A motorcade traveled north on Torresdale Ave. in northeast Philadelphia PA, summer 1960. I was wearing a short sleeve plaid shirt with button down collar and light slacks. As typical of Philadelphia for a sixteen year old that summer, my shirttail was out. There were huge crowds lining both sides of the busy avenue. A few blocks to the west, neighborhoods bordered the Delaware River and its busy inner harbor. At that time a transport hub and the most industrialized area on earth
Tens of thousands of citizens lined up to see Senator John Kennedy, who had recently announced his candidacy for President of the United States.
The bright Cadillac was slowly approaching behind a source from the Philadelphia Motorcycle Police. A business-like voice over a megaphone called, “Senator Kennedy’s motorcade arrives, please be aside.”
The candidate’s right front profile was clearly considered. I tried to catch his eyes. Confidential at first, but then came the realization that it was not the case that he was going away. I could see the back of his right shoulder as I held it up and waved to the crowd. The convertible went slowly, and its back appeared.
Someone told me a few days before that Kennedy’s father had been nicknamed ‘Black Jack’ during Prohibition days. “Hi, Black Jack” I shouted. I turned suddenly and looked directly into my eyes. JFK waved, while Kennedy motorcade faded from sight. In my teenage mind, I rationalized that it was okay. We will meet sometime in the future. I wondered if the relatively unknown senator would remember me most recently.
Everybody knew Kennedy. It seems that he was a collective extension of our individual personalities. We admired his dedication to always put his best foot forward. That’s why we loved him so much.
Every year since JFK’s murder, the thoughts of the incident return. On Tuesday, while the rain was saturating the hanging hook and large western cedar tree on one of those humid, foggy quiet northwest afternoons, I spent time alone meditating in my family room.
In my mind I saw the mist swirling outside the sliding glass door. The steam passed through the glass and took the shape of President John F Kennedy’s spirit.
“Come on,” said the spirit, taking my hand. “We don’t have much time.”
In a moment we were standing on a cliff on Washington’s coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
If our time was limited, we had to abstain from formalities.
“Mr. President, was Lee Harvey Oswald the lone assassin?” Finally, we would get an answer to the most confusing question of my lifetime.
“Everyone asks,” President Kennedy replied. “The last thing I remember about my earthly existence was going downhill in a convertible rear seat. Just for a moment I was taken by surprise. I could see the left front profile of a person in the drainage pile at the bottom of the slope about thirty feet in front us. There was a flash from that place. Something sharp stabbed me in Adam’s apple. I gagged and gasped. Jackie called my name. There was blood, gore, brains and the back of my skull on the trunk of the convertible. death. “
The answer was unexpected and disappointing, but I appreciated our time constraints.
“Share Americans today with your values and vision,” I asked quickly. Kennedy pondered the question as I saw the blaze slam against the pier in the distance below us.
“I have, ah, always loved the sea,” he smiled, moving toward the white water and the green Pacific beyond, falling back by a wet, gray sky. “In my earthly life, I began, ah, to sail as a child,” said the president with a heavy New England accent. “How about you,” I asked. “Have you gone to sea?”
“Yes sir,” I answered. “I served in the U.S. Coast Guard at the time you were murdered.”
“Well, ah, you probably already know about my feelings for the Coast Guard; I had to move them from the finance ministry to the transport department, ”he said. “I wanted to completely dissolve the service, but people around me strongly opposed it. The new transport department was a perfect match.”
“With today’s growing port security concerns and changing marine weather conditions, we need the coastguard more than ever. I managed to buy Honey Fitz, our family yacht, from the coastguard.”
“The rest of the military was another, ah, problem. The Joint Chiefs of Staff showed absolutely no respect for me. They constantly made jokes about my naval experience or to be right, naval inexperience,” he said with a laugh. Remember, lesser-ranking officers under their command had the authority to start a thermonuclear war with the Soviet Union. Can you imagine what it was like for me, with all the hawks involved in politics? The ones I surrounded myself with helped me to trust. I made many enemies among our military ranks. To make matters worse, I received daily reports of explosive racial tension in the military. “
“My administration had to work on the problem and we were able to make a lot of adjustments and improvements. Understand, ah, the South is still fighting the civil war. Any changes in that direction will always be hard fought. My administration, ah, got the ball rolls to, ah, implements the Civil Rights Act. Racial issues contribute to so much heartache for Americans. One would think, after this point, it would be better today. “
“Mr. President,” I asked, “Do you think climate change and the negative effects on humanity are America’s most pressing problem?”
“Absolutely! Absolutely! Yes. Just ah, the weather changes alone should raise an alarm. During my administration, both parties pulled together and paved the way for public works like ah, the construction of several nuclear power plants. Just before I, ah, was slammed, mine administration was seriously looking at a land reclamation project that had been, ah, proposed a decade earlier by the Army Corp of Engineers called the North American Water and Power Alliance. “
“Well, I was taken out of the picture at the time when Los Angeles took steps to start the project. Remember, we ah, we were planning to direct water from Alaska and Canada via Tint trench near the British Columbia-Yukon border Rocky mountain tomb. It’s really just a continuous ditch. The project would create hundreds of major construction projects and millions of construction jobs in two decades. We were able to supply water to all the major agricultural areas in Southwest, California and Mexico. Rivers like this in front of us, the Columbia River, “Kennedy pointed out,” and the Frazier River in Canada, Ah, would have improved flood control and constant irrigation. After I was taken out of the picture, the action began in Southeast Asia. America and the Corp of Engineers had other priorities and the idea disappeared. California, our great agricultural agent is experiencing years of drought. It would not be an issue if NAWAPA had been used. Compare that to Washington’s Grand Coulee dam and the irrigation it delivers from the Columbia River, where ah, drought problems are alleviated. “
“Our youth were excited about the direction the United States was taking. We were first in technology, especially communications technology, healthcare, agriculture, manufacturing, manufacturing, transportation, energy and just about every economic sector,” the spirit continued. “We recognized the need for improvements in education, health care, and we started to build an improved social safety net. The tax rate for the middle class was much higher than. I think people today want the finer things the government can provide, but are unwilling to pay for it. That’s the biggest difference. Increase Public Works and you want to put our younger generation back into good jobs in successful companies and careers. Only the government has the capacity to put it together, but you, ah, have to be willing to pay for it. “
“I think the difference between the young men and women in November nineteen sixty-three and today is, ah, today’s workers have just another value system,” Kennedy argued.
“Do you think these values are valid,” I asked hesitantly.
“Of course,” Kennedy said, smiling. “Just be open to revision. My dad said, ‘Trust everyone, count everything.’ Check the numbers. It’s really fifth grade math. Nuclear power is the only solution to balance energy needs and climate change. “
A dog barked in the distance. It seemed to get louder and closer. When the animal came into view, I saw it was my own little Chiwene, Nene. She scraped at the sliding door to the yard. I was at home. My ghost’s friend had disappeared.