The Grassy Knoll

by Gary Phillips

Forty-eight years ago this November 22, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. At the time I was eight-years-old in the 3rd grade at 61st Elementary School in South Central L.A. I remember with distinct clarity our teacher being called out of the classroom—this would have been after 10:30 in the morning our time—then returning several minutes later. She was crying and told us the president had been killed. We were just kids but we knew who he was and what he meant to our parents and to the country. We gasped and some of us teared up too. We were then informed school was dismissed for the rest of the day.

After walking home, I think Grandma Nona was there and she’d heard the news too and was sad. I went into my bedroom where I had a desk for doing my homework on, and cut out the president’s initials from a lined sheet of paper. I used crayons and colored the top third of the letters red, left the middle white, and colored the bottom third blue. I taped those letters to my wall and they remained there for several years as they got brittle and yellowed.

Surely Kennedy was no saint and as much a sinner and flawed as any other politician this country has produced. Still this rich boy had done his duty in WWII. As president he called for the New Frontier, and challenged not what our country could do for us, but rather what could we do for our country. Speculation in non-fiction and fiction continues whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or at all to kill him. There are also various short stories, novels and a Twilight Zone episode—“Profile in Silver” on the ’80s version of the anthology series—postulating time travelers going back to that fateful day to prevent his assassination, with complications always resulting of course.

Except for Abraham Lincoln, also a victim of a shadowy assassination, no other president continues to intrigue the imaginations of the generations that have come after them. The reasons have to do with the times they lived in, the deeds they accomplished, and the matters left undone by their early deaths. More it’s who they were as icons with feet of clay, yet who by their words and actions took this country forward…which is a damn sight better than you can say for the current crop of shop keepers and bean counters we got running things these days.


what connections we have, gary. . . 61st street school being a really intense and wonderful one.  and the fact that you and i keep november 22nd present in our hearts.

i was in oklahoma.  20 years old.  working as a secretary at thiokol chemical corporation at a desk in a large room filled with jr. execs and their secretaries.  one of the men got off the phone with a kind of startled look on his face and said kennedy had been shot.  then a couple of the guys made some really horrible comments about how that was a good thing.

i cried and cried for days.  i watched as jack ruby shot lee harvey oswald, live, on television.  i grieved for a long, long time.

i am really glad to connect with you, gary. 



2011-11-22 by donna

You’re the best, Donna.  Hell of a story by the way.

2011-11-23 by Gary Phillips

“Surely Kennedy was no saint.” And indeed he was not. I’m sure
deep down Grandman Nona knew and felt the truth—and was sad for us all.

I would like to see a painting—or perhaps a mural—of Grandma Nona and Gary, the young boy, titled Nov 22 1963.



2011-11-25 by kent harrington

Great article, thank you again for wrintig.

2011-11-29 by Earnhardt

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