June 5th, 1968


Lots of enemies paired off in 1968

Lots of enemies paired off in 1968

This week’s ‘Remember the Time’ weekly blog hop writing exercise theme is about anything that tells about a time in your own personal history where you vividly remember where you were when something else happened. I have lots and lots of those and in fact, my entire blog story site could be argued that this is the only thing I write about. 🙂 The following story is one for me that still makes my heart ache. Losing good people to war and violence always makes me feel helpless. If they are well known, it hurts even more. John Lennon is a good example. The one that hurts the most for me, well that is Robert F. Kennedy. I hope you enjoy my sharing of my memory here.

We were on a summer vacation in Vincennes, Indiana and were staying at my Grandma Wyatt’s house in June of 1968. I was only 10 years old and school had ended a week earlier. We traveled to Indiana almost every summer for a vacation after school let out (read me). I loved going to Indiana to see all my relatives there. My Grandma had a great sense of humor (read me) and of course she would have a wonderful German sweet chocolate cake waiting for me (read me).

On June the 5th however, we had a sad, quiet day in front of a black and white television set. Bobby Kennedy had been shot earlier that day, shortly after midnight California time. He was in critical condition and in surgery and all day we watched and listened to the reports, watched him get shot multiple times and we waited for some good news, that he would survive.

Although young, like most of us kids, I was aware of Bobby Kennedy and the Kennedy family. I had watched his brother’s funeral procession on tv 5 years earlier. I was too young to grasp fully what had happened with JFK’s assassination, but as I got a little older I began to at least sense that through the adults that the country had lost a great man. My understanding at that age was that Bobby was going to carry on helping the country as his brother did.

Earlier that year in April, Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot and killed. Anytime we turned on the tv that year we saw riots, protests, films from the war in Viet Nam and Bobby Kennedy. When the teachers at school spoke or when I overheard the adults speaking, Bobby was the hope the country was looking for – he was going to heal us. When MLK was killed, Bobby gave an impromptu heartfelt speech in Indianapolis’ poor section of town and called for a reconciliation between races. If you click on no other link in this story, I hope that you click on this one and listen to Bobby’s speech in Indianapolis. After MLK was shot, over 60 riots broke out across the country – but not in Indianapolis. I was only 10 but I understood what was happening on tv and I knew it was important that Bobby become our next president.

So it was that on this Thursday in June, I sat there watching the reports on tv with my Grandma. My Grandma loved the Kennedys. She had a picture of JFK on her living room wall and spoke about losing John often. And now, John’s younger brother Bobby, only 42 years old, had been shot multiple times by a guy named Sirhan Sirhan. Bobby had just given a late night speech after winning the Democratic primary in California so there were news reporters everywhere writing stories, taking pictures and capturing film. The country was able to watch the assassination attempt on television. I didn’t cry then, but My grandma cried a lot. I sat with her, sometimes on her lap. She was in pain and it was the first time in my life that I can remember thinking it was my duty to just ‘be there’ for someone. I knew Grandma really loved Bobby Kennedy and I sat there all day with her, watching and listening.

The thing that stood out for me the most, what I remembered all throughout my life, was the sense of duty to the country that I felt that John and Bobby portrayed. We heard on the reports that as his wife Ethel held his head in a cradle pose, Bobby lying there bleeding and seriously hurt, he looked up and asked, ” is everybody alright?” This seemed to be what Bobby stood for – caring more for others than he did himself.

I did not cry then, but I do now. I never really grasped the full magnitude of this pathetic time in American history through my grandma’s eyes as I do today. I was 10 years old, going on 11. We were watching a beloved individual get shot in the head and lay dying. Less than 30 years earlier my grandma had lost her own son, only 14 to a hunting accident, her son shot in the head. I know today she was reliving her own pain as she held me tight when she asked me, “why do people have to take good men away from us?”

I don’t know Grandma….I don’t know.

Are words really needed here?

Are words really needed here?

To read the other stories submitted this week, click on the little blue frog.

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9 comments on “June 5th, 1968

  1. Such a poignant piece. I can feel your grandma’s heartache…and I love that even as a young boy you sensed that she needed you there. That comfort that comes with holding a loved one, especially a child, when faced with news of loss is precious. i remember when I heard of the death of one of the little boys at my daughter’s school last year, all I wanted to do was just hold my kids and take comfort in them being there. So you did something very wonderful for your grandmother, especially considering the loss of her own son. You were that reminder of what she still had.

    I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live through that period of time and see so many men who offered such hope, slain in front of so many. It’s crazy.

    Great story, Rob.

  2. So many important parts to this story! I have to say, it’s amazing to hear someone’s personal perspective who lived during that time. Even though I wasn’t born yet, I always wonder what the world would have been like if the Kennedy’s hadn’t been killed. I also wonder why that family had to endure so much tragedy. I also think it’s so important about you realizing you needed to be there for your grandma. There is such a strong comfort that comes from holding a child. It’s wonderful you could give her that.

    • rlwyattcali says:

      Thanks for stopping by and providing your perspective. It is greatly appreciated. Those of us that lived in this time I think all still pretty much miss Jack and Bobby

  3. The Waiting says:

    Rob, LOVED this post and they way you described your recognition that you needed to be there for your grandmother. It’s always so interesting to hear peoples’ different accounts of the Kennedy shootings. I have mostly come of age in a time when politics is so crazily split down party lines; it often seems like when tragedy strikes, people allow their political affiliations to dictate how much sympathy they show. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems like back in the 60’s, people mourned the losses of JFK and Bobby and MLKJ because they were humans and not because they particularly believed in what they represented. It seems like so much more of a compassionate time, but I may just see it like that because I didn’t actually live through it.

    • rlwyattcali says:

      The Kennedys had lots of haters as did MLK. All I’d say were driven by fear of change or losing what they felt they had. I can only speak for myself about the times I lived in and what I feel mostly is shame and helplessness. I am ashamed because we as a nation and we as a planet can be so much greater than we are. Our demand for information feeds the Media today and we in turn allow that to divide us. With nearly 50MM people on food stamps, it would not be that difficult to bounce back to times like the 60’s. 😦

  4. Shannon says:

    Very sweet story about the bond with your grandma. I love how it demonstrates the older generation’s reliance upon the younger–beautiful the way that works. When I was 4, my family moved from Indiana to Arizona–and many of my summer vacations were spent visiting family in Indiana. I returned to Indiana as an adult and lived the last decade in Indianapolis. I always loved Bobby’s speech on hearing the news of MLK’s death. I can’t imagine the times then but I love accounts such as yours, that help keep the past alive. There’s a website called “Not Even Past” — and this illustrates that idea perfectly.

  5. […] of you whenever I think about coin collecting.  Remember the day that Bobby Kennedy was shot? (Link)  Were you thinking about Phillip that day?  Is that why you couldn’t stop crying?  Can […]

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