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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 13 years old and taking an end of year test in the gymnasium at my JR high school on L.I. I remember how hot it was in that gym. I couldn't comprehend why somebody killed a person who seemed intent on helping those who needed help the most. RFK's death and the death of JFK was a turning point in this country's history... a turning point for the worse, I'm afraid. Look what we were left with... Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, two Bushes and Slick Willie, and a nation that views it's politicians as being on par with used-car salesmen (no offense to the salesmen).

I was in New Mexico when I got the news about Robert Kennedy altho' LA is my home...JFK, MLK and Malcolm X were dead...Campus upheavals and losses in Vietnam, and then RFK tragically murdered at just the moment of his primary win. There had been men of courage and vision who were also champions of the downtrodden, the poor, the marginalized of society. All killed by madmen. It felt like all hope was dead. Something was irretrievably lost in 1968. Just too many losses piled one upon another. Dreams of truly progressive and humane leadership were murdered along with Bobby Kennedy for many of us that night; it was palpable.

Forty years ago today....a time forever eched in my memory....sad memories of that tragic nite, witnessing first hand, the chaos in that room that night, working the Press Desk with Pierre Salinger as his executive assistant, unknowingly becoming a part of history. How we moved mechanically once the shots were fired, I , standing on a desk to find some space within the frenzied crowd, with two phones in my ears, trying to intercept the surgeons to advise them the Senator had been transferred from Central Receiving Hospital to the Good Samaritan Hospital. And Pierre dashing through the pantry area to check on the Senator .... and later, as I helped man the busy phones at the hospital and with periodic press briefings on the condition of the Senator...a living nightmare, to be followed by the funeral train from NY to Washington and Arlington National Cemetery.

How could this happen, when it seemed that moments before the shots rang out, Mr. Salinger was ecstatically screaming that we had won and were on our way to Chicago! How dare anyone take that away from us, when Senator Kennedy had worked so tirelessly for so long in the name of world peace and social justice and hope for our time? We will never know the "if only" conclusions. But I will forever remember, sadly, the pandemonium, pain and heartache of that awful night, and the numbing days that followed.
B. Duffy-Jeffery

A night or two before he died -- after 40 years I can no longer remember exactly -- I witnessed Robert Kennedy close-up.

I was the drummer in a local jazz band, the Easy Money Trio, that was asked to entertain the audience before his arrival at the University of California at Davis student center.

We played for an hour or so to the several thousand people who mostly ignored us -- understandably -- before Kennedy arrived.

I was not a fan of his at the time. I was much too concerned with the issues of a twenty-two year old instead.

Then, too he wasn't that impressive, at least at first. He was much shorter and slighter than I expected. His white shirt was rumpled and sweat-stained as if he had slept in it a night or two -- as he may well have.

As he began to speak -- 20 feet from where I sat at my drums -- he grasped the podium mostly, I suspected, to keep from collapsing.

In the next few minutes, however, I watched a transformation. Like a flower rising from seed in a time-lapse movie, a source of enegry deep within arose.

His voice, a week rasp at the beginning, and his posture both grew strong and vigorous as he exhorted us to unite to end the war, to work for social justice, to see beyond the horizons of our own ambitions, to pursue our highest personal and national potentials.

By the end of the half-hour speech, I was a convert.

Alas, of course, it was not to last long.

In the time since, as I approach the end of my life, I have sometimes wondered what the fate of our poor country would have been if the forces of cynicism, deceit, selfishness, materialism, greed, and violence had not had so much more than their day.

What would things be like now if instead of 40 years of venal politiciians, we had had a real leader who challenged us to pursue greater goals.

Dick George
Tempe, AZ

Bobby Kennedy was my hero. I was just 14 when he was assasinated, but he was the only one in 1968 who could try to bring the country together in the midst of the Vietnam war and racial unrest.

His death was just devastating. We just couldn't believe that a second Kennedy had been killed. There was talk that maybe his brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, would become the nominee or the Vice Presidential nominee, but everybody said with certainty that he would killed too.

