Posted by: SJS | November 20, 2016

JFK RIP – 53 years and we still mourn

JFK 1944

On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy died from an assassin’s bullet during a trip to Dallas Texas.  Although this tragedy occurred over half a century ago, I remember the moment as if it happened yesterday.  I was twelve years old–a seventh grader–and it felt like the world had just been torn apart.  The intensity of those feelings and the level of grief that overwhelmed me were unlike anything I had ever experienced in my young life.

In the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, I am experiencing emotions that I have not had to contend with since this time period in 1963.  And this time around, those intense feelings have been–and continue to be–compounded by the fearful communications I receive daily from relatives, friends, and professional associates.  My relatives, friends, and colleagues in the Latino community, the Muslim community, the LGBT community, the immigrant community, and the African-American community are struggling mightily with the hate and threats that have been unleashed across the country since the election.

People are frightened and fearful to a degree I have never before experienced.  The grief and fear that emerged in the aftermath of the September 11th tragedy pales in comparison to what I am seeing these days.

As we mark the anniversary of President Kennedy’s death and prepare for our national holiday of Thanksgiving, may we all step back, take a deep breath, and remember the core values of our beloved nation.  The United States–a nation of immigrants–was founded on the principles of liberty and justice for all.  The presidency of JFK embodied the very best of who we are as a people.  How fortunate we were to have as his successor President Lyndon Baines Johnson who preserved and expanded Kennedy’s legacy–especially in the realms of civil rights and voting rights.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving this year, I am especially grateful for the memory of the courageous PT Skipper who served with heroism and selflessness during his Navy service in the South Pacific and went on to become the president.  May he rest in peace and may his example inspire and encourage us to always follow the better angels of our nature–as individuals and as a nation.



  1. Thank you so much for this post. It reflects my feelings exactly.
    I was a 10th grader when President Kennedy was shot. I remember exactly where I was.

    • Pierre, Merci. I am most grateful for your words. They reminded me that people all over the world were shaken deeply by the death of JFK. Remembering that tragic time, I recall the profound expressions of grief and support that came to America from France. The warmth and sympathy that came to us from the people of your great nation
      were greatly comforting to a young boy in Philadelphia who was drowning in sorrow and confusion over the loss of our president. Merci beaucoup.

      • Remembering the past by writing our blogs like we do, is the only way not to repeat the violence and the wars we now see in the world.

  2. Very well said, my friend. There is such power in the written word and the sharing of our experiences. Thanks again.

  3. Hi SJS, Red was a friend of my father’s and wasn’t he on my dad’s boat? My father was Ensign Theodore Berlin of PT 167- The “Who Me?” Your words resonate with me, as I wonder what my father would be saying about our country right now. Things are so far off the mark, I keep thinking that if he could come back right now, he would. The little irrational thoughts we have when we miss our parents! Best to You and as I just found your blog, now I look forward to reading your posts and talking to my brother about it. R. Berlin

    • Riki,

      How wonderful to get your thoughtful comment and learn that our fathers may have served together during WWII. Please share more with us about your dad’s PT career and which squadron (or squadrons) he served with during WWII. Red may well have served under Ensign Berlin’s command somewhere in the Med or in the South Pacific. PT 373 (Squadron 27) was the boat Red spoke the most about and I’ve had the good fortune of connecting with some of his former mates from that boat and that famous squadron (Ron).

      The deeper I have gone into the research and learned what my father experienced in WWII, the deeper the bond of respect and affection I have for him. Even though he’s been gone for over 17 years, my work on his USN history has drawn me closer to him and revealed things about him that I never knew (or could have imagined). The courage, boldness, and nimble thinking that got him through the war were characteristics I only saw in fleeting glimpses during my time of growing up. Only in the last few years of his life did he begin to move away (far away) from the generalized war stories he had told me when I was a child to an adult version of those same stories. And then the doctors found the spot on his lung and he was gone in less than six months from cancer in 1999. Only now as I dig deeper and tap into the complex layers of his PT experience do I encounter the more significant truths.

      Red had a strong vein of skepticism, a deep mistrust of con men and little patience for holding his tongue when confronted with people who abused their power and belittled others. All those traits where honed and sharpened during his days on the PT boats. And it is just those traits that inspire me now and they prompt me to take action. His memory compels me to get engaged as I have never been engaged before.

      Thanks again for checking in. Please share more about the service of Ensign Berlin. Great to have you aboard.


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