Understanding Jacqueline


Fifty years ago this month, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. In commemoration of this event, there have been articles and magazine spreads and television specials on the man, his presidency, and his death.

Many have also focused on the figure who has always been the most fascinating part of Camelot for me.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.

Ever since I was a little girl I have loved her. I'm sure my interest began superficially. She was beautiful. She was glamorous. She was famous. We also share a birthday.

I was thirteen when she died and I think it was then with all the memorializing and commemorating that I learned more about her. I learned that she was so much more than glamorous gowns and giant sunglasses. 

Still, despite my growing respect for her, Jacqueline remained someone with whom I never fully identified. How could I? She came from a different time. She existed in a world of privilege I would never know..

It was only last Sunday in the midst of all the historical coverage of the assassination that I began to see her in a completely different way. I was watching CBS Sunday Morning when they mentioned she was 32 when she became First Lady.

I'm 32.

Then, I started thinking. She had two children in 1963. A five-year-old and two-year-old.

I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old.

Suddenly, she was no longer on a pedestal I couldn't reach. She was a woman my age with children like mine.

However, there is one thing I still have trouble understanding.

I'm not sure how she survived. Every American has seen the shaky, grainy footage of the Zapruder film. However, in the past couple of years, technology has improved the quality of the footage tremendously and, let me tell you, it is horrific

He is shot in the neck. She moves over to check on him and touches his face as he is shot in the head.

What would I have done? How would I have faced another day - much less my two young children? Much less the entire world?

Not to mention, she had buried a child only three months before. Caroline and John would celebrate birthdays the week of the assassination. Then of course she had to be strong for the nation and bury her husband and begin to craft his legacy and move out of her home.

How she did not suffer a major mental break I do not know, but she didn't (even though others with similar situations did)

I've always been inspired by her and I still am - even more so. She was so graceful and so intelligent and so incredibly strong.

However, as the nation remembers the assassination, I feel something else when I remember Jacqueline and what she went through that awful day. Something I've never felt before...I feel compassion for the wife and the mother and the woman who I couldn't fully understand until I was those things myself.