The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

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Remembering RFK

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Image courtesy of KTLA-TV
Robert F. Kennedy, Ambassador Hotel, June 5, 1968.

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Beginning June 1, the Daily Mirror will follow Robert F. Kennedy in the final days of his campaign for the American presidency, from hope and triumph at the polls to tragedy in a cramped corridor in a kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel.

We want you to share your recollections of this day that changed the course of U.S. history. Please share your comments below (all posts must be approved before they are published) or send them to me by e-mail.


      
  • It was a year of nightmares, starting on March 1, when a dear friend, Gerry Markwith, was killed in Vietnam. By June, when Emily Thompson Smith came running down the corridor of our dorm at the University of Washington, yelling that Kennedy had been shot, my first reaction was, what else can they do to us?

    Most of us spent the rest of the night in tears.

    A lot of people get nostalgic for their college years. Somehow, I just can’t.

Pamela Sowers


  • Five-thirty a.m. the alarm woke me. That was the day that I was supposed to go fishing with my dad and his two brothers, the last chance that I’d get to see them before entering boot camp. Then the radio news came up with word that Robert Kennedy was in grave condition. Instantly I intuited that I’d put a mark on him down the hill in Van Nuys. What a horrid feeling that was. To feel in your bones that you had set something in motion, that it was all your own fault. I didn’t fish that day. Dad dropped me off on Broadway in downtown and I set out to try and find Good Samaritan Hospital.

Three weeks earlier, the junior senator from New York had appeared at Valley College. Every year since, I’ve remembered the date - May 15th. And I was young and not yet a renegade Catholic. so I climbed over the rear fence in Sunland to convince Bill Linsley to come along. Kennedy was approaching the apex of his pitched battle with Eugene McCarthy. One year later I was in Vietnam and I still could not have voted for him, was serving in a war zone - supposedly too young to shoulder the responsibility of voting. We left early but to no avail, the place was tightly packed two hours in advance. Youngsters were running from door to door of the Men’s Gymnasium pounding in vain, pleading for admittance. Outside speakers were set up so others could hear the candidate’s address. Music performed by the Strawberry Alarm Clock was broadcast, along with Richard Harris’ surrealistic rendering of Jimmy Webb’s ‘McArthur Park’, the one tune which truly has come to haunt L.A. over the past four decades.

1968_0516_rfkAfter standing and waiting for so long we finally heard a tremendous roar of voices coming up Ethel Avenue north of Burbank Boulevard. So hundreds of us ran over to a high fence to see the star-crossed younger brother. The scene remains indelible: he up atop the back seat of an open convertible with a man in front holding a portable spotlight, the center of an emotional riot. People had swarmed out into the street and all over that convertible! Total bedlam. Young men began scrambling over ten feet of chain link to join the chase. My friend Bill stood back to avoid the stampede while I started to dodge and run along the fence towards an entry gate further north. Then I managed to collide with someone’s ten speed bike and so there I was, down on the ground tangled up in spokes and I glanced back at Linsley and for forty years now, I’ve remembered him there amidst the swirl, bent over in convulsive laughter, stomping his foot on the ground.

Then I got up and together we took off running across the volleyball courts towards the drive where the caravan would enter. We stood back as the car passed by, it’s fenders loaded with kids. Hundreds were running alongside and so many more came swarming across the courts. And it seemed as though everyone was yelling and screaming. I still think of that sole moment of spring as the most electrifying of my life. Over the speakers came an inordinate roar from inside the gym. So we ran back to the front door where we figured he would enter to speak; we were the first ones there. The car arrived and stopped a minute later and we were surrounded by a youthful mass of humanity. A woman fainted in the crush and was passed hand to hand above the tightly packed throng. From the rear came a chant “We want Gene! We want Gene!” But our crowd was decidedly partisan; the McCarthyites quickly shut up and ran for safety.

Protected by a wedge of bodyguards, he didn’t shake hands and they pressed forward through the pandemonium. I couldn’t resist, lunged through the crowd and lightly touched his shoulder. He spoke on foreign affairs and jokingly asked how many were actually able to vote for him. Not many of us could have. That evening he didn’t quote Shaw and shook many hands in taking leave. Then the caravan rolled down the long drive back towards Ethel and I watched through the viewfinder of my camera as the car turned out and underneath the overpass which crosses there to the east. He suddenly bent forward with both hands clasped behind his head, down he went into the back seat. An L.A.P.D. officer had cleared the bridge only minutes before, yet someone had managed to return and throw something from above.

John Crandell

  • I grew up in the original Saugus, located in Massachusetts.

    I vividly remember getting up for school on June 6, and finding my mother sitting on the couch in front of our TV set, weeping quietly.

    I saw that the network was on at this early hour, and asked her what had happened.

    She said "They killed Bobby Kennedy last night."

    To a 10-year old kid, 1968 was indeed "The Incredible Year", as CBS titled their end-of-year retrospective 33 rpm album.

    JFK, MLK and RFK's murders made me a news junkie for life.

    Mike Mynahan
    Athol, MA

  • While only 19, I was working at a summer job that finished at 4 am. (In NY, during the 18 year drinking age years, one could tend bar at a resort night club.) As I was driving home, I turned on the radio and had one of those moments of clarity when you knew something had happened and who it happened to. The reporter said something about a shooting, but not who.  For some reason, I knew.

