Conspiracy: 1. The act of conspiring. 2. An evil, unlawful, treacherous or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot. – Dictionary.com
It was like anticipating the summer’s trip to the State Fair, only better.
I was 14 and the prospect of seeing the president of the United States was nearly unfathomable.
This president, by all accounts, was different. He was young, smart and magnetic.
He was John F. Kennedy and he was coming to Pierre to dedicate the new Oahe Dam, thanks in part to a letter written by 9-year-old Jamie Damon of Pierre as a class assignment. Her invitation to visit the dam that her dad helped build touched the new president, who was wildly popular among Democrats in this state and in the house where I lived.
One day an implement dealer came calling, as they did back then, doing a little public relations so that the next tractor purchased would be a red one. Mom and Dad were listening to a brand new LP titled “The First Family” by Vaughn Meader, who sounded just like Kennedy. The dealer sat down and listened to what my folks thought was one of the most entertaining records they’d ever heard. I don’t know what the implement dealer thought – but Kennedy’s appeal continued to grow across South Dakota.
When I heard last week that another batch of information on the JFK assassination was going to be released, I couldn’t help but be transported back to the day when I actually shook his hand.
It was a big deal.
The president, with a thick thatch of brown hair and wide smile, was making his way along the chain link fence at the Pierre airport. Thousands of people had gathered, hoping for a glimpse of Camelot’s new king.
I was a row back from the fence, and as he approached I grasped his extended hand and gave it a squeeze. As he turned back toward his entourage, a woman shouted at him, pleading for him to stop, and she flung herself on me and those around me, desperately wanting to touch the president’s hand.
A little more than a year later, the president would be dead, victim of an assassin’s bullet. Since that day, Nov. 22, 1963, the questions have never really abated, despite the Warren Commission’s findings and numerous books about the tragedy.
Conspiracy theories won’t go away, and my guess is that the release of the secret documents never before available to the public isn’t likely to change many minds.
Nov. 1, 2017