North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

By Katie Bourg
Senior Daze 

After 50 years, the memory lingers

The death of a president ripped the fabric of America.


Only now does the memory of that awful day come back. I’ve thought of it other years but not like this one. Feelings are more intense, regret more focused. I am not young anymore. Or as busy with family. Life moves on.

I was busy that day. Facing the holiday. There was last minute shopping. Pies to make. My Christmas sewing would wait another week. Dinner was planned in my head. A load of wet clothes in the washer. But the kids were not due home for a couple of hours. I could coast a little, and stopped to visit Gerry.

She had been my boss before we both became mothers. We had ongoing political differences. Mild, but frequent arguments over a cup of coffee. We lived different lives, yet were still connected. She was on my way home. Talk and cookies seemed like a good idea. I knew she was baking for she had mentioned it earlier on the phone, and drop-ins were our habit. I let myself in, and slid into a kitchen chair as she readied another sheet of cookies into the oven. We chatted awhile, waiting for the timer on her stove. The phone rang. She lifted it from the wall. Suddenly straightening, her face registered shock.

“Stu says the president has been shot.”

I ran to the living room and switched on the TV. Cronkite was stumbling through an incomplete statement. Still receiving unconfirmed reports as he tried to find valid information. Even on the screen, his face looked like Gerry’s. I stared for a second, then walked back to the kitchen. There I saw my friend, her face white and wet. In one of those freakish moments I thought, “She’s crying for a Democrat.” Then I joined her in tears.

We spent the next hour with the TV. I don’t know what happened to the cookies. I don’t remember that we talked. We never got to the coffee. At some point Gerry returned to her kitchen. I left the house. Drove home through silent streets. Everything seemed unreal, until I neared the Catholic church. The chimes in their bell tower were ringing. That brought me back to the real world. But something was missing. Something that had always been there.

Like the rest of the world, my family’s holiday plans were changed. We sat glued to the TV. We talked to each other. We answered the children’s questions. Watched the horror of another shooting. Nothing really reached me. It was a long international wake that wouldn’t end. There was something we couldn’t retrieve. Now, fifty years after, I realize what it was.

We didn’t just lose a president. We lost our innocence. And we never got it back.


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