The Last Great Day of a President’s Life.
November 20, 2013
It is a book, yes.
Yet it has no bar code.
No ISBN number.
No printed price.
For it is not for sale.
And stayed for 728 minutes, give or take.
And captivated, connected with the people of the community.
And they, him.
It is a story which has not been fully, appreciatively told.
A story which deserves telling, belongs to the community.
I reported – along with others — the story of That Day for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. I reported first from Fort Worth. And then from Dallas.
Later, I began to write a record of what happened for our daughter, LeAnne, who was two years old at the time.
I added to it as the years went by.
I began to refer to it as an essay.
I sometimes referred to it as long-form journalism.
Then one day I realized it totaled some 27,000 words.
So I started referring to it as a short book.
In the mind’s eye, I began to envision a cover for the book.
I wanted it simple, clean.
I enlisted the assistance of our daughter, a photographer who also has expertise in design.
She came up with what you see here.
She achieved – over achieved, really — my goal.
A cover that would sell – if the book were for sale.
I could not bring myself to put a price on the book.
Because it is a gift.
The gift of a story that belongs to all.
A gift for family.
A gift, it is hoped, that accurately portrays that moment, that is in keeping with the solemnity of this current moment – the remembrance of those 728 minutes of 50 years ago.
I mailed the gift to family members.
It will be available to community without cost by way of serialization at calebandlindapirtle.com.
The book – the story – is not finished.
It will not be until I am.
There is more of the story to learn.
To that end, my wife, Dale, and I on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013, will attend a Commemorative JFK Breakfast in the same ballroom of the Fort Worth hotel (the same hotel where he spent his last night) where the young president gave his last speech, on which I reported, and at which the Texas Boys Choir will perform the same repertoire of That Day. A former U. S. Secret Service agent who was on duty That Day will speak.
Afterwards, we will walk across the street to the parking lot (which now has structures) where the President on that morning spoke to thousands of men, women and children who gathered and waited for his remarks – some of them in the darkness, in the rain.
There where the JFK Tribute has since been placed.
So we will go there.
Remember and reflect on those parts of the story we knew then.
That we have learned since.
That we will possibly learn tomorrow.
Or the day after tomorrow.
Perhaps learn more of the story to put into a larger, hard-cover book – a book that will go beyond the joyous moments of That Day and into the sad ones that came later That Day.
To be published, perhaps offered for sale some other tomorrow when the telling of the story is more complete. When the timing is more appropriate.
But not now.
Now, for us, is not the time to think in terms of the commerce of books.
Now is the time for solemn, respectful reflection of the story.
And the telling of the story.
It is a story that must be freely offered to, received by family, friends, community.
For it is a story that – especially in this quiet moment of somber reflection, remembrance — rightfully belongs to them.
Roger Summers is a journalist and essayist who spends time in Texas, New Mexico and England and in a world of curiosity and creativity. He can be reached at email@example.com.