My sophomore year at Apponequet High School was winding down as I dragged myself out of bed on that early June morning.
It was 4:30 a.m. I got up at that ungodly hour because my Lakeville home was eight miles from Apponequet and our house was one of the first stops on the long bus route. So, no choice, I had to be ready to go.
Anyway, before making myself some breakfast, I sleepily wandered into our family room and did what I did every morning before school: I turned on the television.
That’s when I knew something was wrong.
Typically, when I clicked the TV on, it was so early that all I’d get was a test pattern. It wasn’t until 5 a.m. or so that actual programming would start. Since I watched Channel 4, the first faces I’d see were Jack Chase doing the news and Don Kent doing the weather on WBZ.
That may seem foreign to the generations who’ve grown up with a gazillion channels and the internet but that’s how it was in 1968.
Round-the-clock broadcasting and 24/7 news cycles were in the still-distant future. Which is why the alarm bells went off when I realized this particular morning that they were showing live coverage on TV. Live coverage of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles where Robert F. Kennedy had been shot, after winning the California presidential primary.
At first, it didn’t fully register what had happened. Just two months earlier, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been felled by an assassin’s bullet. Now the same terrible fate had befallen RFK. It didn’t seem possible. Especially when his big brother JFK had been slain less than five years earlier.
But it was real. And I was suddenly wide awake.
I remember watching in black and white as newscasters relayed that Bobby Kennedy had been shot point-blank in the head by a man later identified as Sirhan Sirhan. Kennedy, they said, was still alive but gravely wounded.
I could tell by the solemn tone of their voices that he wasn’t going to make it … That there was no hope.
While I was drawn to the television images, at some point I realized it was time to catch the bus. Just as I was about to leave, my parents and my younger brother got up.
I was the one who broke the sad and awful news to them.
Funny thing, though, after that my recollections are fuzzy. While I know I boarded the bus and went to school that day, I don’t have any memory of what happened there. I’m sure we must have talked about RFK because we had terrific teachers and couldn’t not have … but I’m at a complete loss as to what was said.
A half century later, my most indelible memory remains a grainy TV screen with its rude awakening on an early June morning.