EDITORIAL: Kennedy remembered

Nov. 22, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

The shots fired in Dallas's Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963, would reverberate through history.

The banner of The Herald, then an afternoon newspaper, screamed, “Kennedy Fatally Shot.” In the aftermath, Sanford businesses were asked to close during the slain president's funeral service.

“It's a very tragic thing,” Sanford's then-Mayor Tommy Mann said, expressing the shock and dismay felt around the world. “It's time to take stock of what's around us, and pray.”

Former N.C. Gov. Terry Sanford was quoted as saying that the “tragedy of the assassination of the president is overwhelming.”

Speaking to the surreality of that day, some North Carolinians simply asked, “Is it for real?”

Although 50 years have passed, the memories remain vivid for many who witnessed the violent end of Camelot. Those who lived through it can usually relate in detail where they were when the young, charismatic president was killed. The motorcade, Jackie's pink suit and pillbox hat, Lee Harvey Oswald and his rifle — all are so embedded in our popular culture that even those who weren't alive yet feel like they were there.

Although Oswald was quickly arrested for the crime, doubt lingers decades later that he was the lone assassin.

Whether the tragedy was the result of a conspiracy, or the work of a lone, disturbed gunman, makes little difference in terms of Kennedy's legacy. He is immortalized as a larger-than-life figure — a head of state who brought the country back from the brink of thermonuclear war and inspired generations of Americans with his oft-quoted words: “Ask not what your country can do for you ... .”

Kennedy achieved greatness despite the ill-fated Bay of Pigs Invasion and other failures — both personal and political. In a turbulent time when the Civil Rights Movement was gaining traction and Cold War tensions were mounting, he was ever optimistic — deftly guiding the nation through unprecedented challenges.

“Today, both friend and foe mourn him,” The Herald stated in an editorial the day after his death. “His was a bright future, and he had many years ahead of him during which he could have served his country. … The days ahead will be dark ones for this nation. … ”

That nation may never stop wondering who “really” killed Kennedy — and what might be different had he lived. Few leaders before or since have so embodied America's hopes and dreams — or so believed in its potential. His death carried the profound disappointment of an unfulfilled promise.

The late president's death never ceases to fascinate, but we would do better to remember his life. He approached the problems that persist today — political, economic, social and diplomatic — with courage. He instilled confidence that America's best days lay ahead.

Kennedy may not have survived that grim day in Dallas, but his vision, and the ideals that he stood for, endure.