Only seven years ago, we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination.
Although it was hard to believe that fifty years had transpired, considering that I was thirteen on that Friday in November 1963, fifty years felt just about right.
Somehow, today is different.
Forty years ago today, John Lennon was gunned down in his beloved New York City. Another deranged lunatic with a gun robbed us of a life, a life that mattered to so many. Forty years? For me, this is hard to believe.
I was thirty years old. I was teaching seventh and eighth grade at St. Vito’s. Eileen and I had no children, and we lived in New Rochelle. Eileen had just found out that she was pregnant with our first child, and we were anticipating the joys of parenthood.
It was a Monday night. It was the Catholic Hold Day of Obligation of The Immaculate Conception (by the way, it was Mary’s feast day honoring her as being born without Original Sin, not Jesus being conceived without sex getting in the way.)
I was taking a couple of graduate classes, and I had a class that night.
I got home around ten, and it had been a long day. I didn’t watch any TV, including the Monday Night Football game, which provided the news of Lennon’s murder to so many. I didn’t find out until that morning while listening to WNEW FM as I was getting dressed.
The news was unthinkable. Who would want to kill John Lennon and why?
Forty years later, it still doesn’t make sense.
But a few months later, it didn’t make sense that President Reagan and the Pope got shot either. Guns and lunatics can destroy civilization. Fortunately, the President and the Pope survived their injuries.
Why couldn’t, John?
How much music would he have produced in these last forty years?
Would the Beatles have finally gotten together?
So many unanswered questions and unfulfilled dreams were gone in the flash of a gun.
At the time, I was reminded of Buddy Holly.
Like John Lennon, Buddy Holly was taken from us much too early. He still had a lot of music left to create and share. While Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, his loss was still so tragic and painful to endure.
But for Lennon to be murdered like that right in front of his apartment seemed to cut the heart out of the City and all of us who grew up singing his songs.
Music has survived the loss of these two iconic songwriters and singers because they impacted the artists who followed them.
We still have John Lennon’s music to remember his talent and rekindle the joy he brought to us in the dark days after the Kennedy Assassination. I always thought it ironic that just when America needs a helping hand trying to get out from under the dark cloud of depression brought on by the Assassination, the Beatles released I Want To Hold Your Hand in America.
We needed a hand to hold in 1963, and we could certainly use one in 2020.