The loss

Stanstead Journal - - FORUM -

Fri­day­will mark the fifti­eth an­niver­sary of the mur­der of Pres­i­dent Kennedy. Al­most ev­ery­one on the planet who is over sixty knows where he was the mo­ment the news broke.

For the pub­lisher it was a desk at a col­lege in Varennes, did­dling rather than lis­ten­ing, wait­ing for lib­er­a­tion, we left ear­lier on Fri­day, the Mon­treal bound bus leav­ing at three thirty, the over­cast day, was there a slight driz­zle on the Saint Lawrence that day? Then Brother Ge­orge barg­ing into the class: “Le pres­i­dent est mort, c’est John­son qui le rem­place,” (The pres­i­dent is dead, it’s John­son who is tak­ing his place) in his slight Franco-Amer­i­can ac­cent. Brother Ge­orge was try­ing, with some suc­cess, to teach us English, us­ing Bob Dy­lan and Peter, Paul and Mary songs telling us tales of liv­ing in the USA. Was there an­other coun­try for him? Que­bec was sim­ply a part of the French ex­pe­ri­ence in the Amer­i­cas af­ter all. For the then 12 year-old pub­lisher, some­thing was amiss. John­son could not be pres­i­dent, he was a Que­bec politi­cian.

Class broke up, fi­nally, and it was the face of the Pro­vin­cial Trans­port con­duc­tor that told us that there was in­deed some­thing hap­pen­ing be­yond our con­trol. Al­ways jovial, even trans­port­ing us, he looked gloomy. The mood was worse in Mon­treal. The bus ter­mi­nal, al­ways noisy, seemed silent, even the an­nounce­ments be­ing muted, the an­nouncer whis­per­ing the next bus leav­ing.

Com­ing home, fa­ther had bought the spe­cial edi­tion of La Presse. Only those who un­der­stand the process of print­ing a pa­per back then can ap­pre­ci­ate today that achieve­ment.

And then we started watch­ing TV. Hour af­ter hour, was it Henri Berg­eron who took over the Ra­dio-Canada broad­cast, the per­fectly bilin­gual, Man­i­toba born an­nouncer al­most lip synch­ing Wal­ter Cronkite, but in French? Then, when my par­ents had gone to sleep, re­ar­rang­ing the rab­bit ears to tune WCAX.

Wak­ing early on Satur­day and Sun­day. Then wit­ness­ing, like mil­lions live and hun­dreds of oth­ers in Europe a cou­ple of min­utes later, when Tel­star 2 had its 18 min­utes of win­dows to ra­di­ate in Europe, some­one dy­ing in front of our very eyes. How many peo­ple had wit­nessed a mur­der be­fore Jack Ruby killed Lee Har­vey Oswald?

It would take years be­fore we would see Pres­i­dent Kennedy be­ing killed and, only in the last cou­ple of years, with high qual­ity scan, can we see what re­ally hap­pened in Dal­las.

Amer­i­cans, those in their mid to late sev­en­ties and over, see that day as one of a loss of in­no­cence, the end of Camelot. Here in the most in­te­grated bor­der com­mu­nity in Amer­ica, the im­pact must have been huge, a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive to the first global event, the day that in­stant news be­came the norm, the har­bin­ger of CNN in a way, of fill­ing the air with trivia when the small­est dis­as­ter struck or end­less bat­ters when a royal baby is ex­pected, then born.

In a way, our mod­ern civil­i­sa­tion started that day. Hav­ing wit­nessed a live mur­der, hun­dreds of hours of Viet­nam cov­er­age, we were ready a cou­ple of years later for Sam Peck­in­pah’s Wild Bunch gore and the rest.

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