SOME OF YOU WON’T BE reading this until you’re safe at home following your much-anticipated Black Friday escapades. Over the years, what used to be known simply as the Friday after Thanksgiving has become so much more… more than just early rising bargain hunters trying to stretch those Christmas dollars. Now… it’s a happening! As sure as leftovers are for lunch, roving gangs of coupon-clutching customers annually watch the sunrise from their spot in the queue, sharing tales of Fridays past.
But the original black Friday had nothing to do with the lowest prices of the year.
Without much fanfare, Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It happened on a Friday in 1963. Though recollections of that day are gradually becoming less frequent, the consequences are still a part of our daily lives.
With apologies to Buddy Holly, November 22nd, 1963, was the day the music died… for an entire nation. With the suddenness of gunfire, everything changed, not unlike the way things changed after September 11th. The relative calm and comfort of the post-war days came to an end on that Friday in Dallas.
Few people alive on November 22nd, 1963 could recall having lived through something like that. Wars? Yes. But wars were, and still are, regularly scheduled. The assassination of a popular president was unthinkable. The last had occurred in 1901. 1901? If it happened pre-Walter Cronkite, we probably didn’t know about it. But thanks to the media of the day, and some of the most historic film ever shot, the murder of the president opened our eyes to a new reality.
The Kennedy assassination challenged our innocence. One very important person died that day, a far cry from the hundreds and thousands who’ve lost their lives in other national tragedies, but the impact of a nondescript, misguided man, taking the life of a world leader, far outweighed the day’s death toll. Assassination had suddenly become a form of free speech.
The original black Friday opened a wound that won’t stop bleeding. The people who lined the Dallas streets that day to witness JFK’s motorcade never expected to be the last to see their president in an open car, but they were.
Three years after Kennedy was murdered, a lone gunman killed 17 people and injured another 31 as he fired on them from a clock tower on the campus of the University of Texas. Later in that decade we lived through the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From 1963 until today, assassinations of prominent figures, as well as mass killings of innocent people, have become such a regular occurrence that we’re no longer shocked or surprised… just saddened.
Friday, November 22nd, 1963, turned out to be ground zero for the disregard of human life we’ve somehow come to accept, and through inaction, facilitate.
Can we ever recover what we lost that day? If nothing else, we should hope we can. Without hope, and the commensurate social and political will, more black days are sure to come.
“Never forget” is a mantra often heard after national tragedies. May we never forget Friday, November 22nd, 1963… the original black Friday.