Farewell to Camelot: Kennedy Assassination 22 November 1963

Ms Caroline Kennedy arrived in Canberra in July 2022 to take up her appointment as the US Ambassador to Australia. Her arrival kindled a teen memory dating back to 22 November 1963, when her father, President Kennedy, was assassinated. I learnt about it on the bus to work early morning from a tabloid in a passenger’s hands. I recall being devastated. I restrained a threatening flood of tears until I was off the bus; the dam burst outside Frank Gerakitis’ Mam’s Coffee shop in the BMI building in Garema Place in Canberra village.
That night, I wrote a letter of condolence expressing my sense of shock and loss to Jacqueline Kennedy. I sent it to TIME magazine, which had foreshadowed its issue of 6 December 1963 for publishing some of the thousands of moving tributes it received. My missive did not appear. But surprisingly enough, TIME advised me on 4 May 1964 that it had selected my letter from “thousands” for inclusion in the Collection of 150 letters in “four black leather notebooks” for presentation to Mrs Kennedy.
Subsequently, the Notebooks were displayed at the Congressional Library at the Capitol in Washington. The last that I heard in the 90s was that the Collection had been transferred to the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. No doubt, it is all digitised now.
A handwritten copy of my letter is attached. Handwritten because photocopiers were then only in the nascent stage of availability in Australia and certainly not accessible on the street. I have also attached Mrs Kennedy’s formal acknowledgement to the 150 and advice from TIME.
I should add that, rereading my own words, I find them singularly unremarkable. Hardly an elegant tribute, let alone even an eloquent eulogy; more of a spontaneous outpouring of an emotional, immature teen. Still, I suppose that in assessing the worth of another human, it is salutary to acknowledge that such semi-colonic events are embedded forever in young minds for better or worse. Kennedy’s assassination left a mark on my choice of professional path to follow – International Relations – and so it came to pass eventually at the ripe old age of 28.