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 Anna Herrington on June 5, 2018 at 7:20am

The kind of day you remember forever. I've wondered what a Kennedy wattage smile does to a person when in person....now I know someone who can say  : )

Nicely told, aka, and how amazing to realize you were in that famous photo.

I was 7 to 8 at the time, allowed only to watch the news (?!?!?! parents?), spent a lot of time terrified of who was going to be shot next, as did many, no doubt, or whether Mom would make me go to Vietnam (or a little later, that Angela Davis would come and shoot me and the other kids in the neighborhood. Yeah, I didn't understand a lot of things at the time...).

I'm so glad you decided to post this. Thanks for sharing such an impressionable moment.

Comment by Rosigami on June 5, 2018 at 7:25am

What an interesting and evocative telling of this event from your youth. 
The thing that struck me the most was your observation about the seminal moments we carry forward with us into adulthood- our time being a terrible era of political assassinations, and the youth of today burdened with the horrible legacy of school shootings.

Comment by Steel Breeze on June 5, 2018 at 7:27am

i was in my last 4 months of innocence at the time...pre-military....and although having little to no interest in politics at that age,i remember thinking after hearing him speak...."now there's a guy whose really gonna shake things up".....

Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 7:27am


Thank you for reading this and taking some time to comment. Yes, the smile lit me up.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 7:33am


True. We have moments we can sense are bigger than others, but may not know so until much time has passed.

In this case, I always knew it would stay with me, as fifty years passed in the blink of an eye.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 7:35am

Steel Breeze,

It's easy to dismiss the fame and myth, taking umbrage with certain positions of disagreement and such, but in the end, there are those who walk among us who have been touched by destiny to "shake things up."

Comment by Ron Powell on June 5, 2018 at 8:00am

We counted the ballots for the Democratic primary by hand in Washington, DC that year.....

RFK won the DC primary that occurred shortly after I received my Degree in Political Science and Public Administration....

His assassination changed the course of my life in ways that I couldn't sort out until years later...

In many respects this country still hasn't  recovered from the impact of the shock and trauma of his death.

That being the case, it seems unlikely that any of us can or could forget...

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on June 5, 2018 at 8:07am

His was our most severe public loss in our lifetimes. 

Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 8:09am

Ron Powell,

I agree. It was a collective "deer in the headlights" moment for most if not all.

Thank you for coming by.

Comment by alsoknownas on June 5, 2018 at 8:19am

Jonathan Wolfman,

Thank you for the reading and the observation. I think with the other two assassinations behind us, we were clinging to hope.

Seeing then that it was not to be, created a change in our lives which was impossible to understand in the moment.


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