Friday, November 22, 2013

Where were you?

Nov. 22. 1963. Sitting in a 5th grade class at Harrell Budd Elementary, in Oak Cliff, an area of Dallas, Texas.

I can’t recall the class but it was half-empty. So many parents had taken their kids out of school to go watch the Presidential motorcade move through Dallas.

The oddness of it was the principal coming on over the loudspeaker, preceded by, what I think were the GEC tones – same as used by NBC (General Electric Co., get it?) This normally happened only first thing in the morning as we said the pledge and usually had a prayer (God forbid!)

So his breaking in, in the middle of the day, for an announcement, was unusual.

I can’t recall his exact words but it went like probably hundreds or thousands of similar announcement made all over the country that day; “President Kennedy has been shot.” I should remember whether he said he had already died, but I don’t.

I felt bad, almost guilty in some odd way. It would be poignant to say I was in shock and we stopped everything and went home early. But that didn’t happen. As 5th graders I don’t think we could grasp the significance of the turn-of-events and how this would change our fair city and our country in a forever-sort-of-way.

The whole scenario was brought much closer to home when Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in an area maybe 2 miles from my house. The movie theater, the Texas it was called, was also nearby, on a busy street called Jefferson Blvd. I can’t count how many times I saw a movie there during my childhood. Odd to think this is where police found and arrested Oswald.

My final memory is just days later when my dad and I watched as Jack Ruby almost calmly walked up to Oswald in the Dallas jail facility and shot him. I think we watched this as it happened but my memory of live-TV possibilities in that era is faulty. It may have been several hours later on hastily processed film, which is how news was shot in those days.

I do recall heading outside on that Sunday afternoon to play with the neighbor kids. I35E, the massive north-south interstate running through Dallas almost ran through my backyard. Then, under construction, it was piles of dirt and deep ditches that provided an awesome place for little boys to throw dirt clods at one another until somebody got hit in the head and went home crying.

I think a lot of people went home crying that week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Thanks For Your Service

“Two million Americans were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. … Studies show that 20-30% have come home with PTSD or TBI (traumatic brain injury). … Every war has its after-war, and so it is with the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, which have created some 500,000 mentally wounded American veterans.”

This, from Thank You For Your Service by David Finkel, which is already ripping my guts out and I’m only on page 11. I read lots of non-fiction and I start and then stop plenty because they don’t draw me in. Like I said, page 11 but I have to go back to work tonight and sleep sometime so …

When I heard the NPR story on this book, I knew I had to read it and it arrived today.  I’ve always felt we owe the kids who went over to fight after 9/11, plenty. I imagine after I finish this I will realize we owe them more than we can ever hope to repay.