Kennedy inspired the young with his idealism to work for a better world. When he died, the hope for that world ended. The excitement was gone. Humphrey was nominated in the midst of a Chicago filled with tear gas and then Nixon won. Politics in America just seemed so bleak.

June of '68. I was an 11 year old, growing up in the then-rural town of Agoura. We were getting ready for our vacation to the redwoods. Then, this good man was horribly taken from us. My mother had a heart attack the next day. I'll never know how much the grief over RFK's assassination contributed to her illness. I do know that that abominable act of violence left an indelible impression upon me. I suddenly came of age in a most unpleasant way; my childhood was over. I learned viscerally about sacrifice, honor and the price one may have to pay for one's convictions, as RFK did.
I have never been the same. I still cry every time I think of his senseless death. I cry for him, for us, and for the possibilities for a better world that ended that day with the assassin's bullets.

I was 10 days from my 7th b-day, my family and I Lived in Lennox where I attendened Jefferson Elementary School

I can remember my dad coming home from work one day and telling my mom with excitement that Bobby walked passed him a few feet away, he worked for Host International at LAX where he tended bar.

On the night of the shooting I can remember going to bed while mom and dad stayed up to watch the results, my dad was an early riser so he was in bed when I can remember being wakened up by my mom screaming Bobby was shot as she watched KTLA's coverage of it all.

The next day in school my teacher Mrs. Smith talked about it, there was this sense of gloom and sorrow in the air, it really spooked me as a child still 6 in 1st grade. A day or two later I remember coming home to an empty apartment, my16 yr brother wasn't home nor were my parents, I saw headlines on the newspaper rack "Kennedy dies" with his picture and I got frightend so I went to a neighbor's house stayed till my folks came and got me.

It so happens that they took mylittle brother sight seeing around the airport because we loved to see the airplanes, they saw a big crowd at LAX's west Imperial terminal where Bobby's body was being loaded onto the plane to NewYork for the funeral.

thats my imprinted recollection of that event. What a time that was for my family and myself as a kid. I can't believe it's been 40 years.

RFK was the candidate of our generation who represented hope, idealism and a wish for a fairer and more compassionate world . He belonged to all of us world wide and transended traditional politics. I was a first year university student @ Melbourne university full of dreams and ambitions. I will never forget the loss the night he died, it was like my fathers death many years later. I lost my innocence and we all lost our youth that night. The sad thing for us all is that his goals, his dreams and his beliefs have still yet to be realised, 40 years later. Its time my generation rekindled the flame of RFK and made a difference for those most in need, in honour of his last Campaign

June 5, 1968 was my birthday. Our group "The Sounds of Time" were the advance singing group for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and we entertained the overflow crowd for over 2 hours on June 4th at the Ambassador. I was priveleged to have had the opportunity to meet and speak with Robert Kennedy before he made his victory speech to the crowd. I turned 23 that night and Robert Kennedy will always be in my heart. Maybe we can all be one of those "RIPPLES OF HOPE" that he often spoke about and that is inscribed on a wall near his final resting place at Arlington National Cemetary.May his example yet light a flame of compassion and service for our nation and our fellow citizens. I am fortunate to have met President Kennedy when I was 17 and worked with the RFK Presidential campaign when I was 22. It was a magical time in my life. Thanks Bobby.

When JFK was assassinated, I wept along with the world.
When RFK was killed, I had become a chronic drunkard, pill-popper and supported another candidate. The news of RFK's murder brought no tears to my unfocused eyes, only a silent grimace that he now was Out Of The Way.

I was a college student, living in a dorm at UCLA, and had worked in the campaign and had seen Bobby in the streets of downtown LA the day before. The weekend after his assassination I attended a wedding and and wore a black armband to honor his memory, on the day of his funeral train ride to Arlington. I have visited his grave and shed tears, and have read his words there. I have thought of him many times during the years and have shed tears for the loss that his life has meant to our country, to our future, our youth, mine and future generations. I cried tears again today remembering that awful night and the loss of dreams and what might have been had this bright, compassionate and caring individual been allowed to live out his years on earth. I miss you Bobby, still, after all these years.

