Remembering Camelot’s Prince

President John F. Kennedy Address at Rice University in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1962 speaking about the nation’s space effort. Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

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.

“Don’t Let It Be Forgot
That Once There Was A Spot
For One Brief Shining Moment
That Was Known As Camelot”

Together with a truly courageous American hero, Paul Landis, at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh for the 60th JFK anniversary assemblage in Pittsburgh on November 16th. Paul is one of the two last living secret service agents riding with the presidential motorcade when the fatal shots rang out on November 22nd, 1963.

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3 thoughts on “Remembering Camelot’s Prince

  1. “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

    Per Luctis Ad Astra.

  2. Dear Steve,
    Your sentiments about President Kennedy and mine are one and the same. Even as a child who knew nothing of politics, I felt safe with him at the helm. Also, no U.S. President since has demonstrated such cultural refinement and interest in the arts. I still miss him, and not only on the anniversary of his passing.
    Yours truly,
    Daniel Robbins

  3. Steve,
    Your essay on John F. Kennedy was full of sincere emotion with which I can identify. I remember all too well that Friday in November, 1963, and in my own essay about JFK, (JOHN F. KENNEDY AND THE EARLY 60s: A REMEMBRANCE) I conclude that none of us will ever be the same. The elegance and wit President Kennedy brought to the Presidency, as well as the feeling of promise and achievement he represented for our country, has never been equaled. It will be sixty years since that day in Dallas and the void is still there. The country, as well as the world, changed after that final bullet did its fatal damage in Dealy Plaza and those who were not around during the Camelot Years will never understand what the country was, or what it has lost, to their everlasting unawareness.

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