|
|
The Lake News Online
  • Remembering a fallen president's legacy

  • It was a moment that he will never forget and still brings tears to his eyes 50 years later. Francis Carr, now a resident of Sunrise Beach, was at his East Orange, N.J. insurance office going through files when a colleague walked in and told him that somebody had shot President John F. Kennedy.
    • email print
  • It was a moment that he will never forget and still brings tears to his eyes 50 years later. Francis Carr, now a resident of Sunrise Beach, was at his East Orange, N.J. insurance office going through files when a colleague walked in and told him that somebody had shot President John F. Kennedy.
    Friends with opposing political views, Carr initially thought his co-worker was joking but as he looked at him began to realize the announcement was no friendly jab.
    He took a radio out of his desk drawer that he had brought to work the month before to listen to the World Series.
    The radio confirmed that the 46-year-old president was dead. Carr locked up his desk and went home in tears.
    Three years before at age 27, the recent political science graduate of Rutgers University had worked for Kennedy's campaign in Newark. Raised Catholic, a veteran, Carr related to Kennedy, and wanted to take part in the real-life political process rather than just reading about it in a book.
    But Kennedy's appeal was more than that, says Carr, it was the man himself.
    "The aura, if you will, that surrounded him, the charm, the bearing, the fact that he was a war hero" all made the difference, he says.
    Then, suddenly, the hero was dead.
    Carr went home to his wife who was expecting to give birth to their first child in a matter of days. She too had heard the news and was in tears.
    "It was horrible, unbelievable," Carr recalls.
    A friend who had gotten married just the day before stopped by for a visit after their honeymoon celebrations in New York City were cut short by the tragedy.
    The city shut down in the wake of the assassination like somebody had slammed the door, says Carr. His friends brought news that there was no partying, no shows - nothing.
    "The four of us sat by the TV, afraid to look at it but unwilling to turn it off. We just sat there crying," he says.
    The feeling of intense sorrow pervaded Carr and the country with nothing else getting done for a week.
    Shock after shock ensued as former-Marine-turned-communist Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the crime and later shot to death at close range in full view of the public by Jack Ruby.
    Carr's first child, a son, was born Dec. 5. Now every year, his birthday brings back all the "yin and yang of what we were feeling at that time - the joy of the baby but the tragedy of losing a president," Carr says.
    Page 2 of 2 - Soon though, in the winter of 1963-64, the nation began facing the future once more as a new normal began to develop.
    "A lot of things changed immediately after, but it's hard to put a time frame on it now," Carr says. "I think we've become less naive maybe - that's the closest word I can think of. We were more ... trusting of those in power. And I think we were happier until that day. I don't know if we've ever got back that feeling since - the feeling pre-assassination. It was a totally different world."
    The possible silver lining from the dark clouds over the U.S. after the assassination was the passage of the Civil Right Act, Carr believes.
    "Sometimes I assuage my horror and sorrow as to his passing by the fact I think that it might have had something to do with Johnson being able to get it passed with bipartisan support and not much trouble," he says.
    Prior to the assassination, it had been thought that the bill would face a major battle in Congress, and was one reason why Kennedy had gone to Texas.
    Conspiracy theories over the assassination have abounded over the years and continue to populate the American imagination though the Warren Commission ruled that Oswald acted alone.
    A former insurance investigator, Carr is also not completely sold on the Warren Commission's findings - unsure that Oswald acted alone or that he even did it at all.
    Oswald was considered an average performer with a rifle while in the Marine Corps, yet a news report 10 years after the assassination showed that one of the highest rated rifle instructors with the Marines couldn't duplicate the three shots fired at Kennedy in the same time frame, says Carr.
    "I spent 40 years as an investigator looking into claims. That raises the hair on the back of my neck," he says. "It's not that the Warren Commission didn't do a good investigation. They talked to everyone they could. [Oswald] could have just been lucky, but even after 50 years it makes you wonder."
      • calendar