Fifty years ago today, charismatic young President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The horror of a U.S. president being murdered was, by itself, enough to ensure the event would burn itself into most memories and into the history books.
But the JFK story maintains its hold on many Americans for other reasons, too. If anything, the aura surrounding Kennedy has grown with time. Thoughtful people understand that despite his soaring rhetoric, speculation on what might have happened had he lived can never have much certainty about it.
Some have said his death marked an "end to innocence" among Americans. For those of a certain age, perhaps so. But most Americans in 1963 were far from naive about social problems, the economy and the prospect of world peace.
Kennedy's death launched a continuing series of accusations that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone, but was part of a conspiracy to kill the president. It is puzzling, of course, why so many who assume one man could not have been so evil are quick to believe a whole group of people were.
In all likelihood, Oswald did act alone -- but the truth of the matter is that we probably never will know the whole truth.
Still, Nov. 22, 1963 marked an American tragedy. That is reason enough to remember it.