When his brother was killed, I was only eight, too young to understand much about politics, world events, or the enormity of the tradgedy. But by the time he ran for the presidency, I was thirteen, starting to take interests in world events, and politics in particular. My father didn't like him---he didn't like his position on the war,or his views on Isreal. I did, and constantly argued with my dad about this.
I was sure he'd be the next president. I listened to his speeches and felt a surge of hope, hope that we could get out of the war, hope that we could come together as a people, that we could overcome the things that divide us. My cousin sent me a blue button with"Kennedy '68" on it; I broke the dress code on the last day of school, wearing it proudly pinned on a staw hat. Totally worth the trip to the principal's office.
I watched TV with my father that June night forty years ago, as Bobby spoke to his supporters, following his win of the California primary. Then I went to bed. Not long after, my dad came and brought me back out to the TV; "Senator Kennedy's been shot".
We watched the news and said the rosary (hey, we were Catholics---that's what we did when there was nothing else to do). He was still alive--maybe if I prayed enough, he'd recover.
The next day, there was another rosary at the church; I chose instead to go to the neighborhood pool, where I said my own rosary doing quiet laps in the nearly deserted water. With each lap, my fear increased----the hope that he would not leave us was beginning to slip away.
At bedtime, I made a final attempt, constructing my very own long, garbled prayer, filled with bargains with God. I slept fitfully, dreaming of coffins and symbols of death. When I woke up that morning, I already knew;
he didn't make it.
I went to the kitchen where I saw my mother, eyes red-rimmed. "He died last night", she told me. My father sat at the table, his head in his hands. "What's happening to us?" he said. "What the HELL IS HAPPENING TO US?"