I don't remember exactly when I heard the news although it was stunning.

I had just met him a few days before. The feeling of disbelief is memorable however. First it was his brother, then the civil rights leader, and now this man, taken.

Teenagers now will remember their youth as the time of school shootings. The bad guy comes in the front or side door and kills them or their friends and peers.

Those who were teenagers in my time, lived in an age of political assassinations. We didn't know who to fear or why, except for the meme perpetrated that we were under siege by the lone gunman, intent on stealing dreams by murdering those who we thought would lead us into a better awakened world.


I wormed my way through the crowd gathering in the shopping center parking lot. The youthful brother of one of the already slain was slated to make a brief appearance at the location behind my high school. I dashed over there to be a witness to history evolving and to hopefully catch a glimpse of the man I wanted to win the election. I was ready to volunteer to assist in the campaign.

In late May 1968 the campaign for President of the United States was in full swing. Despite the turmoil caused by crowds and the history in place, protective measures for candidates was lax in comparison to these current times. That difference made possible a few moments in my life that I will always regard as seminal in my own distrust. In retrospect they were telling moments of the times we live in now.


Recently, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has stated that he does not believe that Sirhan Sirhan, imprisoned for 50 years was a lone gunman. Forensics and autopsy results, audio files and analysis are in conflict. Some say 13 shots can be heard in the kitchen of the hotel as the candidate was being whisked away after a short speech. Sirhan was said to have used an 8 shot pistol to kill his father, in an act emanating from his hatred for him and his position on the Israel and Palestinian conflict. Sirhan has always claimed he hasn't any memory of the event although acknowledges he was there.


I reached up like the others close enough to do so and extended my hand to shake his. He was working the crowd standing on the trunk of an automobile, leaning down to reach the hands of those nearby.

I shook his hand then time stood still. The crowd thinned. It seemed that the car was going to move but then it stayed in place.

"Young man" he said.

"Yes sir." I replied, adding the "sir" as I would have been expected to do in that era.

"What's your name?"

I told him, and as he addressed me by name he asked, "Would you help me please?"


"The little girl next to you. Where is her mother?" he wondered.

"I don't know."

"Would you pick her up and hand her to me?" he implored.

I lifted the child up to RFK who then held her up over the heads of the crowd and shouted out for the mother to come forward. She did and he passed her to safety.

He stepped own off the car trunk and we stood face to face.

"Thanks for that. I worry terribly about people being close to me but especially children. They don't like me doing things like that but I couldn't live with the idea of a child being hurt because..." his voice trailed off as he looked straight into my eyes.

"I understand, sir. I'm going to be working on your campaign. I want you to win."

A big smile crossed his face as he thanked me again and wished me well. 

"We need young people like you. Look, they're telling me to get in the car. They'll move us apart now. They really don't want me doing this but I have to."

He reached out to me this time, and we shook hands again. "Thank you so much for helping. I feel better now."


Some few short days later, that half a century ago, his life ended just as he had let his guard down long enough to allude to me a total stranger, that he thought it might. 


Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy was shot on June 5th, 1968 and passed away the next day. This photograph appeared in The Oregonian. I have never known who the photographer was. That's the back of my head as I was reaching up to him just before he climbed down off the car trunk.

I have taken a writer's prerogative to replay the conversation as closely as possible to those moments. I have recalled it a thousand times since.

Views: 220

Comment by koshersalaami on June 5, 2018 at 8:22am

It’s so telling that his main worry was about the kid. Of course, he had a lot of his own, so he had the mindset of a parent. But I respect the crap out of that. 

In terms of how many shots were heard, there’s always the question of echo. A sound that sharp hits a flat hard wall and the sound bounces like a ball in a racquetball court. And it’s slow. People don’t realize how slow sound is. You would hear another discrete sound. 

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on June 5, 2018 at 8:24am


Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 8:39am


I think it is quite telling also that his main worry was the kid.

As for the echo, I think the sorting out will not happen in our time. RFK Jr. has declined so far to reveal the content of his nearly 3 hour discussion with Sirhan but he disbelieves the conclusion and sole guilt.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 9:22am

I was sixteen at the time. A friend from that era just wrote to me after reading: 

It's an especially poignant tale you've related, particularly given the coarse and cruel nature of the person who presently holds the office RFK sought in 1968.

The person who holds the office now was nursing bone spurs at the time, which kept him from ever actually serving in the military, until he became commander in chief last year. Which foot the bone spurs afflicted is now unknown, as the individual in question says he can't remember.

In the words of RFK's brother at the funeral, RFK was simply "a good and decent man who saw wrong and tried to right it, who saw suffering and tried to heal it, who saw war and tried to stop it."

(These are words I did not have to look up to recall.)

I don't think the present officeholder will ever be remembered the same way. Nor can I imagine the present officeholder concerning himself much with the safety of a little girl at one of his rallies.


Comment by marilyn sands on June 5, 2018 at 12:55pm

What could've been.  Nice recount of your memories.

Comment by Ron Powell on June 5, 2018 at 6:27pm

@MS; Two terms with RFK and America becomes a much different, dare I say better, place...

Comment by alsoknownas on June 6, 2018 at 5:55am

marylin sands,

I appreciate you've taken the time to read and add a comment. The sense of something that could have been much bigger than a single person, was taken from us all, lingers to this day.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 6, 2018 at 5:57am

Ron Powell,

This statement of yours is exactly what many have felt the last 50 years.

Thank you.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 6, 2018 at 12:04pm


Saints are fabrications.

We all lost out.

Thank you for coming by.

Comment by J.P. Hart on June 8, 2018 at 8:38am

RFK's truth is
the boy disappears

Just boys and I were working the '56 Chevy's brakes, getting road ready for that trek to California. I came into the house for a light bulb for the trouble lamp. My mother was sobbing pointing at the television. Yesterday: so many years ago

& rain keeps falling


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