A Little House Divided Becomes One United with a Country

Politics were divided in our little house, but in November 1963 we were all united 


For many Americans of a certain age, today is a very emotional one. Almost no one alive on this date in 1963 could not tell you where they were when they heard the news that John F. Kennedy, president of the United States, had been shot.

I wasn’t yet born, but the anniversaries have always evoked the same sadness from me as it has many who were.

My mother was having one of her many coffee klatches with two of her best friends and neighbors who also lived on our street of little bungalows. She was pregnant with me, nearly 8 months along, when they saw the breaking news on the black and white television.

She told the story of how they watched in horror and disbelief, tears streaming down their faces.

Like many of us who felt the same shock on 9-11, they did not know what was happening to our country, whether the country was at war or what the future would hold for them or their children, or for the baby my mom was about to have.

The news was so devastating that it gave my mother premature contractions, something the doctors were able to stop until nearly a month later.

Perhaps my mother’s grief on that day passed to me genetically and became a permanent part of my DNA, but I’ve never been able to study, read or watch anything about this event without getting emotional.

However, that is not the only thing I took from that tragic day that I cannot even remember.

People say we’ve never been as divided as a nation as we are today. But, the truth is that we’ve always had our ideological differences.

The 1960 election was the closest in the 20th century, President Kennedy edged out Richard Nixon by just 112,000 votes.

A nation divided, as our own little bungalow was in Turner, Kansas. My mother was for Kennedy, my father for Nixon.

I can imagine they had very spirited discussions in their little house about what should be happening in the big house in Washington.

Yet, after that day in Dallas, both of my parents mourned, because it was not just a man that was killed on that day; a political party or ideology attacked; it was an attack on the office of the President, on our nation and on our Democracy.

The discussions in that small space were less spirited following those days in 1963, because my parents remembered that we can still have differences and yet all still be Americans.

Those who write history or speak of this day have said that our country was forever changed after those shots were fired; an innocence was lost.

That may be true.

But what did not change is our resolve for our country remain solid.

John F. Kennedy left his own legacy, but so did the citizens who mourned him.

On November 22, 1963 and in the days and months afterward, like my parents, our nation forgot their differences and came together to respect the ideals upon which this country was founded. Those Americans came together in resolve that while we may have our differences, we are still a country united.

If my parents could do it in 800-square feet and the res of the citizens of the United States  could do it,  then we should also be able to pick up their legacy.

“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” ~John F. Kennedy

What do you think this day in 1963 taught our country?     

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12 Responses

  1. merr says:

    Talk about a macro event being felt on the micro level. So significant.

    • Kerri says:

      Yes. Of course, the events of that day affected the president’s family the most, but it was felt on so many levels throughout the world.

  2. I will never forget the chilling words that came over our school P.A. system that day, announcing that President Kennedy was dead. I was only in first grade, so did not fully understand what was happening. I remember the entire class of first graders sitting in stunned silence, as our teacher buried her face in her hands and wept. As a child, I think that is what most impacted me, the fact that all of the most important adults in my life, the people I looked to for security and comfort, were themselves so distraught and sad. It was a collective mourning and grief and that I did not experience again until 9/11. As I watch all of the coverage of that day in 1963, I’m really impressed at how many people, Democrats and Republicans alike, recognize the special qualities, the aspiration to greatness, that John F. Kennedy embodied and espoused. It gives me hope that perhaps we can ultimately overcome our differences and collectively agree on fundamental principles and values, then work at expressing them in our public policies, and give our children and grandchildren a country and a continuing vision to be proud of and emulate.

  3. Kerri,
    It gave me chills to read about both of your parents mourning.

  4. This is so beautifully written. And what a great quote at the end. That day, I was in first grade and my mom picked me up at school. Everyone’s mom was there so I knew something had happened. Everyone seemed frightened. I remember watching the funeral and it made me cry.

  5. Jane Boursaw says:

    I was only 3, but it just seems like I have a vague memory of the adults in our house being upset. Such a tragedy for our nation and world.

  6. Sheryl says:

    That day is so very clear to me, still. It’s hard to believe it was so long ago. But then again, major (esp. bad) events have a way of becoming permanently etched in your mind.