I was sixteen, a junior at George School, on this day in 1963. Many years ago, I captured my memories in "The K.O.B," a short story about those initial moments of the first of five deaths that rocked our staid school over five months.
My roommate Robin edged me in the back with her three-ring binder, the signal that a note was on the floor. I slid the message forward with my foot until it was angled between my loafers. Pretending to scratch my ankle, I reached down to pick it up.
“Qu’est-ce qu’il se passe la-bas?” It was hard enough to concentrate in French class; we both had noticed the strange ruckus outside the Language Building.
Normally, no one circulated on campus during classes but not today. The history teacher, who’d raced up to the circle in front of Main Building in his Plymouth, threw open the car door, then leaned back in, appearing to be fiddling with his car radio. The identical red-headed twins of the school treasurer raced down the Main steps and veered off into the Faculty Lounge where students were forbidden. A Corvair pulled up behind the Plymouth, the Latin teacher jumped out, yelled to the history teacher, and they both ran into Main Building.
“Mademoiselle, s’il vous plait, quel jour est-il?” Miss Rhodesia, dull as ever in a brown-plaid shirtwaist that looked like it came from the Salvation Army, nodded her head with each syllable.
“Aujourd’hui, c’est vendredi, Madame, vendredi, le vingt-deux du Novembre.” I sputtered over the sequence.
“No, no du. Pas de du. No, no, encore, no. Vous ne m’ecoutez jamais!”
By the dismissal bell, no one was listening to her. The whole class bounded into the hallway.
First came Linda's cry. “The President’s been shot.” She was running toward Robin and me.
“The President. The President. The President, President Kennedy.”
News ricocheted off the walls, an echo chamber for fragments of information.
“Hey, Miss Robertson won’t call class off!”
“You’d better get to Russian!”
“What about Religion?”
The three of us joined the rush for Main Building and the school’s only TV.
And remembering my two roommates
Robin Smith (1947-1989), George School graduation, 1965