For the next three days, we were absorbed - as was the rest of the country - in a story unlike any other in our lifetime. Not since the death of Franklin Roosevelt had Americans been so focused on a single event.
The significance of John Kennedy's life, presidency and murder has been discussed and debated by scholars and others for four decades. What would America and the world have been like had he lived? Would he have pulled "advisors" out of Vietnam, or would he have gotten us deeper into "the big muddy," as his successor, Lyndon Johnson, did? Would his brother, Bobby, and Martin Luther King Jr. been spared murder were it not for the ugliness unleashed by JFK's assassination? Such questions are the stuff of speculation and are unanswerable.
Is it trite to say that Kennedy's death was the end of our innocence? For some, all things seemed possible with Kennedy in the White House. When he died, most things seemed impossible. There was a sense we had been robbed of hope, and hope denied produces cynicism and despair, two viruses that continue to plague our culture.
Would we have degenerated into the kind of culture war we are engaged in today had Kennedy lived? Would "the '60s" have happened as they did? Again, it's impossible to say. Speaking as one who became a conservative and realizes that the "myth" of Camelot was exactly that, I still miss him. Even more, I miss much that was good in American life that seems to have perished with him.