JFK died fifty years ago today, as the surge of related content on TV and in the news has probably reminded you. Very few moments in American history have captured our imaginations so completely over the years.
Last weekend I spent some time with my dad, age 62, and he went through his story of where he was and what he was doing when he heard the news. There are people in the world who don't like hearing older people tell stories like this. I am not one of them. Informal oral history is more interesting than anything I can read in a book or see on TV in yet another interview from the archives with Walter Cronkite. I know some of you are over fifty. Feel free to share your own stories in the comments. The media keep telling us that everyone remembers where they were when it happened, and how could the media have such a pervasive trope if it wasn't true?
Not having lived through it, I have nothing to remember. Part of the reason I think it fascinates people, though, is the 8mm eeriness of the Zapruder film. It's less like a document of a historical event than a clip from an early John Carpenter horror movie. It doesn't matter how many times it gets replayed – and certainly most Americans have seen it dozens if not hundreds of times already – it's never any less arresting. Every time the limo rolls into view in semi-slow motion I'm like, "Oh shit, man…you should duck…"
And he never does.