Grisamore remembers tragedy through 2nd-grader’s eyes

November 21, 2013 

I sat near the front of Dorothy Mariotti’s second-grade class at Harwell Elementary in LaGrange.

It was not because I was the teacher’s pet. She must have noticed I had to squint to see the blackboard. I would need glasses by the start of the fourth grade.

I cannot tell you what games we played at recess on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963. I don’t recall what we had for lunch in the cafeteria. (It was Friday, so my guess is vegetable soup from the week’s leftovers.)

But I do remember another teacher coming in the classroom and telling us the president had been shot. I remember Mrs. Mariotti was upset, and that upset me.

Later, the principal’s voice came over the scratchy intercom and made the announcement. We might have even said a prayer. Times were different.

We left school, not knowing.

My sister Gay and I walked home. It was a mile and a half. A police officer helped us cross at Broad Street near the Methodist church every afternoon. We asked him about President Kennedy. He told us he had died.

When we got home, my mother was watching the television. She was quiet and sad. My youngest sister, Sally, was almost 3. She was born Jan. 20, 1961, the day Kennedy was inaugurated.

The black-and-white TV stayed on all weekend. No Saturday morning cartoons. The antenna on top of the house picked up just a few stations from Columbus and Atlanta.

I was 7 years old. I did not understand death. The funeral was Monday. Almost a million people lined the streets to watch the horse-drawn caisson on its way to Arlington Cemetery.

Caroline Kennedy was about my age. John-John had his third birthday on the day they buried his daddy. The image of him saluting the coffin is one of the most heart-wrenching photographs I have ever seen.

That is what stayed with me the most.

The country had lost its leader.

Two kids, just like me, had lost their father.

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