I was a college freshman, and also a RFK volunteer, actively working the campaign. I'll never forget that day,,,,,,,,,,,,NEVER. I felt our hopes and dreams died that day. That America was on a spiral downward. I also felt Johnson had some responsibility in his fall. My prayers go out to the Kennedy family on this day.

Because the funeral train from NY to Arlington moved slowly, my wife and I (then age 27 and 28) waited several hours on that very hot afternoon of June 8 in the large tightly packed crowd on the platform of the station in Baltimore. Despite the wait and the heat, no one left. It was eerily quiet as the train came into view; the flag-draped casket was visible in the last car, and John Glenn was standing outside the end of the car. And then, spontaneously, as the train passed, everyone started singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

John Haskell
Williamsburg, VA

I was 10 years old and got interested in politics because of Bobby Kennedy. To this day I am convinced that he would have been elected president and would have been a great one.

I was in grade school when our teacher entered the classroom and announced the "President had been shot." Most of us were too young to understand what this meant but later when I looked at the coverage on television and especially at the picture of Kennedy felled (pictured above), I felt as if our own democracy had been felled too. When you also consider the deaths of MLK and Bobby Kennedy during this era, there truly was a malefic atmosphere lingering... And when Jacqueline announced she was leaving America because "they were shooting Kennedy's" I felt a sort of rude shock: that some Americans simply were not welcome in their own country. What a horror to grow up to then... to witness leaders all around you gunned down. It's a STAIN on our nation's history and ever will be.

I went to bed that night pleased that the campaign, my first, appeared to have been successful. I had been out knocking on doors and handing out flyers for some weeks. Some of the more conservative folks wuld challenge me on why they should support Kennedy and, beyond the war issue, I didn't have much; hope, vitality, I guess. I was naive.

I woke up to my alarm clock the next morning announcing that he had been shot. That was the end of my naivete. I don't know that I had ever been so sad to that point in my life. I still almost cry thinking about it.

His killing was followed by the Chicago Convention and the travesties inside and out, and preceded by the King assassination. Revolution was in the air. I never looked back. And, while I have on occassion voted since, I've never come back.

I remember that night so well, and I've thought about it hundreds of times since. I was 12 years old and really admired the Kennedy family. I am Catholic, and had always attended Catholic schools - we'd heard and learned a lot about the Kennedys.

I was living in Indianapolis at the time, and when Dr. King was assassinated, Sen. Kennedy spoke about Dr. King as soon as he deplaned in Indy. (RFK was campaigning for the Indiana primary.) The next morning he went to Mass downtown ands I had my mother drive me to Mass just to be there. I've always been an 'older' acting kid and I really was involved with politics and social issues even at that age. He made a tremendous impression on me. I admired his energy, his political views, and how much he cared about people.

On June 5, I had watched the news about the California campaign, but the results weren't in - time difference - so I went to bed - I had school the next day. My mother (single mother) was an RN and worked the night shift at a hospital. When she heard the news, she called me; I stayed up the rest of the night watching the news. I can close my eyes now, and see that entire evening. I felt like we had lost someone so special, and wondered too many times how our country would have been different all of these years. God Bless Robert Francis Kennedy - I hope he's still watching over us.

i was in the 6th grade at bancroft elementary school in walnut creek california in 1968. i can remember going to bed thinking that rfk had won the california primary. i remember my mom waking me up very early the next morning saying that robert kennedy had been shot. i can remember when jfk was shot, i was in the second grade.i remember we had to put our heads on our desks. i can remember watching the funeral for what seemed like days.
with rfk, i just remember how strong i thought the family must of been, thru out the train trip with the casket.
i will never forget where i was then and cant believe like many who have written that it was 40 years ago.