    During that time, I was in college and worked on the campus radio station. During the Pennsylvania primary, I had a chance to meet and ask questions of RFK. I fell in love. The dismay of the assassination (and the resulting convention) set me back on politics…and hope…for many years. One wonders what would have happened had he lived, won the nomination (which I think he would have done), won the Presidency and kept us from Nixon and, likely, much else.


    Bob Pinzler
    Newport Beach


  • Well, I was there at the Ambassador Hotel June 5, 1968. I was a freelance news photographer, working with a New York City photo agency. They told me that both Time and Newsweek wanted to use a close-up head-and-shoulders shot of RFK in the event he won the California primary.

    So I stood in just the right spot with a telephoto lens on my Nikon F, waiting for RFK to come out and announce he had won, or whatever. Actually, it was too close to call when he did come out and speak to the
    large crowd assembled.

    Then he went out of the ballroom where he was speaking, into a hallway I guess and then into the pantry, where he was shot.

    I heard the shots from where I was in the ballroom. They sounded like balloons popping. Then a young woman came my way, crying, and saying "they shot him." Both Time and Newsweek used some of my photos, but not on the cover.

    It's not fun to have someone keep you from voting for the person of your choice, and using a gun to do so. I wish I hadn't been there.

    Howard Decker

  • That year it felt like the world was falling apart. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April. My brother turned 18 in May and we were all terrified
    that he would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. I already had a cousin there.

    We were all riveted by the election, although my parents did not support Kennedy. I think they had never recovered from JFK's death and they were afraid to put their hearts into another Kennedy. I was 8 years old and had stayed up late the night before to watch the election returns, but was sent to bed before the speech. The next day was a school day, after all.

    The next morning we were all awakened by one of my 3rd grade classmates calling the house to report the news of the shooting. Another tragedy in a terrible year.



    Mary Alice McLoughlin

  • I can only talk through the eyes and perceptions of someone who is 11 years of age at the time of this incident.  The election was about a week and a half before LAUSD let the schools out for summer vacation and we were preparing our school play for when we graduated the following week.  I was attending Saticoy Elementary School, in North Hollywood and noticed there was a big push to get the vote out.  I still remember the returns coming in late into the morning and my parents letting me stay up late when KNBC or KTLA (I think) went off the air right after Sen. Kennedy saying, "...now it's on to Chicago and let's win there."   About one minute later the TV broadcast came back on and all heck was breaking loose, with screaming, crying and with the panic in the air, somebody saying "Senator Kennedy has been shot."  They ran him over to Central Receiving Hospital and then transferred him to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan, where he passed.

    I remember going to school the next day and there was an open discussion (we called it "Current Events") as to what happened through that Friday.  No grief counselors, psychologists or Dr. Phil's, just people talking about people and getting a greater understanding of life and society.  I also remember that there were a number of wild notions floated about, especially the one regarding the US support of Israel in the Six Day War (1967) and the Sirhan B. Sirhan being a Jordanian national.

    I remember the services for RFK, the broadcasting of the long train ride, the people waving from the stations and the rail-lines and the final trip across Memorial Bridge into Arlington National Cemetery, where he was eventually laid to rest.  I will always remember the photo of the busboy kneeling. Although a brilliant man, loving husband and father, outstanding legal mind and one who took on challenges, RFK has passed, but will never be forgotten, leastwise in Los Angeles, California.   

    For me, this is a key event in my life which sent me on the path of being politically active within the party I belong to.

    Steven Moshlak

  • I was driving that day with a friend on the Harbor Freeway and we saw this car with the top down and in it was Robert Kennedy and several  other persons and I screamed at him, well I called his name and he waved at us! I just cant believe that this happened 40 yrs ago!

    Bill Kraal

  • I was 11 years old when Bobby was killed. I lived with my parents and two brothers and one sister in the West Valley -- in Canoga Park. I had of course gone to bed that night before Bobby was shot. When I woke up in the morning, I went outside to pick up the morning paper lying in the driveway. I was shocked and stunned when I saw the headline -- a headline that is etched deeply into my memory. The headline was an eight-column, all-cap banner in big black letters:  RFK IS DEAD.

    Francesca Gentile

  • June, 1968, seems like a very long time ago now.  Life has continued and gone on, and his life and loss has become history for the two generations since.  For one for whom his life and loss is a real memory held all these years I can still hear him exhort us to "dream things that never were and ask, why not?"  It seems like it was only yesterday.

    Robert L. Hopkins

  • My name is Marc Mitchell.  I am 35 years old. My wife and I live in Redondo Beach.

    Although I was not born until the end of 1972, I have heard my father discuss the tragic turn of events from 6.6.68...

    My father was serving as an Officer in the Marine Corps in 1968.  He heard then news in Quantico VA; it broke his heart when he heard of Bobby's death. 

    Although many things would have been different had Bobby lived, my dad's words have always been, "you'll never know how many USMC officers were pulling for Bobby to win...because we knew if he were to win the Democratic nomination and then go on to win the general election in November 1968, come January 1969 Vietnam would be over."
  • I was barely two months old when Robert Kennedy was shot.  What I always found sad was the reaction my Father had.  He told me the story a number of times of course.  He said that when President John F. Kennedy was shot he was extremely sad.  When RFK was shot he was devestatingly sad and shook his fist at the world.

