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PAIN OF KENNEDY'S DEATH STILL LINGERS.

Byline: DENNIS McCARTHY

Forty years, and it still hurts.

You try to watch the TV specials on the assassination of President Kennedy, but it's no use. You see that face, that incredible smile and confidence, and you can't make it to the first commercial.

You turn the channel and look for something mindless to watch because you want to escape the reality of this weekend. You don't want to go back again to Nov. 22, 1963, a wretched day when our dreams died with our president.

We were young and brash, and so damn confident because the guy leading us was, too. Anything was possible for any father and mother's child - black, brown, white, it didn't matter, he said.

Just follow me and believe, JFK said. And we did. He was headed toward Camelot, and we were all invited.

Would we have gotten there if he hadn't been assassinated? Maybe. Maybe not. But we'll never know because we never had the chance to find out.

That's why it still hurts so much 40 years later. Because we know how much we lost that day.

It's why it will hurt just as much 50, 60, 70 years later until all who followed him are gone, too.

All of us over 50 who remember the chill that ran through our bodies when John Fitzgerald Kennedy challenged us to ``Ask not...''

Spazier Avenue in Glendale. A one-block stretch between Glenoaks Boulevard and San Fernando Road.

The kid was 19, working as a mail carrier, trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.

He walked up to the first house on the block to put the mail through the slot. The screen door was open, and the TV set was on inside.

``My God,'' the woman watching TV said. ``The president's been shot.''

The kid stood there on the porch with a couple of letters in his hand waiting for the punch line. This had to be a joke, right? So where's the punch line?

It never came. By the time the kid got to the end of the block people were coming out of their homes crying and consoling each other.

``They're saying on TV he's dead,'' the woman in the last house on the block said. ``It can't be.''

No, it couldn't be. JFK dead? No way. There was still so much left he had to do for us, wanted to do for us. He couldn't be gone.

But there was Walter Cronkite on CBS in the middle of the day saying it was so.

The kid finished his postal route that day, but he still can't remember one delivery he made after the last house on Spazier Avenue. His mind was somewhere else, somewhere in Dallas.

He didn't go back to the post office after his route was over. He drove over to St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church in Burbank, and sat in one of the pews for an hour trying to make sense of it all.

People began wandering in, lost in their own thoughts. Hankerchiefs came out. Tissues came out. People cried. I cried.

It hurt so much. Forty years later, it still hurts.

Dennis McCarthy, (818) 713-3749

dennis.mccarthy(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 23, 2003
Words:538
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