Excerpt: Chapter 4 ALTERED STATE page 58 – 60 (Nov. 22, 1963)

Excerpt: Chapter 4 ALTERED STATE page 58 (Nov. 22, 1963) Finding Heaven In The Dark, A Memoir by William L. Ingram 

On November 22, I stayed home for a rest. I wasn’t deathly ill,
but I had a cold. My attendance had been good, and I convinced
myself that I needed time off. I was still in my pajamas and robe
when I heard a knock at the back door. It was a minister from Shiloh
Baptist Church. He had come to give my mother a “love offering” of
money for playing the piano for choir rehearsal.

My mother struggled to maintain some semblance of emotional
and mental equilibrium. She was in deep pain, and all her medications
couldn’t touch it. She hadn’t gotten out of bed much during that
week, and I think some of her friends were concerned about her. The
reverend had come by to counsel and pray for her, if she would speak
with him.

Ma pulled herself together, and soon she and the reverend were
having a cup of tea in the kitchen. I could faintly hear their voices as I sipped my tea and watched television in the living room. All
three channels were covering the president’s visit to Dallas, Texas.
President John F. Kennedy was on a tour of the Southern states for
the Democratic party to shore up support for his reelection run.
Along with the president in Dallas was Vice President Lyndon
Johnson—a native son of Texas and a long-time Democratic power

President Kennedy was a relatively young man. He and his lovely
wife, Jacqueline, worked hard to win the respect and admiration of
most Americans and others around the world. His run for the nomination
and presidency against Richard Nixon was the first political
campaign that I had any interest in. The drama of the scion from a
New England family was captivating; he was a war hero, married to
an elegant, lovely lady. When the subtle bigotry against Catholicism
was factored (which made Kennedy an underdog), the stage was set
for a nail-biting election.

The leader of the free world and his lovely wife rode in an open
limousine; they acknowledged adoring citizens and spectators that
lined their journey. Suddenly, the presidential motorcade sped up and
left the plaza in confusion and disarray.

“The president has been shot!” the correspondent exclaimed. Few
generations had ever heard these words in their lifetimes.
Then, almost as if to confirm his own disbelief, the reporter
announced the news grievously: “President Kennedy has been shot.”
I echoed his words loudly and without thinking. “The President’s
been shot!”

Ma and the reverend stopped their conversation in the kitchen
and hovered by the stairs at the edge of the living room. We watched
silently as Walter Cronkite and others recounted the events of the past
few minutes. It was a surreal experience that I knew millions of others
were experiencing simultaneously. My mother cried softly, and
the reverend dabbed at his eyes; he kept saying, “I can’t believe it,” as
he shook his head.

Soon, the reverend departed, and ma returned to the dark comfort
of her room. I continued to watch the black-and-white images on the
TV screen, mesmerized by the events of living history parading
before me. Before long came the famous moment when Walter Cronkite removed his eyeglasses and stated, as calmly and professionally
as possible, that President Kennedy was dead.

Like the rest of the nation and the world, I watched the events of
the next few days unfold and spill into our lives via TV and radio. I
followed every twist and turn as authorities and reporters worked
tirelessly to piece together fragments of clues into a picture that we
tried to make sense of.

Lee Harvey Oswald was captured, and his wife and mother were
interviewed. Then, Jack Ruby thrust himself into the national nightmare
as we anxiously watched the president’s alleged killer being
transported from the Dallas jailhouse to his arraignment. Clearly visible
to all viewers, Jack Ruby pumped bullets into the body of
Oswald! Oswald died, and Ruby was jailed. The conspiracy theories
evolved exponentially— like germs—dividing and subdividing as
soon as they were born.

Other images swirled around in the vortex of that terrible time:
the swearing in of Vice President Johnson as President of the United
States; the former first lady, Mrs. Kennedy, in her still blood-splattered
dress at the hurried induction; and later, Mrs. Kennedy, in dignified
elegance with her children by her side, viewing the passing
casket of the nation’s president before a still-stunned world.

Excerpt: Chapter 4 ALTERED STATE page 58 (Nov. 22, 1963) Finding Heaven In The Dark, A Memoir by William L. Ingram 


Published by William L. Ingram

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