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 911, 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?     

12 Responses to “A Little House Divided Becomes One United with a Country”

  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.