BOSTON (CBS) – By Friday, the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy, you will have been submerged in reminiscences of that terrible event. So I’m going to share mine now.

Not that there’s anything especially unique about it.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

I was seven years old when it happened, sent home from school early to find my mother, who along with my father had volunteered to help elect Kennedy in 1960, in tears in front of the TV.

The assassination, along with the subsequent televised murder of Lee Harvey Oswald, were my introduction to the fact that anyone’s life could be taken in an instant, a sobering realization, to the extent that anything can be sobering to a seven-year-old.

It was a shocking moment, and while people now look back on it as a pivotal moment in our history, when we lost our “innocence” and so forth, I recall it more as the first in a string of terrible events that followed – the murders of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and Bobby Kennedy, the attempted assassinations of George Wallace, President Ford and President Reagan, ugly urban rioting, the endless, bloody war in Vietnam.

By the time I turned twenty, I knew more about violence than I cared to, and naïve optimism was a stranger.

I am not naïve about who JFK was, a very imperfect president and husband.

But I understand how significant his rise and sudden death were to Irish Americans, to Bostonians, and to people like my folks, young Americans just a couple of generations removed from the old country, electing the first president from their own generation, the youngest we’ve ever elected.

I guess what I’ll be recalling on Friday was the hope JFK represented, and the grim life lesson about how easily hope can be snuffed out his murder taught us.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.



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