FT. LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) – For those who lived it, it seems like yesterday, the day an assassin killed the President of the United States.
Mel Cottone, who lived it, passed on his memories and the history of JFK to students at the Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale.
Cottone was pictured at Kennedy’s inauguration in the seat behind the president. He was a 20-something, up and comer, who became a Kennedy advance man and key advisor.
“He was amazing in both his personality and intelligence,” Cottone told the students.
Cottone recalled an amazing man. There were historical headlines from the time a nation’s heart was broken, headlines that even gave rise to conspiracy theories.
CBS4’s Gary Nelson recounted where he was the day JFK was shot. “I was in the seventh grade when JFK was assassinated. We listened, my classmates and I, to hours of Walter Cronkite’s coverage on the school’s loudspeaker. We cried. We were confused. We knew we had experienced profound loss.”
A loss felt still by these students, not born until decades after the day Camelot died.
“I think everybody’s impacted by the event. My parents told me about it. They said there was a lot of panic around the nation and the world and I think it still affects everybody today,” said student Zach Smith.
It was important this lesson in some of our nation’s darkest history.
“We want to impress on our students that it’s important to remember the legacies, and not just the memories of the assassination, but also the good and maybe the not so good things about the Kennedy legacy,” insisted Lindsay Bass, a teacher at Pine Crest.
He was the president that led us into a quagmire called Vietnam, the debacle that was the Bay of Pigs. He vowed we would go to the moon and we did. He sent troops to uphold the concept that all men are created equal. He conquered the Cuban missile crisis, and but for this man, who saved the globe from atomic annihilation, Allison Samowitz and her peers might not be alive to have been in class this day.
“Considering the circumstances, how intense the process was, we were on the brink of nuclear destruction and he did what was necessary as the leader of our nation,” Samowitz told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
Our nation’s leader, taken by shots fired from a school book building, and in a school 50-years later, still leading and teaching.