    Mario Valenti

  • It truly was the best of times, the worst of times as so many earth shattering, life changing, roller coaster events clashed and tumbled into one another.

    The Vietnam War was raging and Lyndon Johnson informed the nation that he would not seek re-election.

    I was engaged and preparing for a joyous summer wedding.

    Then, how could it be? The horrifying  death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. occurred, wounding so many of us in the process yet igniting the flame within.

    I graduated with honors, anxiously anticipating the start of what would become a lifelong career ... a passion and calling ... in education.

    And then, the very morning after my college graduation, the roller coaster skidded out of control.

    Robert Kennedy was murdered.

    The nation prepared for an unspeakable task: Losing another Kennedy, burying another kindred soul.

    I will never forget standing by the side of the embankment near my home on the outskirts of Baltimore, waiting for RFK's funeral train to pass by.

    As the train slowly came into view, I bowed my head and said a prayer. I gazed at the heavens and knew I was not alone.

    A young college girl no more, I prepared for my future life .

    I would become a teacher, wife, principal, mother, regional superintendent of schools and a journalist.

    But that very day, I simply became. I vowed to make a difference in the lives of others.  Most especially, for each and every child.

    Fervently, that focus has never wavered. Nor has the profound impact upon me of that spring of 1968.

    The tragic deaths of Dr. King and RFK, along with countless other heroes, many whose names we may not be able to recite, fortified for me that their lives must forever be glorified in our deeds and honored in our actions.

    God bless you evermore.

    Bev Berlett Norwood

  • I was only 9 years old in 1968 but I remember so much....we lived near the
    Miracle Mile district of LA, right there at the corner of Olympic Blvd and
    Burnside Ave. At night the adults would have dinner parties and all the men
    spoke so loudly. You might as well listen to them discuss whether or not
    Kennedy should sell jet planes to Israel following the 6-Day War, or if
    Lyndon Johnson would run for re-election.

    At the end of the block there was a two story house (or was it duplex?) with
    a huge banner signaling support for Gene McCarthy. The kids in my class at
    Wilshire Crest Elementary School on Olympic would put bumperstickers on our
    3-ring binders. The coolest boy with the longest hair, Scott C., had
    McCarthy.  I had Kennedy.

    Scott taunted me, "you know if Kennedy gets elected, he'll make us to go to
    school in the summertime." I came home and begged my mother to switch her
    support. She stood firm. "Bobby Kennedy absolutely will not do that and I
    guarantee he doesn't care. Presidents don't have time to worry about summer
    school!"

    It was another night in front of the television--the same as when JFK's
    funeral procession played and played and played in an endless loop,
    preempting Captain Kangaroo and thus inserting this moment into my
    consciousness. Or the night when Lyndon Johnson announced that he would not
    run for re-election and my mother screamed that she had just won her bet
    made with her friend, Viviane.

    I remember the news cameras switching to some scene, some office, somewhere
    in California where vote counters manually turned knobs and levers to track
    the incoming votes. Large white numbers appeared on a wooden board and
    counters climbed up and down ladders to change them.

    Of course it was bedtime. I don't remember any speeches. Just the darkness
    of my bedroom. Until some moment when my mother opened my door, only the red
    embers of her constant cigarette visible in the darkness.

    I struggled awake. "Did he win? Did he win?"

    "Yes," my mother answered very carefully. "But he's been shot."

    My mother later told me that when she went into her own bedroom to tell my
    father the news, he turned up from his pillow for a moment, disbelieving.
    "You're sick," was his response.

    I went to school that morning. There was talk on the news that even if RFK
    lived, he would be a vegetable. If you were 9 years old, you could convince
    each other there were reasons to be hopeful. On the playground, all the kids
    formed a circle, talking about it.

    "Now there's only two of them left," said one little girl named Tami. "Teddy
    and Eddy."

    I'll be 49 this year. But I've never stopped being annoyed by Tami's
    confusion but also wishing it were true. That we had a couple more of those
    amazing post-war leaders who could move the whole country forward. Instead
    of backward, which is where we've been since Nixon won, then Reagan, then
    Bush the elder, and Bush the dauphin.

    Barbara Tannenbaum

  • On June 5, 1968, I was a 20-year old volunteer working in the McCarthy campaign, in LA.  What I most remember was the morning after Bobby Kennedy was shot, when I went with a small group of McCarthy volunteers to RFK headquarters in, I believe, Westwood.  Bobby Kennedy did not have the army of youth volunteers that Gene McCarthy had, and RFK’s campaign needed help tearing down the operation and cleaning up the building.  When I walked into RFK headquarters the morning after the primary and the shooting, Bobby had not yet died.  I recall one young RFK staffer, in particular, a young black man, an attorney, in a 3-piece suit and wire rimmed glasses, holding himself up against a desk, weeping and utterly inconsolable by me or anyone.  Later that day I flew out of LA, back home to Kansas City.  In the air, as the light was draining from the western sky, the captain’s voice came over the intercom, to tell us that Bobby Kennedy had died.  I cried.  To this day, I love to read RFK’s speeches, the greatest of which is the speech he gave in Indianapolis on April 4, 1968, after Martin Luther King’s assassination.  In it, he says: My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."   

    Scott Temple, Ph.D.

  • Thank you, LA Times, for helping me, us, to remember Robert F. Kennedy. I was only 14 years old, but genuinely interested in what was going on in politics and the upcoming election. Only in the ensuing years have I gained a sense of what was lost with the shooting of RFK. I look at these photos and weep for my country--how far we have fallen. Damn it! Again, thank you so very much.

    Ted Moreno

  • I was a student at an Iowa high school, about to complete my sophomore year.  I was awakened on June 5th  by  Dionne Warwick singing “Do you know the way to San Jose?”.  When the song finished, the local radio personality stated the Bobby Kennedy had been shot following a victory celebration in Los Angeles.  A rush of emotion filled my body.  My family, sitting downstairs around the kitchen table, appeared unmoved by the news of the horrible event.  I managed to survive the remainder of the school year, but my mind often strayed, visualizing everything that could have been.                                  

    To this day, I hate the artificially cheerful song I heard first thing on the morning of June 5, 1968 

    Georgia Fuoto

  • In 1968 I was a college student, and my Mom and I went door to door campaigning for RFK and registering people to vote. It was an exciting time. There was so much hope at the time. It was clear that our country could regain its integrity and compassion with Bobby Kennedy in the White House. After the horrible assassinations of JFK and MLK, the universe seemed to be righting itself again.

    I had a bulletin board with inspirational quotes from Bobby in my bedroom. I was inspired to volunteer for the VISTA program to help with inner city kids and to become actively involved in the Civil Rights and peace movements.

    Bobby and Ethel came to Indiana for the primary and met with us volunteers. They were both so gracious and up-lifting. They took the time to greet and shake hands with each of individually. We all knew we were part of something big, something very special, and maybe even monumental.

    A few days later my clock radio woke me with the words that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. My world crumbled. I was not able to stop crying, and so I skipped my final exams that day. I could not imagine ever being able to be happy or care again. Evil had once again triumphed over good. And so it seemed that it would always be the same. There was no point in trying to make the world a better place, because there would always be violent destruction of any attempt to make things better.

    The next semester I wrote a paper comparing RFK to Jesus. I used parallel quotes, their shared compassion for the poor and their murders for political reasons by ignorant, evil men. It was a bold step for a student at a Methodist University!

    I feel like RFK's life and subsequent assassination had a profound impact on my life. Although I became disillusioned, and at times cynical, I have also felt compelled to speak up for justice and peace and to devote my life to work in human services.

    Thanks for this opportunity to share feelings about this important, life-changing experience in the lives of those of us who lived through it.

    MV Conley

 
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Comments (56)

I was just a kid asleep upstairs in our home, but I awoke hearing my mom crying at the bottom of the stairs in the house as if something wrong happened to a family member..."they shot Bobby Kennedy". I grew up with that sense of loss of a family member Mr. Bobby Kennedy. He actually tried to help people, he saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw wrong and tried to right it, and saw conflict and tried to stop it. Bobby Kennedy was a leader who had no personal financial gain but what can be done to help others here in america.

I was a young Marine sergeant at Camp Pendleton, just back from my second tour in Vietnam. Somebody had the television on in the sergeant's quarters and, when the first news reports came in, the general sense was predictably pretty cynical. It was a shocking thing but I think most everyone in that squadbay had begun to have suspicions their blindfaith in the 'system' was not well placed. It was almost as though we expected a conspracy would be at the bottom of it. Funny the things we remember after all these years. I just remember the general mood of not being particularly surprised and the underlying belief that these kinds of things couldn't be influenced one way or another by average citizens.

Wow... I remember 1968 for many reasons, the least of which were the assisinations of MLK and RFK, the Democratic Convention melee, my parents splitting up and my family disintegrating before my eyes.
I remember staying up all night with my older sister, watching the coverage on TV and the incessant replays of the end of RFK's speech and the exit to the foyer where he was shot. The image of him saying "Now it's on to Chicago, and lets win there..." has been burned in my memory for 40 years - and I was 9 when it occured. 1968 was probably the single most important year in MY life - not to mention, this country's history.

1968. The year my oldest brother married. My youngest sister was born. My oldest sister graduated the 8th grade, and the film footage of that event is marked by poster on the front of our home. The RFK campaign poster, draped so inappropriately in black. All 3 of my brothers worked on the campaign. I remember trunkloads of stickers, signs, and pamphlets. I remember an excitement in those months which I had never before experienced. I remember the TV commercials, typically ended by the same voice-over tag line: "Vote for Robert Kennedy, June 4th." I remember being a 7-year old Catholic school kid desperately hanging on into the night, hoping to hear the the victory speech, but instead giving into sleep as the clock approached midnight. I remember finding one brother that wednesday morning, sitting on the edge of his bed, staring out into space as though he'd been sitting there for all eternity. He looked far older than his 19 years. His Ambassador celebration had been in person, and his was not ended so mercifully as mine. His statement that RFK "had a bullet in his head" quelled by wakened exuberance like few things have since. RFK was not a perfect man, but he was a real life reclamation. The tragedy of his brother's assassination transformed him into a tireless worker for social justice and peace. He was in that time what many young people want to see in Barack Obama now. But RFK was more. He was a fearless campaigner - both in the way that he greeted crowds from open convertibles, to the blunt way he delivered promises of change and telling the comfortable that they would have to shoulder the burdens of caring for the afflicted. RFK represented the possible. His murder robbed us of so many possibilities. That is why 1968 is such a significant year for this nation.

I graduated from high school a couple of days before Robert Kennedy was shot. Coming on the heels of the deaths of JFK and MLK, I felt as if the world I had trusted in was irreparably less safe and immeasurably more treacherous. I know I wasn't the only 18 year old who began to suspect that "working within the system for the good of society" -- that optimistic catchphrase beloved of high school valedictorians at the time -- got you killed if it didn't get you compromised. A lot of anger was born on June 5, 1968.

I was a junior in high school, taking with about 300 other juniors a driver's education final exam (which also met New Jersey state requirements towards a license). We heard the news of RFK's death together -- before the exam.

As we walked home from school, the scene was different than our 7th grade experience after learning of JFK's assassination. In 1963, students and teachers were crying with major sobs. For RFK, we were instead in stunned silence or talking quietly about the Kennedy family's grief, the horror of Martin Luther King's recent murder and where exactly our nation was headed. Nixon was already one of the least liked Americans (politely said). Perhaps the innocence of our youth allowed us to read between Nixon's lines and demeanor.

I share most historians' perceptions on what would have happened to the U.S. if RFK was elected President. There's little doubt our nation would have seen much better years. I still heave a sigh when I think of all Kennedy family tragedies. That's because it was our tragedy as well.

Still miss you, Bobby.

I remember that evening well, our family had gone out to the drive in movies ,I can still recall the movie that we had seen it was Clint Eastwood in The Good , the Bad and the Ugly. on our way home that night the radio was set to boss radio KHJ they broke in and said that Bobby had been shot ! everyone in the car started to cry. it was a sad time .

I was nearly seven years old in June 1968. Our schools where I lived (Alabama) were already out for the summer, but I still woke up early in the morning, around 7:00. As was my morning ritual, I intended to head for the kitchen, grab some cereal, and watch some old cartoons. However, as I entered the living room I noticed my Mom standing there with a really serious look in her face, staring at the televsion. They were showing scenes of the horror in LA over and over again. I can still remember as if it were yesterday how shocked I was by the image of the people in the pantry crying and screaming. It was only years later that I learned that what I thought I remembered as someone yelling "Please shoot him" (I assumed at the time that someone was encouraging a guard or police man to shoot Sirhan) was actually a network employee yelling at his distraught camera man "Please shoot it." In addition, I recall how curious the question "Is there a doctor in the house?" sounded to me at that age. We watched the coverage over the next couple of days non-stop; in fact, it became so embedded in my brain that I can recall dreaming at night that I was still watching the coverage (one image of Walter Cronkite talking with Sirhan's photo behind him on the screen kept cropping up). It was indeed a horrible, horrible time, and an event which I believe negatively altered this country's political system and history to this day.

To Steven Moshlak:

I was 13 when RFK was killed. I lived in Riverside. I saw him on probably KNBC (as we were an NBC family, sorry Walter Cronkite, we were Huntley and Brinkley) and the "now on to Chicago." Then, as you said, all hell broke loose.

Maybe I shouldn't have been up that late watching TV (Loved the Tonight show). But what I saw was . . .I don't know. It was different than when JFK was killed. This was live, on TV, it was and still is scary. 'Cause it was "live"' This was a guy really getting killed in real time.

Then, over the years I watched "Shock and Awe," the "OJ Freeway Chase," the tsunami that took out Indonesia, Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, the "not so fabulous" Supreme Court decision of 2000, Lennon getting shot, Reagan getting shot, the panic of the late 80s when the market really fell, Challenger, Berlin Wall coming down . . .Oh, too tired to finish.

But, watching RFK as he's dying. No . . .

KHJ???!!! Someone remembers KHJ? That DJ/TV announcer Sam something, with his "assistant" Kam something or other. KOLA? KFI (Lohman and Barkley)? The "Mighty Met?" Never listened to it, but lots of friends did. That "oldies" station out of Pasadena area. Criminey, I've been out of SoCal too long.

I was just about to turn 16 years old when RFK was assassinated. I remember vividly the morning of June 6th when I woke to see my mom and dad listening to our kitchen radio as the news of his condition was broadcast. I had stayed up late the night before and had gone to bed just as it had been announced RFK was declared the winner of the primary, not knowing he was about to be silenced. But what I will always remember is what I experienced the Sunday berfore, for my family was at Disneyland on that day. It was in the afternoon and we were close to the It's a Small World ride, when we noticed a huge crowd, with noise and commotion that was beyond belief. We knew something was going on but could not detemine what until we leaned over a railing and saw RFK and his family and entourage emerging from the shadows of the ride on several boats. His was not a political rally type of visit as there were no news camera crews or reporters present, but just a visit with his family to perhaps escape the rigors of the campaign. The scene was incredible; thousands of people everywhere pressing forward to get a glimpse of him. It became obvious he could not stay in the park any longer, and hurried on foot with his Secret Service entourage to the park-like area in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle, where he boarded a car to escape the crowds and leave the park. It was an unbelievable sight; people everywhere trying to touch him as he hurried by. My dad was fortunate to have the opportunity to shake his hand. RFK waved to the crowd, boarded the car and was driven away. I have never seen anything like that before or since. Cannot believe it was 40 years ago; it seems like yesterday.

