It’s amazing how things get chiseled into our memories. All of us who were of school-age or older can recite what they observed and did during the last ten days of that particular month. No points awarded for that.
However, I have fairly vivid memories of two other Fridays within that month.
Friday, 11/1/1963: On the other side of the world, South Vietnamese President Diem was being overthrown in a coup orchestrated by his generals, a coup whose inevitability was fully understood and ignored by his American allies. Even though I was only fourteen years old at the time, I’m embarrassed to admit that I was still not grasping the importance of what was going on in Southeast Asia, and I certainly had no concept of what it meant for my generation and our nation. My friends, their brothers, their uncles had not yet begun dying there.
On the other hand, the early 1960s conflict seemed like something out of TERRY AND THE PIRATES or STEVE CANYON…there was even a real-life “Dragon Lady” (Madam Nhu, Diem’s sister-in-law). What could these things ever have to do with my world?
A steady rain was falling as I trudged up Featherbed Lane at the end of my trip home from school on that day. My feet were killing me because my shoes were too small and the backs of both feet were being shredded as I walked up the hill. ThIs might have been one of the first pairs of shoes which I shopped for on my own.
Friday, 11/8/1963 or 11/15/1963, I stayed late at school to attend a meeting of the Biology Club and was lucky to be part of a small group of eager young people who were able to chat with Dr. Roman Visniac, famed micro-biologist and photographer. He was a fascinating man, and some of us who were present learned an awful lot that day. I probably wasn’t one of the fortunate few…..I was starting to realize that I was out of my league and would likely never be a professional in any of the human sciences.
Both of these Fridays were as nothing compared to the horror of Friday, 11/22/1963 and the days which followed. I’d always viewed President Eisenhower as if he were ancient. On the other hand, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was young, vibrant and energetic…..it excited me to see this young man and his beautiful young wife occupy the White House along with their little children. The country was becoming something which my generation could proudly and logically “possess.”
But the voice of Dr. Taffel coming out of the speaker in my biology classroom had signaled that I would now face a world in which it was unlikely that I would ever be a doctor or a dentist, one in which my (our) hero was suddenly and inexplicably gone for good.
Oh yeah: both of my scarred feet heeled nicely, and the shoemaker
(remember them?) on University Avenue stretched those shoes for me.
And life went on…..