By Steve Vertlieb: That terrible day in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 remains one of the most significantly traumatic days of my life. I was just seventeen years old. I was nearing the end of my high school classes at Northeast High School in Philadelphia when word started spreading through the hallways and corridors that JFK had been shot. I listened in disbelief, praying that it wasn’t true … but it was.
The most beloved President of my lifetime … the leader whose courage, integrity, culture and wit inspired my own enthusiastic participation in our nation’s democracy and principles, for the first time in my youthful life, was dead. I was emotionally shattered and disillusioned for months after that unforgettable day. I never again recovered my youthful enthusiasm for our nation’s principles … at least, not to the extent that I had had, and then lost, on that dreary November day in Texas.
It was the end of a dream, a beautiful, idealistic illusion that evaporated into a nightmare on that awful day. Only the deaths of my own father and mother, my divorce, and the passing of my idol, Frank Sinatra, had inspired the same calamitous, deeply traumatizing effect and influence upon me. If I could have died in his place that day, I’d have done so.
Even now it is nearly impossible to suppress my tears in remembrance of the death … not only of a man, but of the dream that he inspired in so many of us. It was the end of Camelot, and the end of innocence.