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Nov. 22, 1963: A date to remember

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

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Updated: December 6, 2013 6:19AM

If you want to get a sense of the generation gap created by half a century, ask a recent high-school graduate if they know what major historical event occurred on Nov. 22, 1963.

I’ve done it many times in recent years, and a bell doesn’t ring for them. Their generation knows Sept. 11, 2001 — even though we’re at the point where most of them were in kindergarten 12 years ago and only have hazy memories of that watershed day.

To be fair, these same Young People do know about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, even if they don’t connect with the date. But they don’t always know too much about it. How well did any of us relate to the world lived in by our grandparents?

The grandparents who do recall that November afternoon from 50 years ago and anyone else who believes that history is a living, breathing thing have been invited by the Waukegan Historical Society to “The Kennedy Assassination,” a presentation this Sunday, Nov. 10, by Marengo-based historian Jim Gibbons.

Ty Rohrer, Waukegan Park District Cultural Arts museum supervisor, said Gibbons “comes to us highly recommended” for similar presentations at local sites like the Warren-Newport Public Library, where he offered a program earlier this year on the 1958 Our Lady of the Angels Fire in Chicago.

Rohrer said this weekend’s Kennedy program will try to give observers a sense of what it was like to receive the news that interrupted an otherwise normal Friday lunch hour.

“He tries to give people a feel for that day and those couple of days after that, using visuals and other material,” said Rohrer, who can be counted among those who stress the need for knowing our history, no matter when you came of age.

“The value of caring about this is that, obviously, it was a terrible event, and it was such a tumultuous time to begin with,” he said, referring to the Cold War and what would become a shooting war in Southeast Asia. “There are parallels to that time today. There are entities the U.S. doesn’t get along with.”

Rohrer added that the death of President Kennedy is “something we hope is never repeated, but it is something we need to learn about and understand.”

“The Kennedy Assassination” is scheduled for 3 p.m. in the Jane Addams Center in Waukegan’s Bowen Park, 95 Jack Benny Drive. The event is free and no reservations are required. For more information, call (847) 336-1859.

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