Fifty years ago, the world was a different place, and I say that knowing full well that if you go to any date in history and back up fifty years, the changes will be huge. Think of the period between 1875 and 1925. In the span of those fifty years, Americans gave up horses and buggies for the car, fought in the First World War, and stopped wondering why the birds were the only creatures aloft.
But changes like that are gradual. It wasn't like Orville and Wilbur Wright flew their plane at Kitty Hawk and the next day, TSA agents all over the country were making people take off their shoes and step into an x-ray viewer, and it took years after the first car chugged down Main Street for someone to realize that people would pay big to sit in the sun in the South in the summer and watch other people drive in circles. And buy a ton of beer while doing so!
But on the morning of November 22, 1963, I left for school in the full spirit of Camelot which informed the nation since John Kennedy was sworn in to office. He replaced Dwight Eisenhower, a man who, for some reason, came to be seen as a low-key bumbler in many ways, although he had the supremely daunting task of leading American forces in the D Day invasion and to victory in World War II. Kennedy fought in the war as well, a decorated and heroic Navy lieutenant, but he seemed so young and cool in the White House with his lovely young wife and children and the trademark family "vigah," with which he went after everything from standing up to the Cuban Missile Crisis to playing touch football on the White House lawn. Everything in those days seemed so magical. The United States was the world's top power, and all was good and only getting better for all of us.
And then, by the time the final bell for school rang that afternoon, the final bell tolled for Camelot, and we found that one man with a $22 rifle and a head full of cabbage can ruin all that is good and pure and hopeful.