Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

November 28, 2013

Phil Power: Thanksgiving reflection time

Thanksgiving week is a time to remember, to reflect, to give thanks. Last Friday marked the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. When it happened I was a student at Oxford University in England. For me and for many, many others, the events of that day are frozen in my memory: cold, still, horrible.

The local time at Oxford was seven hours ahead of Dallas, meaning those fatal shots were fired at 7:30 that Friday evening.

I — with around 25 others — was seated at a formal black-tie dinner in a beautiful candle-lit, oak-paneled room at University College. The main course had just been served when the college’s Master, Sir John Redcliffe-Maud, stood up at the end of the table.

His face was white and his hands trembled. “I am very deeply sorry to announce that President Kennedy has been shot while on a visit to Dallas, Texas. He is not expected to survive.”

I was the only American in the room, and I wasn’t ashamed to hold my head in my hands while the tears came. The Master came over and kindly said, “I am terribly sorry for you to hear this awful news in this way. Of course, if you wish to leave the dinner, you are excused.” I stayed for a while and tried to maintain a certain level of conversation, trying to remember Ernest Hemingway’s definition of courage — which was also JFK’s — as “grace under pressure.”

But as desert was served, I couldn’t bear it anymore and went back to my room. As I opened the door, I was astonished to find all the lights on, the room filled with my English friends, gathered there to be with their American chum in a desolate hour. Someone turned on the radio and picked up the bulletin from the BBC: The President was dead. I don’t remember the rest of the evening very well, other than that it turned into a kind of wake, with much whiskey being drunk and hugs exchanged with the normally reserved English.

Text Only

Opinion Poll
AP Video
Ariz. Inmate Dies 2 Hours After Execution Began Crash Kills Teen Pilot Seeking World Record LeBron James Sends Apology Treat to Neighbors Raw: Funeral for Man Who Died in NYPD Custody Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Israeli American Reservist Torn Over Return Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Six Indicted in StubHub Hacking Scheme Former NTSB Official: FAA Ban 'prudent' EPA Gets Hip With Kardashian Tweet Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands Biden Decries Voting Restrictions in NAACP Talk Broncos Owner Steps Down Due to Alzheimer's US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament