Monday, November 22, 2010

A Moment to Remember

If ever there was a class and teacher high school sophomores at Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn chose to ignore and make fun of, it was the art class of Shirley Franzblau. No longer awed by being in secondary school, savvy in our knowledge of the ways and means of our private high school, we barely could contain our indifference to the silver-haired Miss Franzblau’s subject and tutelage.

But it is her class that stands out in memory more than any other. It was in her classroom, shortly after 2 on a Friday afternoon 47 years ago today, that the intercom speaker came to life to tell all about the death of a president.

November 22, 1963. I was 14. Like most of my contemporaries, I had finally achieved more than a modicum of political awareness. JFK’s inaugural address was the first I ever heard. His cabinet was the first whose members I could fully name. Similarly, I could identify the nine Supreme Court justices. A year after the Cuban Missile Crisis, images of ambassador Adlai Stevenson showing the United Nations, and through television, the world, photos of the Soviet deployments in Cuba were still fresh in my memory bank. So, too, were the press conferences John Kennedy held.

As I remember it, our class came to absolute silence. I don’t recall anyone weeping. Just stunned silence. Miss Franzblau told us there would be early dismissal. I went home to join, for the next three days, a nation watching history unfold and be changed forever.

I’ve visited the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas overlooking the grassy knoll. The sixth floor from where Lee Harvey Oswald fired those fateful shots has been turned into a museum. I choose to believe there was just one shooter, though I don’t discount Oswald may have been part of a more elaborate conspiracy.

I remember nothing else about Shirley Franzblau’s classes. Just one moment in an otherwise forgettable class.