I used to live in Dallas, Texas. For a few years as a child, and then again as a young adult, and yes, I lived there on that day.
I was just five years old, but I do have a few clear memories of the day, and days afterward. In the years that followed, I got plenty of strange looks, many less than intellectual types blamed every citizen in Texas, and Dallas in particular, for the assassination of a president who was at the lowest point of approval in his career.
It helped me realize, later in life, that all Japanese people were not responsible for Pearl Harbor or the horrible conditions in Japanese POW camps. All Germans were not responsible for the Holocaust, all Muslims not responsible for 9/11. Through the years I found myself attracted to friendships outside my normal circles. I learned to appreciate and respect cultures foreign to my own.
My family moved to the bay area, just in time for me to witness the summer of love, then down to Orange County California so I wasn’t far fro Robert Kennedy’s assassination. I was in Ventura, California during the Sylmar earhquake, and I wasn’t far from Three Mile Island when they injected the word “meltdown” into the vocabulary. On 9/11 I was well up one of Philadelphia’s “twin towers”, and watched the horror from a hundred miles away.
The one thing that really stuck with me as a prejudice was when John Lennon was murdered. Manhattan had been a playground during High School, it wasn’t uncommon to skip school and take the train in. I loved driving in the city, and navigated the streets with joy. After 8 December 1980, I didn’t enter Manhattan again for over twenty years.
In 1980 I was living in the Poconos. Devon was just a year old, we had built a house on the mountainside overlooking the Susquehanna river. I’ve never been that much into football so I hadn’t seen the game the night before, when Howard Cosell told the world. I went out on the morning of 9 December to warm the car, I would back out of the garage and listen to an AM station from Nova Scotia while the car warmed. That’s how I heard, in the cold dark morning.
I was never really a New York guy in the sense that was popular, the glitzy club type. I liked the earthiness of the village, some of the more honest aspects of city life. I blamed New York City for John Lennon’s death, even though the city had nothing to do with it. I needed an object for my anger, much like the nation blamed Dallas for Kennedy’s death.
It wasn’t Dallas, it wasn’t some vast conspiracy, it was one man on his way to meet his maker. It wasn’t New York City, it was man on his way to an asylum.
When we remember their names we make them more than what they were, but it is important to remember they were alone.