Friday, November 19, 2010

Recollections of JFK

Sometimes in life there seems to be a thread hooking all the twists and turns together that causes a person to end up at a particular place at a given time. Maybe that’s how I ended up in a TV lounge at Naval Air Station in Brunswick, ME, on Oct 22, 1962, and in Dallas on Nov 22, 1963. If I figure it out, I’ll e-mail you.

I was about 19, in the Navy and glued to the TV along with everyone else when President Kennedy came on and gave his Cuban Missile Crisis speech. I joined the Navy to see the world. They didn’t say nothing about nuclear war. We were put on full alert (DEFCON 3 maybe), and everyone held their breath for 10 days or so.

That year I was in a Submarine Patrol Squadron and would sometimes volunteer for training flights to get out of my regular work. I wasn’t really a crew member. My job was to make coffee, pass out box lunches, and look out the window (forward observer).

On one of these flights we landed at Quonset Point, RI, and guess who else landed and parked near us? Air Force One. We ended up being part of the reception and got to see JFK walk off the plane.

Later in 1963 – after a three-month cruise on an aircraft carrier – I was discharged from the service, rambled around a bit and then got a trucking job.

It was Nov. 22, 1963. I was on my very first trucking job. I was traveling south on the Stemmons Freeway in Dallas with a load of brick going somewhere when I met all these lights, sirens, motorcycle cops and limos going the other way. I remember at the time knowing the president was in town and this must be his motorcade, but I didn’t have a clue as to what had just happened.

They were on their way to Parkland Memorial Hospital. If you think that was a dark day wherever you were, you should have been in Dallas …

Fast forward 45 years to our visit to the Pima Air Museum in Tucson, AZ, a truck friendly place about a mile from the Triple T Truck Stop. They have a few retired Air Force Ones there and one of those is open to go inside. It was one that JFK used. I wondered when I stepped out of that airplane in Tucson, was that the same plane I saw JFK walk out of in Rhode Island in 1963?