Friday, November 22, 2013

Nov. 22, 1963

Where was I?   I was trying to stay awake at a meeting of the Kentucky League of Cities on the second floor (mezzanine?) of the hotel at Fifth and Walnut in Louisville, the one that is now the Kentucky Towers.  I suppose I was trying to think of something, anything  to take back to my editor at The Louisville Times to justify my presence at so anodyne an event.  Anyway, my problem was shortly solved:  some guy came in and said something on the order of "Gentlemen, I have important news..."

I'm hazy on the next few hours.  I was in front of a TV set somehwere--maybe the same hotel--when I heard Walter Cronkite bring us all the final pronouncement.*  I do remember running into Marlowe Cook, the County Judge/Executive (and mentor of Mitch McConnell) at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, where Marlowe fulminated for a bit about the times and the people.  It was clear from the way he talked that he took it for granted that the killer was some right-wing nut and I for my part never troubled to doubt him; neither he nor I ever mentioned the encounter again.

Life was going well for me that fall.  We had lost our first baby but the next one was alive and well and a another was on the way.  I had finally, somewhat belatedly--I was 27--finished my BA and had started my first semester of night law school, and was loving every minute of it: after some false starts, the gears were beginning to mesh.  That night, perhaps in a daze, I drifted off to my property class where I found a good many of my classmates, probably in the same impaired state.  Our professor--heaven knows what was in his mind--conducted business as usual.  After a break, we reassembled for torts; Jim Merritt came in and announced "I don't know why we are all here tonight, but I'm going home."  Then it dawned on us--or at least, me--that there were probably better things to do than to recite torts.

Afterthought: I shouldn't be too hard on our benumbed property teacher.  Years later, on 9/11, I faced the same kind of choice.  I was due to meet my corp fin students at 9am, 2-2.5 hours after the crashes.  Most student showed up.  I said: look, I can do this either way, we can stay or go.  What is your preference?  Nobody went to the door, so we went about our business usual.

*The Wichita bureau adds an curious footnote: the gazillion replays of the Cronkite announcement--they all look clearer on modern TV sets than they did at the time.  Is there some way they could have tweaked the original picture (uh oh, that sounds lie conspiracy talk)?

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