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The day the light went out across the Americas

December 2011

I don’t remember whether there was snow on the ground. I do remember climbing the hill from school to Sheree Letovsky’s apartment. It was Sheree Letovsky’s eighth birthday. It was Friday afternoon, and we were going to her birthday party.

Sheree’s older sister Carol ran down the hill toward us. “President Kennedy has been shot!”

As a kid and as a Canadian, the news didn’t mean much to me. Something had happened in the wider world. Our focus was on the birthday party. When we reached Sheree’s door, an early edition of The Montreal Star lay on the Welcome mat, reiterating her sister’s words.

U.S. President John F. Kennedy died Nov. 22, 1963. Photo: Aaron Shikler, Official White House portrait

At precisely 6pm, while the radio in the Letovsky apartment was being switched on to the news, my father came to collect me. Six o’clock in late November looked, and still looks, like midnight.

My dad stood in the dim hallway light of the apartment building corridor looking grief-stricken

At his feet, on the mat, lay a second edition of The Montreal Star: “President Kennedy Is Dead.”

What I remember on coming home was my weeping mother, and the harsh oval of light emanating from the open TV, and from the bulbs of lamps that dotted our darkened apartment. Mummy was crying. Daddy looked like he was going to cry, and my little brother Michael and I were soon close to tears. It felt like the TV was constantly on, that weekend.

That awful piece of film played over and over.

Daddy, devastated, was identifying with the slain leader born in the same year as he, whose wife was the same age as his wife, and whose first-born daughter and second-born son were almost the same age as his children.

On Sunday, we had tickets for the Ice Capades at the Forum. An official minute of silence was called for and the audience stood united, before the show commenced. The glinting silver blades on white ice and the silvery white costumes of the gliding skaters, who looked like large snowflakes, were the only light I can remember that day.

—Nadja Zajdman, a Senior Times reader.



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