It is all over now. The frightful moment has passed and what unfolded before the eyes of the nation has begun, such is nature’s mercy to recede. But stark images still crowd our mind. We remember the smiling young couple, and a bunch of red roses; then monstrous act itself; and then, a flag decked caisson, bowed heads, a lovely widow’s moving gesture, a new `presidents resolute face, an assassin’s ironic end and a son’s salute.
Yet even those memories, like those of every previous national tragedy, would eventually fade into the dry pages of history, were it not for the camera’s eye that recorded with immediacy and color the events of those 72 hours. And with its record, future generations shall also be privileged to witness the actual event, to be present and shaken and reawakened as we were. We have devoted this issue to the memory of John F. Kennedy so that in the days to come men and women may open these pages before their children and say how it was.
Seeing the President was under Jack Kennedy, a relaxed event. You might have had to wait around a while in the anteroom or in his secretary’s office (she was a friendly middle aged lady with rimless spectacles), but eventually you were invited in. When this happened you got up from a simple black-cushioned seat and walked into the Oval office. Immediately you were conscious of the blue rug, the desk with a light streaming in from the broad windows behind it, the navel paintings on the walls, the fireplace flanked on both sides by deep sofas upholstered in white. At the end of the sofas and facing the fireplace, with a whicker back and a seat with a cushion matching the sofas, stood the rocking chair.
The President’s handshake was neither too hard nor too soft. It was gracious. He sat in his rocking chair and you sat on the sofa looking at him from the side. He was carefully but somewhat informally dressed, trousers sharply pressed, and well-worn shoes well shined. His face had an everlasting tan, and he looked at you with head slightly cocked back and gray eyes glinting at you with an expression that combined interest, amusement and mischief.
The press fascinated President Kennedy. He played it quite frankly to enhance himself and his Admiration. He read avidly and quickly and had a journalist’s antennae out for the public pulse. So it was natural for him to ask me right away about LIFE’S Nielsen rating. I didn’t have the ‘Vaguest idea what it was, but he did, to the finest percentage...
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