I guess I was 9 years old. I had gone to sleep but my older brother starting shaking my bed saying "They shot Kennedy" etc etc, we used to play some pretty mean jokes on each other but he kept on shaking my bed and screaming "they shot Kennedy". I woke up and watched on KTLA (I think KTLA was the only station that was actually live at the time of the shooting). I watched as long as I could and then fell alseep. I remember the next morning getting up to get my cereal and my father was in the kitchen (A rare occurance) and I asked him what happened to Bobby Kennedy, he told me that he had died from the shooting, my dad seemed somber even though he was a real Nixon/Reagan guy. But for that moment he seemed to convey a feeling of how screwed this entire scenario was. I remember school being very strange that day, we were all talking about it. Those were exciting times, I don't know what would have happened if Bobby would not have been shot, no one can guess. I do know that people seemed more interested in what was going on then and the media did not control the masses like we have allowed to happen now. People were out in the streets really protesting. Perhaps they were better times.

I remember it like it was yesterday. First came the call that my Grandfather had just passed away. We went into the living room and sat there thinking of my Grandpa and what a wonderful man he was. We had just moved to California in the summer of 1967 from Massachusetts. I was in the 8th Grade. My Mom (it was her Dad who had just passed) suggested that we turn the TV on to keep us all from crying. There it was, RFK had been shot the night before and was in "grave" condition. That just made the tears flow even harder. The sense of loss was overwhelming. Although Senator Kennedy was not yet dead, we knew, he would be soon. Being
"Kennedy Democrats" all we could think of, was it has happened again. Just a few months before it was Rev. King, how much more madness was there to be in this world. We would find out soon enough. 1968 was the year, I believe that the whole world changed for the worse. MLK/JFK/The TET Offense in Viet Nam...Our hopes and innocence were lost that year. I still have the Life Magazines with RFK running on the beach with his dog, the one with Mrs. King on the cover at funeral of Dr.King. I pulled them out this morning and read them both cover to cover again..The world still clings to hope that we can somehow change, It's not so much a wish for peace, but, a wish for some kind of stability to return to this world of ours. The silencing of RFK and MLK that year was deafening. Two young men who only sought to bring much needed change to this country. 1968 the year I knew at 14 still sits in my memory, it is sometimes haunting how much me have not changed at all.

I remember Bobby Kennedy’s campaign, way back in 1968. It was a time of national crisis. We had a raging war in Viet Nam and all of the political unrest that was on every campus in the nation. We needed a new leader and when President Johnson stepped down, Bobby became the only hope to direct us in the right direction. We all knew that California was a big primary state to win and it really looked like Bobby was going to achieve it. In Michigan it was too late to stay up and watch the results of this primary. So I went to bed and woke up to the sad news that Bobby had been shot. Our country really became lost and elected Richard Nixon that year. That should have been Bobby’s election to win.

I had just finished my freshman year at USF and like most of the Irish Catholic kids of my generation, I had watched the election returns that night with great interest. Bobby represented a rebirth of Camelot to some of us, a return to what might be possible for our younger generation. I watched Bobby walked off the stage after saying that it was on to Chicago and victory. And then came the sucker punch. I remember walking into my parents room to tell them that Bobby had been shot and my dad getting angry with me for kidding around like that. It was the sobbing in my voice that let both he and my mom know that I was serious.
That summer, to me, was the death of our innocence, of our hope for my generation, for a leader who envisioned a united country, an enlightened country and a country preparing itself for its role in the world affairs.

The pain and heartbreak of June 5, 1968 will never, ever go away. This is the one assassination from the 1960`s that keeps hurting more and more as time goes by.

When the day arrives that Sirhan Sirhan has finally passed away in his lonely and miserable prison cell, perhaps the healing process will begin. I doubt it, but it`s all I can cling to. The fact that he still maintains a pulse is an absolute obscenity!

The memories I have are embedded in my soul forever. I was only four years old, not quite yet five. I remember my mother arguing with my father because she wanted to go see Robert Kennedy and he didn't.

Kennedy was visiting San Francisco's Mission District, a heavily Hispanic community just before (a few days?...a week?...) the California Primary.

My mother ended up saying something to the effect of "I'm going with you or without you!" and she left. Not long after that my father did end up taking me to catch up with her to go see Kennedy.

Even though I was only four, I'll never forget the image of this man standing on top of a car and this mob of humanity reaching out to him just to shake his hand. I remember seeing his face from where I stood. He was like a rock star before I even knew what a rock star was!

My mother did get to shake his hand. But a few days, or a week later, I remember her doing nothing but cry and cry for what seemed like an eternity. She's never recovered from that tragedy and, in a way, neither have I.

Every day of my life I dream things that never were, or never will be, and cry out "WHY NOT?!?"

That year it felt like the world was falling apart.
Martin Luther King was assassinated in April. My
brother turned 18 in May and we were all terrified
that he would be drafted and sent to Vietnam. I
already had a cousin there.
We were all riveted by the election, although my
parents did not support Kennedy. I think they had
never recovered from JFK's death and they were afraid
to put their hearts into another Kennedy.
I was 8 years old and had stayed up late the night
before to watch the election returns, but was sent to
bed before the speech. The next day was a school day,
after all.
The next morning we were all awakened by one of my 3rd
grade classmates calling the house to report the news
of the shooting. Another tragedy in a terrible year.

On the night of June 4th forty years ago, I was in bed at home in South San Francisco with a transistor radio under my pillow, listening to reports from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, where Bobby Kennedy had moments before claimed victory in California’s 1968 Democratic Primary.

