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1860 - Colonel Thomas F. Mitchell arrives in Soledad Canyon [story]
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The Good Long Road | Commentary by Jennifer Fischer
| Saturday, Nov 22, 2014

JenniferFischerTwenty-six years ago my family went to Dallas for Thanksgiving. I don’t remember quite why my parents decided we would go to Dallas that year. It was just a couple of hours away from where we lived at the time, but we didn’t have family to visit. We just went on a whim.

As chance would have it, we found ourselves on the grassy knoll on the 25th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. I was 11. It was odd to be standing at a place where time had stood still. Because of the actions of that day and in that place, for many people the world completely changed.

I recall visiting the 6th Floor Museum, which is odd because I recently read that the museum officially opened in February 1989. Still, I remember visiting something by that name that was on the sixth floor of the Book Depository and contained photographs and such. (Perhaps it had not yet officially opened, but the space was accessible on that day to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the assassination.)

What I distinctly remember from that day and space was the guest book on the sixth floor. Reading through it moved me as I read entry after entry in which people recounted what that day meant to them, how it affected them, how it changed them. It was something I couldn’t quite understand.

jfkI had, of course, heard many people – primarily my parents and their friends – talk about “where they were” when they heard the news that JFK had been shot. I understood the significance – well, as much as an 11-year-old could – but I didn’t grasp the impact it had. Even as I grew older and was able to understand more about how that single act changed history, I still didn’t completely understand how expansive the event was – how it truly was a moment when time stood still.

And then the planes hit the World Trade Center, and I immediately understood. I knew that was the moment in my adult lifetime that would change everything completely. I knew it would be a day that no one would forget. Everyone would be able to tell you where they were when it happened. A cultural shift would take place. The world would never be the same.

Time stood still, and of course a shift did take place. The world is not the same, and everyone can tell you exactly where they were on Sept. 11, 2001.

I was at the YMCA in Dorchester, Mass. I watched it happen while on a treadmill. I stopped, as did everyone else at the gym. We all stopped. Time stopped. It stood still. It was one of those moments.

When time started again, I rushed home to be with my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I called my academic advisor. I was supposed to take the train into Cambridge from Dorchester that day to meet with my advisor at Harvard – my advisor for a master’s program in Middle Eastern Studies. She told me not to come in; she said everyone was crying or walking around the department in shock.

Grief and shock. I remember those being the two key emotions surrounding that day, and I imagine those were the same two key emotions that surrounded this day – today, 51 years ago in 1963, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and Walter Cronkite announced to a stunned nation that the president was dead.

Every Thanksgiving, in addition to breaking bread with friends and family and expressing gratitude for my loved ones and my life, I also find myself thinking of John F. Kennedy and of what it means for time to stand still. I think of that family trip to Dallas and my efforts as a girl to understand something so immense, so incomprehensible. I think of how life changes. How time can stand still, but how it always starts going again.

I also find myself thinking about hope, because that is what JFK seemed to represent for so many people. I find myself wanting to do my best to send hope out into the world. I think of those who lost hope on that day. I want to believe that they’ve had their hope renewed by someone or something since then. I think about how vital hope is. Hope is what pulls us through grief. Hope is what gets the clock ticking again. It’s what keeps us from being frozen in a dark moment.

Hope is the ray of sunshine poking out through the clouds. It’s something the world could use a little more of. Hope is one of my favorite four letter words, and it’s actually the only thing I want under my Christmas tree this year. Hope under the tree and courage in my stocking.

 

Jennifer Fischer is co-founder of the SCV Film Festival, a mom of two, an independent filmmaker and owner of Think Ten Media Group, whose Generation Arts division offers programs for SCV youth. She writes about her parenting journey on her blog, The Good Long Road. Her commentary is published Saturdays on SCVNews.com.

 

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