It was one man’s life. But it was so much larger.
Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was a Friday, like this one, very early in the afternoon.
You likely know the rest of the details, and the debate that still churns on about how exactly the events of that day unfolded.
Kennedy was the fourth president to be assassinated. No president since has fallen to the same fate, although two different assailants tried to shoot Gerald Ford in 1975 and Ronald Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt in 1981.
Only very rare moments have carried the same weight as Kennedy’s death.
If you were alive then, you likely remember where you were the moment you found out. In those days, long before Twitter, cellphones and 24/7 cable news, not everyone found out immediately. So it’s likely your memories of that day also involve first seeing someone in stunned silence and attempting to figure out why. If you found out first, you were that person.
Kennedy’s assassination has been called the moment when America’s innocence was lost because in that moment, an unexpected evil did win.
Today, the events of that day will be recounted time and again as remembrances are held from coast to coast, one of the largest taking place in the city where the shooting occurred – Dallas.
What actually happened, who fired all of the shots, why the shots were fired and who was the intended target will continue to be debated. We likely will never have more clarity on any of those issues.
But they continue to stand in the memories of many Americans as a moment that we hope to never see repeated.