The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


November 22, 2013

Unfulfilled potential | What would world be like had Kennedy lived?

JOHNSTOWN — Fifty years later, the date still resonates: Nov. 22, 1963.

It, like Dec. 7, 1941, before it and Sept. 11, 2001, after, is a date that lives in infamy for Americans. Those dates are touchstones for our lives and the mere mention of them brings back a flood of emotions for those who lived through them.

That much is evident by the letters on the accompanying page. Readers of The Tribune-Democrat were asked for their memories of that tragic day and they responded with vivid, detailed descriptions of what they were doing when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

So much has been written, filmed and discussed about that day during the past five decades that it’s easy to forgive those whose minds have melded footage of the shooting released much later with the TV coverage in the immediate aftermath. What we took from those letters – and so many other firsthand accounts – is the raw emotion that was felt. Tears flooded the faces of school children, housewives and, yes, even soldiers. Hardened journalists who thought they had seen and reported on everything in long and distinguished careers were stunned into silence. And a nation that had not experienced a presidential assassination in more than 62 years was left to grieve the death of a man that television had begun bringing into homes on a daily basis.

No one knows how the world would have changed if Kennedy had not been assassinated. America’s involvement in Vietnam might have been drastically different. The civil rights movement might have played out differently. The political landscape would have changed. And the social implications could have been tremendous.

Unfortunately, we never got the chance to find out what Kennedy, who polls consistently reveal as the most popular president of the past half century, would have done after that day. All of that potential was stolen from us in a matter of seconds.

It was a tragedy for an American president and the American people.

We hope that our nation never has to endure such a dark day again.

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