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AUGUST 1999 | VOL. 3, NO. 8



THAT"S LIFE

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ANJULEYES, a freelance humor writer, lives with her family Upstate NY. She graduated Stony Brook University in 1982 with an Italian Degree. When she's not writing, she enjoys online gaming, wordgames, photography and acting. She is a contributing writer to Renaissance Online Magazine.

Personal Website: "a not so angelic look at life through Anjul's eyes... what the heck are you laughing at?"


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The Day the Music Died

ANJULEYES

I turned the news on, and they said John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane was missing.

I silently drank my coffee, listening to the rest of the details.

Looking over at my daughter eating her cereal, happy, humming and scooping 0's, I remembered I was about her age the day we heard about JFK.

Only I wasn't in the country, listening to birds singing and mowers outside my window.

One of the top ten trivia questions asked: "Where were you on that day". Brooklyn, New York, November 22, 1963: a melting pot of immigrants... hot and steamy in the summers, and so were the temperaments.

You could play, run wild in the streets then. There were always a few moms sitting on the stoop, or hanging out windows chatting, keeping vigilance. If it happened to be your mom who was on duty, your friends usually circled and hid you, or you learned the fine art of hiding in the apartment foyers, so you wouldn't be "called in". Being "called in" while you were playing was akin to getting a shot at the doctors. You knew it had to happen eventually, but you tried to put if off as long as you could.

A day like any other, we were playing a game of "climb the mailbox" when we heard the first wail. Mrs. Caspagna, Mary's mom, coming out of her apartment..wringing her hands in her apron, using it as a handkerchief wiping her eyes, crying. I climbed down off the mailbox..stood with my friends and watched as more people came out of their apartments.. yelling, crying, mass confusion. We couldn't imagine what happened. We stood together in a tight circle, watching. "Il presidente e perduto.....perduto..... "Mrs. Caspagna sitting on her stoop now, crying.. her youngest children crying now too, confused. Other people gathered together, hugging, yelling, waiting, listening to the news.

The sound of radio stations poured out of every window.. a steady drone recounting the tragedy in different language. Within an hour, shop owners began closing shop. We watched as the fruit vendor drew the tarps over his goods. Mr. Gaspare the butcher drew the heavy iron gates across his storefront. Crazy Joe, the neighborhood hotdog vendor, stood together with the butcher, arms folded, silent.

I thought it odd they were together. We kids usually had a lot of fun watching the butcher chase Crazy Joe away from his shop, shaking his fist at him because Crazy Joe took his customers away. Yet they stood together today, just wondering. Wondering how their world had changed.

I went home and found my mother watching television. She had arrived home from her factory job about half hour earlier.

The report kept showing a parade with a long car and a man and a woman. It kept showing the same piece, over and over. The man was smiling and waving. Then, he fell over, and the woman was crawling, crawling all over the car.

My mother was crying. I took her hand and held it. I didn't know what else to do.

Numbness settled over the street. Husbands came home and instead of the usual fighting, wives came out and held them close. Children were behaving, playing quietly. There was no music, no laughing. A baby cried from one apartment, a low steady cry. It reflected what everyone was feeling. Loss.

The rhythm of the street had stilled. Shock settled over the neighborhood, like a blackout. No one knew what was to come. No one knew what to do, except the need to stand close to each other and weep. For that day, no one was a dago, or a spick, or a mick. For that day, everyone was united.

Later that week, we all saw the picture of the little boy saluting his father, saying goodbye. We saw him next to his mother in her black veil, with his family, brave, innocent. Respectful.

We saw our mothers look at that little boy, and weep for the sons they loved, and the ones they never knew.

And in the flight from the little girl to the mother I've become, I sense the loss they felt that day, and keep the vision of the brave little boy saluting in my heart forever.

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