The frantic reports on the radio conflicted sharply with the celebratory scene I saw on television just minutes earlier. It soon became clear that shots had been fired at Kennedy, who was seriously wounded according to news reports.

I climbed out of bed. “Bobby Kennedy’s been shot,” I told my brother in the upper bunk. “You’re crazy,” said a voice in the dark.

I walked out to our living room. My parents, sitting on the couch watching election results on television, were surprised to see me out of bed. The late Frank McGee was anchoring NBC’s coverage, but news of the shooting had yet to reach the television audience.

“Bobby Kennedy’s been shot,” I said. “No, he hasn’t,” my Mom said, motioning toward the television, where McGee just then announced that coverage was switching to the Ambassador Hotel. Cameras there captured the pandemonium in the hotel ballroom.

We all know what happened next. I still have a copy of the June 6, 1968, San Francisco Examiner, a banner across the top of the front page reading, “Shocked Nation Grieves for Kennedy.”

Kennedy’s assassination is more than just a sad memory for me, as Kennedy’s 1968 campaign represented my first and only serious foray into political activity, even though I was only 13 years old at the time.

Some friends and I devoted significant time and energy to Bobby’s campaign, passing out leaflets at supermarkets and other venues and climbing billboards to post large Kennedy campaign posters. We would visit a south-of-Market warehouse in San Francisco to reload on supplies. I don’t recall how we got there; one of our parents drove, I guess.

Looking back over four decades, I still wonder what drove me to campaign for Kennedy. I’d like to think I was a little more politically astute than most kids my age, as my Dad was a labor union official, and politics were discussed in our house from time to time.

I would read Time and Newsweek while eating my frequent bowls of Trix cereal, and we subscribed to a couple of newspapers, which I also read. Despite this exposure to current events, I don’t think I was particularly aware of what Bobby stood for.

The Kennedy mystique probably had something to do with it. Less than five years had passed since JFK’s assassination, one of the defining moments in the life of anyone alive at the time. There was, I think, a sense that the late president’s mission was unfinished, and that perhaps Bobby would take up the gauntlet and continue on.

It was also a time of larger-than-life celebrities like movie and rock stars whose personal lives and foibles were not yet made daily fodder for a voracious public. Bobby, with his celebrity supporters and glamorous background, seemed to fit more into this group than with his counterparts in the staid arena of government.

Ultimately, I’d like think we were drawn to Bobby because he represented something positive and hopeful in dark times. The nation was still reeling from the politics of assassination, which first claimed JFK and, more recently, Martin Luther King Jr. Nightly news featured war raging in Southeast Asia and growing protests against it. Inner cities were roiled by violent riots. There was a palpable sense, even among the young, that society was unraveling in unpredictable and frightening ways. Bobby became our knight in shining armor, riding to our rescue.

I have another memory of Kennedy from an event that occurred a week or two before he was killed, when we got word that Bobby was going to visit South San Francisco for a campaign appearance. We went downtown on the designated Saturday and waited with a large crowd on Grand Avenue for the candidate to arrive.

After considerable delay, a convertible automobile came into view. Sure enough, Bobby was riding in the back, joined by a young state legislator named George Moscone, who was apparently brought along because someone told the Kennedy campaign about our town’s Italian heritage. (Moscone, as mayor of San Francisco, would also become a victim of gun violence nine years later.)

I don’t recall much of what Bobby said that afternoon; I think he spoke about work he had done on behalf of Italian-Americans. After the short speech, the candidate’s vehicle began to nudge throw the crowd while a large man held Bobby so he could “shake hands” with the crowd, although shaking hands in this instance meant touching them as his car rolled passed.

I reached through the throng and Kennedy’s hand brushed against mine for a brief second. The car moved slowly through the large crowd, so I was able to run ahead and “shake hands” with Kennedy a second time before his vehicle finally cleared the mob and was able to gain enough speed to depart.

The car disappeared up the street. Before long, Bobby would be dead. Our country was inalterably changed by his assassin’s gun, as was I, and both not for the better. I’ve never really campaigned for a candidate since.

Although I lived in the Hollywood Hills at the time, I was in San Francisco working on a project. The evening of Senator Kennedy's California win I was at Enrico's, the legendary sidewalk cafe. Inside a TV was tuned to the events at the Ambassador. When Bobby Kennedy stepped up to the podium for his speech, we were there to share his victory. The cafe was celebrating as the Senator walked through the backways. When the shots rang out, an eerie silence befell us. Live TV connected us and millions more, to that horror filled scene. Instantly we knew that America's last hope for a restoration of excellence was killed.

The tragedy turned out to be far worse than we could have known in 1968. Now, almost exactly forty years later, there is again a glimmer of hope.

I believe that Barak Obama rekindles the spirit of John and Robert Kennedy. With his election, the healing can truly begin.

It has been far too long.

I was 8 when Robert Kennedy was killed. I remember I was in the car with my father who told me he had listened to the radio telling that Bobby had been shot. I had never before seen my father so sad and downhearted: although being a little boy I realized that something horrible had happened.
I remember these moments very clearly also after 40 years;


reprinted from the blog highwayscribery


Tonight the scribe takes special pleasure in updating this Web log, for the subject is the memory of the late Bobby Kennedy. June 5th was the 37th anniversary of his assassination in Los Angeles.

the scribe thought it was today, and it is a reflection of our rightward drift and division that so little, if anything, was written on Sunday about this man whom, whatever his political inclinations, gave his life to the country.

