Family members visited President Kennedy's grave site in Arlington National Cemetery Saturday.
His daughter, Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, his brother, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, and others knelt before the eternal flame that is a memorial to the late president and laid flowers on the stones.
It was 40 years ago, on November 22, 1963, that Kennedy was killed in Dallas. He was 46.
President Bush, reflecting on Kennedy's assassination, said the country still has “a feeling of loss that defies the passing of years.”
“America still misses our 35th president,” Bush said.
“John F. Kennedy has been gone nearly as long as he lived, yet the memory of him still brings pride to our nation and a feeling of loss that defies the passing of years,” Bush said in a statement Friday.
“We remember a man who welcomed great responsibilities and had a gift for awakening the idealism and sense of duty in others,” Bush said. “We remember a leader who called our nation to high purpose, and saw America through grave dangers with calm, discernment and personal courage.”
A Day of Tears, Tributes for JFK
Thousands Visit Grave, 40 Years After Assassination
Forty years later, the tears still came quickly for many of the thousands who ventured up the Arlington National Cemetery hillside yesterday to grieve and honor the memory of John F. Kennedy.
They came to the former president's grave site, some with just-like-yesterday memories of the shock of his assassination on November 22, 1963. Others came with a deep affection for or curiosity about a leader they know from history books and parents' stories.
Forty white roses were strewn atop the Cape Cod granite stones that mark his grave site, left by Kennedy family members during a private morning prayer service. Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop of Washington, led the family — including Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg and her husband and three children, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Robert F. Kennedy's widow, Ethel — in prayers near the eternal flame that has burned since Jacqueline Kennedy lit it the day of her husband's funeral.
By mid-afternoon, after an estimated 5,000 people had trekked quietly up the hill — tourists by the busload, young families, older couples and student groups — visitors started placing flowers on top of other flowers on the grave. Kennedy is buried there with his wife, who died in 1994, and his infant son and a stillborn daughter.
About three dozen people had gathered before 8 a.m., when the public was allowed to enter, hoping to be among the first to visit. Among them was Richard Baulcomb, 43, who had traveled from Sussex, England, to pay tribute to a leader whose loss he said is still mourned worldwide. He and his wife, Lorraine, would have come twice the distance, he said, though both were toddlers when Kennedy was killed.
“There's a longing still for someone like him to be with us again,” Baulcomb said. “That's why people are coming here in droves. Seldom today do you hear presidents say the things he did. I hope one day a person comes here, will be inspired by his words, and lead this country to greater things, as he did.”
Shari Francis, a high school senior when the president was shot, paused to read Kennedy's 1961 inaugural address, engraved near the tomb, and wiped a tear.
” . . . with a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love.”
Francis said Kennedy showed her that the country was not just white, middle-class families like those in her snug St. Louis neighborhood, and that presidents did not have to be cynical people.
“With his presidency, I realized there were other people in our country who were being mistreated and discriminated against,” she said. “I was just becoming aware that leadership could make a difference, that a president could be more than just a figurehead.”
Tears spilled from Peter Langmore's eyes as he stepped away from the grave. Langmore, 58, a former Kennedy campaign worker, had driven 11 hours on Friday from Stokes Bay, Ontario, to honor the person whose philosophies, he said, led him to a career in charity fundraising.
“I just believed in this president so much,” Langmore said. “He believed in the equality of everybody.”
Terri Bearman, 50, said she comes to the grave every five years to remind herself of the hopefulness of that era. “It was the last time I was really proud of my president and my government,” she said.
One visitor left on the grave a framed picture of the smiling president and his wife in her pink suit — taken minutes before Lee Harvey Oswald shot at the president's convertible in a motorcade through Dallas. Others left notes, flags of different countries, and bunches of pansies, roses, lilies and carnations.
Edward Kennedy, in a statement on behalf of the Kennedy family, thanked those who keep his brother's memory: “It means a great deal to all the members of my family to see such an enormous outpouring of respect and affection for President Kennedy on this still heartbreaking anniversary.”
Yesterday evening, the senator was among the hundreds of people who attended a Mass for the slain president at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in the District, where Kennedy's funeral Mass was conducted.
A choir accompanied by organ and harp resounded through the recently renovated cathedral.
