The 1960s Bring Us Years of 50th Anniversaries in This Century

If you read the cover story of the Downtowner on the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington—for which 250,000 showed up in our fair city to demonstrate for jobs, justice and freedom, among other things and to hear Martin Luther King, Jr., tell us, repeatedly and with passion, that “I have a dream”—you will see that 1963 is the year of anniversaries.

For those of us who were alive back then, we must have been also unaware and too young to notice we were living in history’s stream or as Bob Dylan sings “ Ah, but I was so much older then. I’m that much younger now”, or cryptic words to that effect.

Those of who can remember, commemorate—there will be lots to do, these being 50th anniversaries: images from history in beginning Vietnam, the death of four young girls in the bombing of a church in Birmingham, Ala., the Beatles’ first number-one hit in the United States.

I was in my second year of service in the U.S. Army then, far from harm in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, but always aware of the tension of world affairs—officers being called out of movie theaters, units forming up. Some things there hardly touched us, but I remember this: one of my friends was a guy named Liam O’Keefe and he would be at my wedding a year or so later, but when I remember him most, he was crying, watching the news of the death of President John F. Kennedy, shot in Dallas.

The murder sent alarm bells through the army post, but unlike anything else—besides the chill of fears that went through all of us quasi-soldier—we were heart-broken in some sense or another because of all the images, the flickering stuff out of Dallas, Cronkite’s somber voice, Oswald shot in front of us on a Sunday morning when we should have been in church, the bloody coat, the widow, John John’s salute.

That’s an anniversary that’s coming up and here among the residents of our village in Georgetown, the residue of his presence remains like a cobblestone that has a place of honor, never to be removed. He was so older then in our young minds, and that much younger now.

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