Remembering John F. Kennedy
For those of us who remember exactly where we were and what we were doing that fateful moment when the news broke that President Kennedy had been assassinated, it is hard to believe half a century has passed. But November 22, 2013 did, indeed, mark the 50th anniversary of that tragic day in American history.
Here in Eastern France, this important date was commemorated on the campus of the Office of National Forests’ training academy in the town of Velaine-en-Haye in Lorraine. And why at the training academy of the equivalent of our own Forest Service? Because in 1963, the campus was a NATO supply base, the Nancy General Depot, staffed by American military personnel and French civilians, and following Kennedy’s assassination a small monument was erected on the base to his memory. Said to be the only monument in France dedicated to President Kennedy and unveiled on November 20, 1964, its exact origin has been lost to history. But most agree it was the French employees of the base, touched by the young President’s death, who took up a collection and erected the monument. The anniversary, which was hosted by the Academy’s director, Alexis Hzlusko, was marked by the placing of wreaths at the monument, speeches given by the Director and the Consul General, and a luncheon hosted by the Academy for local officials, students, staff and faculty.
Back in Strasbourg, the Consulate General hosted a small commemoration just across the street from our building at the John F. Kennedy bridge over the Ill river. Again, the origin of how and when the bridge came to bear the late President’s name has faded with time. But we are grateful to the city of Strasbourg for so naming the bridge in honor of our fallen president. The ceremony was attended by the Deputy Mayor, as well as by representatives of Association Alsace Etats-Unis, Americans in Alsace, and Democrats Abroad. A small bouquet of flowers was placed at the bridge, and a moment of silence was observed. Across the street, the flag in front of the Consulate General flew at half-staff as we recalled the life of a young President tragically cut short and of the hopes that died with him.
Evan G. Reade