Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Letters to Jackie

Yesterday I listened to a news story about a book that will be coming out soon called "Letters To Jackie".  Ellen Fitzpatrick is now a history professor at the University of New Hampshire.  On Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Ellen Fitzpatrick was an 11-year-old sixth-grader in Amherst, Mass.  She was just one year younger than I was.  I was twelve and I was sitting in my 7th grade History class when our principal's voice came over the loud speaker and told us what had happened.  He solemnly told us to gather our things and go home.  I lived about a mile or so from school and walked home to watch TV with my Mom.  When I left school he had not been pronounced dead, but as I watched with my Mom Walter Cronkite made the announcement while holding back tears.  I don't have a memory of when we were allowed to go back to school.  I just remember being in shock for days as we watched it all unfold on TV.  That was the beginning of many shocking events to follow over the next several years.  Little did I know then that 15 years later on the same day, that I would give birth to twin boys.  Our first son died the same day and our other son died nine days later.
I am glad that Ms Fitzpatrick has taken the time and effort involved in putting this book together.  I know I will be reading it.  The following quotes are some that I found on the internet.
"I found it extremely shocking," says Fitzpatrick, now a history professor at the University of New Hampshire. "It made me realize how quickly an event can change everything. There's a wonderful quote that you're not really grown up until you lose something you love. I grew up on that (day)."
So did millions of other Americans. Many of them wrote letters to Kennedy's young widow, Jackie, sharing their grief. The first lady, who was left with two small children and who was sitting next to her husband in the presidential limousine when he was shot in Dallas, received more than 800,000 condolence letters, cards and telegrams within the first two months of his death. Within two years, she would receive 1.5 million.
For more than 40 years, many of the letters sat in boxes, unread and unexamined, until Fitzpatrick took a closer look.
"Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation" is the product of Fitzpatrick's research into how people felt during this tragic period in America's history.

"I wanted to find a way to recapture how Americans thought of (Kennedy) in the moment," says Fitzpatrick, 57. "But how do you do that? And then I remembered the condolence letters."
So for five months, Fitzpatrick visited the Kennedy Library in Boston daily and read letters.
The library houses about 200,000 pages of the letters. The National Archives pulped all but a representative sample because of storage limitations. All foreign mail was kept, along with about 15,000 letters from Americans. "I read every one of them," she says.
After choosing the 250 she includes in the book, she began contacting the correspondents if they were still alive or, if not, their families.
Sometimes it is useful to revisit the past.  Especially when it has historical significance such as this.

5 comments:

Sandy said...

That brought back memories. I was in my 8th grade English class, my dad had shown up to the office to pick me up for an orthodontist appointment in LA. We listened to the news all the way there and back. So sad.

And how difficult, how sad, to lose twin boys, oh wow, I feel for you!!

Have you shared much about that before on any of your blogs.

Rudee said...

I remember that day vividly, too. I look forward to reading this book. Thanks for pointing me to it, Brenda.

Brenda said...

Sandy,
Yes...I did a post about them a couple of years ago on my ageing wisdom blog that I had to remove because it wouldn't update. I checked it out and you left a comment. I can see those old blogs, but I can't seem to revive them on my profile. But...at least they are still there somewhere.

Gramma Ann said...

I remember that day, I was 23 years old. I was standing in the living room ironing away, with the TV on for entertainment, and they interrupted the show with the news. And the rest is history...

My heart goes out to you on the lose of your darling twin boys. How sad, I can't ever began to imagine the pain you must have gone through and still do. I hope time has helped you to heal.

Ann

Renie Burghardt said...

I, too, remember that day vividly. I was vaccuming, and heard the phone ring. Someone calling to turn on my TV set. And the rest is history!

So sad to read about the loss of your twin boys, Brenda. I can't even imagine the pain of such a loss.

Renie

Clifford 1994 to 2009

Clifford   1994 to 2009
The Best Dog Ever