Fifty years past, shortly after midnight Pacific time on the morning of June 5, Robert F. Kennedy finished a short speech after winning the 1968 Democratic Presidential Primary in California with the memorable line, “My thanks to all of you; and now it’s on to Chicago, and let’s win there!”. From there his entourage made the fateful decision to take a short cut through the motel kitchen area on their way to another group gathering, when a single individual stepped out of the crowd and shot Kennedy three times.
Twenty-Six hours later, it was announced that Kennedy had died from the wounds and for much of the country true hope seemed to begin the process of melting away.
I was just five weeks and four days from turning 12 when the assassination happened, but I remember it vividly as I awoke late that night at our home in Nebraska and turned the family television on, with the volume down quiet just so I could see the results of the primary elections in California, hoping that Kennedy would be declared the winner.
I remember sitting there stunned when it all happened, then having to get back to bed before anyone in the house realized I was up. Needless to say, I had trouble falling back to sleep.
I remember watching all the events over the next several days as they all unfolded – from the emotional, finality announcement of his death, to the haunting coverage of the train that carried Kennedy back. A train that found thousands of American taking time out from their day to honor him by standing near or by the tracks as his train moved past, some saluting, some waving hoping that someone in the Kennedy family would notice, some waving American flags, some looking as if they were in prayer and most just watching with that surreal look of hurt, of tears flowing down their cheeks as they pierced the air with an unforgettable look of lost hope.
I remember the funeral and procession to bury Kennedy near his brother John at Arlington Cemetery.
I remember most the words from Kennedy’s younger brother Ted, then a Senator from Massachusetts, as he remembered Bobby during the eulogy at the funeral mass on June 8 with the now memorable words:
“My brother need not be idealized or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it. Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will someday come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him, ‘Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not’.”
I was fortunate to have parents who taught me and my siblings as kids to be aware of the world around and beyond us. To be aware that all should be treated equally no matter the color of their skin, the faith they believe or the origins they came from.
I remember this heartbreaking event and how it affected my parents, especially coming such a short time after watching my father welling up in tears as we heard the news of Dr. Martin Luther King being assassinated just a couple of months earlier.
I remember knowing then, even as just a pre-teen, that our country was blessed at the time with many great statesman, but despite that, our country was coming through period of demonstrations about the Vietnam War and the riots following the death of King. With Kennedy, we were offered a true hope for our future each and every time he talked with the down trodden, the hurting, the ones looking for that better tomorrow and as he spoke with them we knew it came from his heart while he showed sincerity in his steely blue eyes.
Somewhere after Kennedy died the country took a turn, and slowly over a period of time the statesman that made this country as great as it is retired or passed away and the control of the great United States was taken over by those who seem to be seeking power and control over others, leaving behind those who are true and heart filled caring individuals who would sincerely look out for those who want and need hope for tomorrow.
A dear and long-time friend of mine going back to grade school, gave a very eloquent reference to his memory of the day the news hit the airways of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. When referencing to what he saw and felt on that fateful day 50 years ago, my friend noted – “We lost so much 50 years ago, but most of all we lost a man of peace. A man of compassion. A man of empathy. A man of strength. A man of courage. Imagine if we had him still for much of those 50 years.”
While many say the hopes of tomorrow began melting away with the death of Robert F. Kennedy, I will always hold a very special spot in my memory, heart, faith and hope of all that he stood for as I look toward my hopes not only for today in America, but also in the days to come for my kids and grandkids.
(Copyright@2018, CrossDove Writer – no part of this may be printed, copied or used without written permission by CrossDove Writers and Grumpy Gramps.)