On the anniversary of JFK’s death, one boomer says, Ask Not

For most baby boomers, the first seminal event in our lives — something we’ll never forget — is the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. We remember where we were and how we heard about it. So does our friend, communications specialist Larry Checco of Silver Spring, Maryland. Now that it’s 52 years behind us, Larry looks back and writes a piece about JFK with a simple title: Ask Not.

President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy

Sophomore year in high school. Sitting near the back of the room in Latin 1 class desperately trying to conjugate verbs — amo, amas, amat. Eagerly awaiting the lunch bell to ring.

Larry Checco in high school years.

Larry Checco in high school years.

A student messenger walks into the room and quietly says something to our Latin teacher, Mr. T., who had a reputation for being passionate — and having a volatile temper.

Quick as flash, Mr. T. jumps to his feet, extends all of his 6’ 5”, 220-plus pound body over the demur female student messenger, his face flush with anger — and erupts!

“You go back to Mr. B. and you tell him I don’t mind arguing politics with him in the teachers’ lounge, but to send you into my classroom to tell me something like that is totally inexcusable,” he yells at the messenger, now nearly in tears and trembling in her patent leather shoes.

Moments later our school principal sadly announces over the school-wide intercom system, “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas.”

If a pin had fallen in the room at that moment it would have sounded like a bomb going off.

President John F. Kennedy moments before he was shot in his motorcade in Dallas.

President John F. Kennedy moments before he was shot in his motorcade in Dallas.

The date: Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, a seminal day in the life of nearly every boomer.

That day, and the eventful weekend that followed — not the least of which was watching Jack Ruby shooting Lee Harvey Oswald in real-time on TV— was shocking enough.

The jarring fact is that all this occurred 52 years ago now, a stunning reminder of just how fast our boomer lives have gone bye.

Larry Checco remembers.

Larry Checco remembers.

Hell, most people living on planet Earth today weren’t even alive then, let alone do they have any vividly searing memories of President Kennedy’s assassination. For many of them, 9/11 is the first seminal event.

I was 15-years-old at the time, full of spit and vinegar. Inspired by JFK , I worked hard to take my relatively small bite out of life, with varying degrees of success and failure.

Now, at age 67, my goals for the future are far more modest and mellow than they were 50-plus years ago. Now I’m working hard to stay as healthy, cheerful, plugged in — and relevant— for as long as my time, energy, and cognitive abilities will allow.

More, I ask not.

Larry Checco © 2015


  1. Love it, Larry! I was 7 and in Catholic grammar school. We marched off in our uniforms across the parking lot to church, all the teachers in tears. Will never forget it.

  2. Same school, same grade – only I was in biology in the midst of dissecting a frog. The announcement came over the loudspeaker as you said Larry. We were dismissed. I remember going to my locker noticing a lot of the girls crying. I would not cry. I was talking to myself in my head to keep it together. I had to walk home – my legs were stiff from fear. I no longer felt safe.
    I had forgotten that this is the week of JFK’s assassination. But this week I felt those same stiff legs – not from age – but from the same fear of not knowing what is going to happen next. Boomers lived through more assassinations of good, intelligent leaders; we marched against needless (and endless) wars; we stood with our brothers and sisters of color. And now it seems nothing has changed. In retrospect, I’m not sure I remember any peaceful time except perhaps early childhood when we knew no better. We had such hopes – what happened? Has nothing changed? More war, more killings, more “us vs them” mentality instead of United We Stand! My heart is heavy – we have learned nothing of humanity and now have a circus of performers vying for leadership of this country – once great, and in denial of rapidly going downhill. Peace, my classmate – see you next year at our 50th high school reunion – hopefully.

    1. Susan, as always, thanks for your thought-filled comments. Sometimes I wonder: Where have all the flowers gone? Sometimes I wonder if there ever were any flowers. But we gotta keep plantin’ the seeds.

  3. “But we gotta keep plantin’ the seeds.” I love that. I am going to make that my mantra from here on in. Thanks for both the posts and the comments (like Marianne above, I too was 7 and attending Catholic school on that day. My clearest memory was arriving home to find my mother crying in front of our black and white TV.)

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