Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Somehow it had almost escaped me what today is. On Nov. 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. A couple of years ago I wrote an essay for the newspaper, but it ended up not being used. So I posted it over at my writing blog. When I taught News & Feature Writing, I used an excerpt from Saul Pett's masterful piece of newswriting to show my students the power of language. Here's a bit:
John Fitzgerald Kennedy fell to an assassin's bullet in Dallas, Texas, at lunchtime on November 22, 1963. In streets and offices and homes and stores, in lunchrooms and showrooms and schoolrooms and boardrooms, on highways and prairies and beaches and mountaintops, in endless places crowded and sparse, white and black, Republican and Democrat, management and labor, the word went out and cut the heart of a nation.

Husbands called wives, wives called friends, teachers told students, motorists stopped to listen on car radios and stranger told stranger. "Oh, no!" we cried from hearts stopped by shock.

Incredibly, in a time of great numbers, in a time of repeated reminders that millions would die in a nuclear war, when experts feared we were being immunised against tragedy, the death of a single man flooded our hearts and filled all the paths of our lives.

A great shadow fell on the land. Much activity simply stopped, here and overseas.

A big bronze gong sounded, a man shouted "The market is closed" and the New York Stock Exchange stopped. The Boston Symphony Orchestra stopped a Handel concerto and started a Beethoven funeral march, the Canadian House of Commons stopped, a dramatic play in Berlin stopped, the United Nations in New York stopped and Congress and courts and schools and race tracks stopped. Football games were cancelled and theatres were closed and in Dallas a nightclub called the Carousel was closed by a mourner named Jack Ruby. …

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