In any case, we’ll do this a few days late; the sentiment is no less deep or profound.

Once a guy is dead and not around to defend his own name the enemy tends to do a dance all over their reputation. The Kennedys, Jack and Bobby, were by virtue of their murders raised to the level of saints. In reality they were politicians with all that implies and which left them open for some pretty vicious hits post mortem.

And furthermore, the scribe doesn’t go in much for family dynasties, which by their very nature are anti-democratic. You only need to look at what’s going on now to get an idea.

Nonetheless, the scribe lives his life in the belief that Senator Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign represented the high point of the American experience and that his murder marked the beginning of our decline as a special and enlightened nation which, through its ideas and not its armies, led a democratic revolution around the world.

To go back and listen to Bobby’s speeches from that terrible and tremendous time is to wonder what country they might have been delivered in, because it’s not the America any of us are experiencing. He and his brother the President were the closest thing to social democrats the post-war United States ever produced and both were shot like dogs for their efforts.

His own presidential candidacy featured a discussion about inequality and poverty never, ever repeated in American politics. He took the anti-war movement mainstream and gave it a head of steam and respectability it did not lose until they had killed him.

If you ever get frustrated at Democratic presidential candidates and wonder why it is so goddamn hard for them to just come out against a war they know is wrong, remember what happened to the last guy who tried it.

As they say in Spain, “Haz bien, trae mal” or “Do good, bring bad.”

That he was shot by Sirhan Sirhan is a certainty. That more bullets than the eight Sirhan’s gun could hold were found is also a certainty. That the doorway beam from which two bullets were pried was inexplicably burned by the Los Angeles Police Department is also a known fact. The rest can be left to those with the time to sort out conspiracies; for us it serves as a stark reminder of how the American right wing plays for keeps.

They talk a lot about the bankruptcy of American liberalism, the loss of direction and lack of ideas. They never wonder what the murders of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King Jr., meant in that regard. They were young men, standard-bearers of the left with many years of fight, maturity and leadership still ahead when they were struck down. And they could not be replaced.

We should remember that.

The recently departed Hunter S. Thompson wrote about Kennedy in his classic “Fear and Loathing on Campaign Trail ‘72”. He was addressing the McGovern campaign’s idea of using Bobby’s voice on commercial spots:

“In purely pragmatic terms, the Kennedy voice tapes will probably be effective in this dreary campaign; and in the end we might all agree that it was Right and Wise to use them...but in the meantime there will be a few bad losers here and there, like me, who feel a very powerful sense of loss and depression every time we hear that voice – that speedy, nasal Irish twang that mailed the ear like a shot of ‘Let It Bleed’ suddenly cutting through the doldrums of a dull Sunday morning on a plastic FM station.

There is a strange psychic connection between Bobby Kennedy’s voice and the sound of the Rolling Stones. They were part of the same trip, that wild sense of breakthrough in the late Sixties when almost anything seemed possible.

The whole era peaked on March 31, 1968 when LBJ went on national TV to announce that he wouldn’t run for re-election – that everything he stood for was fucked, and by quitting he made himself the symbolic ex-champ of the Old Order.

It was like driving an evil King off the throne. Nobody knew exactly what would come next, but we all understood that whatever happened would somehow be the product of the ‘New Consciousness.’ By May it was clear that the next President would be either Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy and that the War would be over by Christmas...”

the scribe lived that connection before ever reading the passage. The Stones marked the boundaries of his lifestyle as a young rake, Bobby his political activism as a reformed one.

As a reporter with the “Los Angeles Business Journal” the scribe had to do a story about the Ambassador Hotel where Kennedy was slain. He asked to be taken into the infamous “pantry” where the nefarious act went down. He didn’t stay long.

In 1966, Kennedy gave perhaps his most famous speech to an arena filled with young people in Cape Town, South Africa.

We close tonight with an excerpt from the same:

“[T]he belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence...Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.

“It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

Let it bleed indeed.

Forty years later has anything really changed.
Kennedy wanted to help poor people.
Kennedy wanted to help black people immersed in a civil rights battle.
Yet as of yesterday hate filled comments against Obama had to be pulled from the CBS site.
Six of ten in Mit voted against affirmative action.
CNN predicts MI will vote for McCain.
Americas’ cities remain segregated wastelands of poverty. What would BOBBY SAY ON THAT and more important what would you do to help him solve the poverty, racial hatred and social injustices that persist forty years later.


I was 5 years old when my cousin announced he was going to be one of the volunteers working at the Ambassador for the Democratic Party the evening of the primary. I was envious, knowing that he would be in proximity of Bobby Kennedy. I got to watch some of the election return, but being so little, I was trotted off to been early. The next day everyone was sad and when I was told about the assassination, I was devastated. I hadn't quite recovered from MLK's loss.

I interpreted these two heroes as being real challengers of the establishment who became vulnerable to the enmity around them. What a tragic loss for the country. There hasn't been an election cycle when I didn't think what would have been had both these men lived out full long lives. The only sparkle of this same vitality and humanity I now see in Obama. May he carry our country and our hopes into a new era of hope and promise.

 

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