I recall more keenly, or in a different way, what happened at 1 p.m. Nov. 22, 1963. I wasn’t living in the U.S., but in Olivos, a suburb north of Buenos Aires, Argentina.
My husband was working for the U.S. Information Service in Buenos Aires, and I was teaching English at the Lincoln School, better known as the American Community School in La Lucila. Uniquely it was bilingual – the morning half-day in English and at noon the Spanish staff arrived, requiring all be in Spanish.
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was substituting for the principal of the English school. My office was next door to the principal of the Spanish school. We were violently interrupted by Javier: “Señora! Señora!” His small janitor’s radio had just announced the death of President Kennedy: “El presidente Kennedy es muerto.”
We were stunned. What about our students? In 10 minutes the young bus passengers were to be taken home – several hundred of them in a dozen buses, going to the riverside suburbs. There was no way our students could learn the awful news, nor ride on a bus with hysterical, shocked and weeping schoolmates.
We gave immediate instructions to the drivers, and then school was out: no word, and that was successful. But the evening, the family stressed, poor TV reception, and the question “how can that be.”
The need to share overwhelmed us. Neighbors, from our own country and many more, dropped by, and we sought like comfort.
We saw a small, timid maid from next door knocking at the door. We heard her sob and utter the Spanish “Mi sentido pésame, señora.” She was offering her deep sympathy and so, too, were the other macamas (maids), the live-in Paraguayans who lived nearby, and they cried and held my hand.
“Mi sentido pésame, señora.”