I was 9 years old at the time. Ive had insomnia all my life, and couldnt sleep that night. I got up from bed and as I approached the stairway leading down to the first floor of the farmhouse we lived in, I noticed a faint light coming through the slightly ajar door at the bottom of the stairs. I tiptoed down the stairs, and as I peeked into the living room, I saw my father watching the t.v. news coverage of Kennedy being shot. And in the faint light, I could see the tears rolling down my fathers face. I had never see him cry before, and was immediately saddened beyond words. Saddened for Mr. Kennedy and his family. Saddened for my Father. Saddened for America.

I was but a mere 8 years old, living in Mason City, Iowa when RFK was shot. I don't remember many details. But the one that is forever seared in my memory is that of the images of his train ride home.
From small town to large cites, people lined up to say their goodbyes. The most lasting memory is the image of young boys, not much older than I, standing on the side of the railroad tracks, wearing their Little League baseball uniforms. Hats over their hearts.

Knowing now the hope that Bobby represented, that particular image haunts me still. Tears well when I see it, and I remember an innocence lost long ago.

I was a 12 year old Irish immigrant that night in June, who watched with pride earlier in the evening as my parents heading off to vote in their first presidential election. After going to bed at the usual 9:00 pm time, I awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of the television being on. Unheard of in those days of non-cable TV in the Central Valley.

My Mother was sitting on the couch and she had a look on her face that I'd never seen before. She's 79 now and that was one of two times in my life that I knew she had cried. All she said was, "someone shot Bobby Kennedy." We sat in silence until dawn, together on the couch, staring at the TV. She held me tight in her arms, not saying much to each other, praying a Rosary and hoping there was chance that Robert Kennedy would survive.

I've never forgotten that night with my Mom.

-Jack Hall

I was 12 that summer of 1968. My family were big Kennedy supporters. We were living in San Jose, CA at the time and Bobby Kennedy had come through on a visit there in March of 68 and I was fortunate to shake his hand on that visit. I don't think I washed my hand for a week!

The news of his shooting devastated us all. That was one of first times I ever prayed to God that he survive and I was crushed when he didn't answer my prayers.

Our world changed forever. It will never be the same.

I was 13 yrs old, living in East San Jose, California...in a predominately hispanic neighborhood. The Kennedy Family very much loved and admired by us all.
Hearning the news of Bobby's being shot was very emotional as we were all on such a "high" from hearing of his win in California. Then to hear the devastating news .... WHAT A LOW!!! :(
We had already lost JFK 4 yrs earlier. June 8,1968 had turned out to be one of the longest nights of my life! We all had hope... he had only been shot.
Same feelings all came back upon hearing the loss of John Kennedy Jr... and now.. Teddy.
Sweet dreams... Johnny, Bobby, Johnny Jr...

Mt. Lukens, nearly a mile high and the highest point in the city of Los Angeles, ought to be renamed in memory of Robert Kennedy.

I am reminded of a signed inscription in a book I have by Robert Kennedy, To Seek a Newer World, which I received in 1968 days before his untimely assassination and during my Irvine/Orange County Kennedy campaign work on his behalf. When I last met Robert Kennedy it was after his debate with Eugene McCarthy, who was also a solid candidate, after their debate in Los Angeles in June, 1968. RFK won the California primary on June 4…I remember it well, as he was ‘off to Chicago.’ It was the next day---June 5--- at the Ambassador Hotel in LA, after midnight, when we learned of his California victory, he was shot and killed, and I was there. You have no idea how the idealism was suppressed as the result, even going into the resulting critical Chicago Democratic Convention, which is legendary.

Many memories persist, especially with his words he wrote to me in the book I now have before me, if you allow me:

"My Dear Mr. Barnette

I cannot express my appreciation for all the work you have done. “Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control.”

Sincerely,

Robert F. Kennedy"

I have always treasured this, as his inspiration and message helped me try to make a difference in the world to this day.
Ron Barnette, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy

 

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