If you were born as part of the post-World War II baby boom, you remember where you were on November 22, 1963. This year, the events of 50 years ago—maybe more so than ever before—strike me as so surreal that they should be part of a fantasy, or a bad nightmare.
I was headed to a doctor's office when the news came on the radio. My mother started crying in the front seat. And, as we waited for the appointment, I can remember the adults in the room were just in shock. We spent the next two days glued to the television, witnessing a true national tragedy. This was America. How could such a thing happen in our country?
The National Geographic Channel will air a docudrama this weekend, Killing Kennedy, starring Rob Lowe as President Kennedy, and Ginnifer Goodwin as First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. Mercifully, it steers clear of the seemingly endless stream of conspiracy theories about who killed the president, 50 years of wild stories that have laid the blame at the feet of everyone from the Mafia, pro-Vietnam military officers, Cuba, the Soviet Union and disgruntled segregationists. At some point in the last 50 years, the attempts to explain that day have done more to muddy the waters around the event than provide any lasting proof of anything. For more on the conspiracy tales, check out "The Darkest Day" in the Nov/Dec issue of Cigar Aficionado, written by Peter Kornbluh.
Killing Kennedy focuses on the things we do know. The reason for President Kennedy's trip. The shooting. Lee Harvey Oswald's murder of a Dallas policeman. His subsequent assassination by Jack Ruby. We are not spared the now widely accepted rumors about JFK's dalliances with women other than the First Lady, nor does the film avoid the death of their newborn son Patrick or the president's own health problems with his bad back. In the end, probably to the chagrin of some historians, the film burnishes the image of the Kennedy White House as Camelot, an image that has endured through the decades.
The film is based on the book, Killing Kennedy, by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard. It stars Lowe as JFK, Goodwin as Jackie, Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald and Will Rothhaar as Lee Harvey Oswald. The performances are outstanding, and the retelling of the events is heart-wrenching.
If you were alive that day, and have memories of hearing about the shooting, seeing Jackie leaving the plane in her blood stained dress and watching the funeral march in Washington D.C., you will be moved to tears. Tune in on Sunday night, November 10 at 8 p.m. EST, on the National Geographic Channel.