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National Mourning
Author: TriSec    Date: 11/26/2022 11:00:15

Good Morning.

It appeared to me here online that most of us had a pleasant and restful Thanksgiving. It was hopefully a source of some happiness and joy amongst us, and maybe even a dress rehearsal for Christmas in just one month's time.

But I want us to consider the Thanksgiving of 1963. Fifty-nine years ago, our parents and grandparents were about to have what was likely the worst Thanksgiving of their generation.

President Kennedy had been shot on the Friday before the holiday that year; the State Funeral took place on November 25, which was Thanksgiving Monday of that year. (The holiday was late - on November 28.)

Being a student of history - and given what I do for work, I read the historical accounts on Wikipedia extensively the other day. A few snippets of those momentous events still strike a nerve, even though my own parents were not even married yet on this date in 1963.

The day after the assassination, the new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, issued Presidential Proclamation 3561, declaring Monday to be a national day of mourning, and only essential emergency workers to be at their posts. He read the proclamation over a nationwide radio and television broadcast at 4:45 p.m. from the Fish Room (currently known as the Roosevelt Room) at the White House.

Mrs. Kennedy requested two Catholic priests to remain with the body until the official funeral. A call was made to The Catholic University of America, and Msgr. Robert Paul Mohan and Fr. Gilbert Hartke, two prominent Washington, D.C., priests, were immediately dispatched for the task.[44] A solemn Mass was celebrated for family in the East Room at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, November 23. Fr. M. Frank Ruppert of St. Matthew's Cathedral Parish would celebrate a mass in the East Room the following day. After the Mass, other family members, friends, and other government officials came at specified times to pay their respects to President Kennedy. This included former U.S. Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. The other surviving former U.S. president at the time, Herbert Hoover, was too ill to attend the state funeral, and was represented by his sons, Herbert Jr. and Allan.

On Sunday afternoon about 300,000 people watched a horse-drawn caisson, which had borne the body of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Unknown Soldier, carry President Kennedy's flag-covered casket down the White House drive, past parallel rows of soldiers bearing the flags of the 50 states of the Union, then along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Rotunda to lie in state. The only sounds on Pennsylvania Avenue as the cortège made its way to the Capitol were the sounds of the muffled drums and the clacking of horses' hooves, including the riderless (caparisoned) horse Black Jack. The journalists marched and were last in the cortège as it made its way to the Capitol.

The widow, holding her two children by the hand, led the public mourning for the country. In the rotunda, Mrs. Kennedy and her daughter Caroline knelt beside the casket, which rested on the Lincoln catafalque. Three-year-old John Jr. was briefly taken out of the rotunda so as not to disrupt the service. Mrs. Kennedy maintained her composure as her husband was taken to the Capitol to lie in state, as well as during the memorial service.

In Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, crowds stood in the rain, keeping a vigil and paying quiet respects. It rained all day in Washington, befitting the mood of the nation.

I have personally visited the President's gravesite and Arlington National Cemetery a couple of times. Of course it is marked by the eternal flame - and it's in a very prominent spot just below the Lee Mansion, in a direct line with the Lincoln Memorial. It remains a very respectful and solemn spot in those hallowed grounds even today.

But why am I writing about all of this?

Because looking back through the rear-view mirror at these events, I simply cannot comprehend such a national outpouring of grief for any national leader today. It's been six decades since those events, and with each passing generation, we seem to be more and more balkanized. I cannot imagine a National Funeral of this magnitude, if this should occur to the current occupant of the White House. If the previous occupant suddenly met his fate - many parts of the country would celebrate instead of honoring the dead. (Myself included.)

Even looking around the world - the last thing we have to compare this to is the recent passing of Her Majesty. Some world leaders simply have that gravitas. They command respect and honor, even if you do not agree with them.

The United States has not produced anyone of this magnitude in quite some time.

1 comments (Latest Comment: 11/26/2022 15:07:29 by BobR)
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