“It was like going back in time,” said Everett Kinsman of Bethesda, who was a member of the 1963 choir that sang during the funeral Mass. He recalled looking into the audience 40 years ago and seeing a host of foreign dignitaries. The country has not has Kennedy's caliber of leadership since, he said.
Sharon Whittle of the District said after the service that she was 14 when Kennedy died and was so moved by his idealism that she campaigned for his brother Robert. “Now I'm an educator,” Whittle said, partly because of Kennedy's call to public service. “I took that seriously.”
Not all those at the grave site had personal memories of the president. At 36, Tom Burke was born after Kennedy died, but was fascinated by stories from his parents, who married the day after the assassination. Burke stopped with his wife, Kim, and their children, on a car trip from Durham, N.C., to Boston, saying he had retold the stories to their 6-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son.
For a group of eighth-graders from rural Indiana, the visit started a seminar on what qualities make a great leader. They admitted they knew little about Kennedy other than, as Shedana Par, 13, said: “He was trying to do good things and got shot in his convertible.”
Alicia Antonia, who recently moved to the United States from Colombia, said through an interpreter that Kennedy is beloved in her native country. “Yes, I like Kennedy very much,” she then said, without translation. “Respect very much.”
While the Eternal Flame burns at the grave site for President John F. Kennedy
at Arlington National Cemetery, the sun begins to rise over Washington, November 22, 2003
On the 40th anniversary of his death, members of the Kennedy family gather at
dawn to pray beside the grave of slain President John F. Kennedy, right, and his
wife, first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, left, in Arlington National Cemetery, Saturday,
November 22, 2003.
From right to left in front row are: Victoria Kennedy, the wife of Sen. Edward Kennedy
JFK's brother Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow,
JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, her son John Schlossberg, husband Edwin
Schlossberg, daughters Rose Schlossberg, and Tatiana Schlossberg.
A picture of President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy near their
graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, November 22, 2003.
U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, surrounded by his family, lays a flower on the
grave of his brother President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, November 22, 2003.
Senator Edward Kennedy lays flowers on the grave of his brother, slain
President John F. Kennedy, in Arlington National Cemetery on the 40th anniversary of the
assassination in Dallas, Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003. Behind him in front row are, from right, his wife,
Victoria Kennedy, Robert Kennedy's widow Ethel Kennedy, JFK's daughter Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg,
her son John Schlossberg, her husband Edwin Schlossberg, and daughters Tatiana
and Rose Schlossberg.
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, the daughter of slain President John F. Kennedy, kneels to
place flowers on his grave in Arlington National Cemetery
Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, (C) surrounded by her family, kneels before the eternal
flame marking the grave of her father President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery, November 22, 2003.
From L-R in front row: Rose, Tatiana, Edwin and Jack Schlossberg, Caroline, Ethel Kennedy,
Senator Ted Kennedy and Victoria Kennedy. Others are not identified.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy.
The gravesite of the assassinated US President John F. Kennedy
at Arlington National Cemetery
Flowers brought by members of the Kennedy family lay on the grave of slain President
John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, Saturday, November 22, 2003.
Representative Patrick Kennedy, right, kneels to place flowers on the grave of his uncle,
slain President John F. Kennedy, in Arlington National Cemetery on the 40th anniversary of the
assassination in Dallas, Saturday, November 22, 2003. President Kennedy's daughter Caroline Kennedy
Schlossberg stands in front of the grave of her mother, Jacqueline Kennedy, at left.
Beth Kennedy, wife of former Representative Joseph Kennedy, is at far left
Visitors at the John F. Kennedy Memorial watch the Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery,
On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas,
visitors pay their respects at Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery, Saturday, November 22,
2003. Members of the slain president's family visited in private at dawn before the cemetery was opened to the public.
On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
in Dallas, Frank Papaycik of Haddonfield, New Jersey, kneels at the eternal flame at the gravesite
of Kennedy and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy, as visitors pay their respects, in Arlington National Cemetery
Saturday, November 22, 2003. Papaycik attended Kennedy's inauguration in Washington in 1961
On the 40th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy
in Dallas, visitors pay their respects at Kennedy's gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003
On the 40th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy, visitors, including this
Muncie, Indiana, high school tour group, walk up the hill leading to the Kennedy
gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery Saturday, Nov. 22, 2003.
On a balmy fall day, thousands of people found their way to the
Kennedy grave site on an Arlington hillside.
Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard