his head, then a steady drumbeat of unconfirmed but increasingly credible and reliable reports that the President is dead. It’s chilling.