Jewish World Review Nov. 22, 2010 / 15 Kislev, 5771
A Certain Slant of Light
By Paul Greenberg
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | On winter afternoons,
That oppresses, like the weight
Of cathedral tunes.
In the middle of the car wreck or the plunge down the mountainside, or in the mind of the drowning, time slows, then stops -- the way it does for some Americans every year when the page of the calendar is torn away and today's date revealed:
It is always
Click. The presidential limousine coming down
Click. The president is smiling, waving.
Click. Mrs. Kennedy looks at him with concern.
Click. A bystander jerks his head suddenly towards
Click. The limousine is lost behind a street sign.
Click. The president reaches for his throat, slumps toward his wife.
Click. The governor of
Click. The shattering impact.
Click. Mrs. Kennedy rises.
Click. She is pushed back into the car by a Secret Service agent.
Click. The limousine disappears from view beneath an underpass, headed for
The film runs 15 seconds. And an eternity.
None of us will forget where we were when we heard. I was riding a subway to a job interview in
"They shot Kennedy in
I could see him enter the next car and do the same. Like the chorus of a Greek tragedy telling the tale.
At last he knew something no one else did -- at least for the moment. And he had seized the moment. He would finally live in someone else's memories. He would finally be important, memorable, somebody.
Like a man with a secret.
Like a reliable source.
Like a journalist with a scoop.
I walked up out of the subway station in lower
The old editor I was meeting seemed defeated. We didn't talk about the job. Instead, we looked out his office window and watched
The editor talked about how it had felt the day FDR died in Warm Springs.
On the way home I stopped at a bar on the West Side to see what the television was saying about the assassination but didn't stay when the bartender started making jokes about it.
Certain days stay in the mind. Like a film that is unwound and replayed again and again. As much as you'd like to stop it. Each time. But you can't.
Years later, the phone would ring and I would turn the television on to see the jetliners strike the buildings again and again. In an endless loop. As much as you'd like to stop it, to turn it off, you can't.
To watch the Zapruder film is like that. It's like seeing the destruction of the Temple again and again. Nothing ever changes. It is always
Never again, I thought at the time, would Americans take their country so lightly, their institutions so for granted.
But time passes and fortune changes, and some years the day passes almost unnoticed.
Then some new crisis erupts, and people are reminded again of how fragile all this is. We are jerked awake, and realize that life is shipwreck.
Suddenly alert, we look differently at the uniforms that guard us while we sleep. And all it takes to remind us of the fragility of life and power is ... a certain slant of light.
It will all come back -- like a certain slant of light.
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