It seems a sacred time, this Friday afternoon 50 years after JFK was slain. It's sent me back to a book long on the shelf, Four Days: The Historical Record of the Death of President Kennedy, compiled by United Press International and Amnerican Heritage Magazine. Stuck inside, I found a yellowing copy of The New York Times section The News of the Week in Review for Sunday, Nov. 24, 1963.
"He was a man of peace, who at first hand experienced war," the paper editorialized.
OK, so on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, I was in my fifth-grade classroom at Mary Queen of Heaven School, Brooklyn. A Kennedy-esque young priest -- he looked as if he could have been a Kennedy himself, and he used to require the altar boys to show up after school for a physical fitness routine -- came over from the rectory to break the news. Later, after Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested, our teacher -- her name was Miss Kennedy -- made a terrible assumption about the suspect. She said, "After all President Kennedy has done for the Negroes ..."
Some days later, the parish had a Mass for the children featuring an empty casket covered with an American flag in the center aisle before the main altar. Everyone was in tears, as if we'd lost a close relative.
Paul Moses, a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College/CUNY, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015).