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Mustard Seeds
Where Were You? Part Two
By Keith J. McClellan
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 • Posted September 1, 2011 12:16 PM

In response to the most recent Mustard Seeds, “Where Were You When the Eagle Landed?” I received the following response:

“As a member of the Apollo Eleven Recovery Team aboard the USS Hornet, I was watching the satellite feed of the landing in the HS-4 squadron ready room. I was the Maintenance Chief for Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron Four when we recovered Apollo 10, 11, 12 and 13 aboard USS Princeton, USS Hornet, and USS Iwo Jima. I was very fortunate and proud to have been part of these historic events. I will always remember and cherish those memories.” (Richard G. Smith, U.S. Navy, Retired)

Wow! My commendations to Mr. Smith for his service to this country and for his participation in these history-making events.

There are certain things that happen that make indelible impressions on our lives and that perhaps, either directly or indirectly, even change the course of our lives. One such event was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Most of us who were living at the time can remember the announcement of the occurrence in the context of where we were and what we were doing at the time.

I happened to be serving as a missionary in Uruguay, South America. My companion and I had just boarded a crowded city bus in downtown Montevideo when an elderly gentleman carrying a canvass bag filled with newspapers climbed aboard. He held up a copy of the “Extra” edition that displayed a very large, bold headline that read in Spanish, “John F. Kennedy Assassinated!”

My first thought was that President Kennedy’s father must have been killed. I just couldn’t fathom the concept that the president of the United States would have been murdered. But as Uruguayans clambered over each other to buy a copy of that newspaper, I came to the realization that the President had, indeed, been killed.

The next hours and days are engraved on my memory. South Americans, indeed, most all Americans, it seems, no matter where they lived in this hemisphere, admired and respected John F. Kennedy. I think there were several factors contributing to that. For one, he was young and charismatic; he was considered to be good looking, sporting a shock of thick, golden hair; he was Catholic; and he was perceived to have paid attention to Latin-Americans as the instigator of the popular “Alliance for Progress.”

I could scarcely believe my eyes when, during the next several days and nights, huge demonstrations of sympathy and mourning took place throughout the capital city. Thousands and thousands of people took to the principal boulevard carrying huge flags of Uruguay and of the United States. The processions were orderly, quiet and moved slowly and with great dignity through the downtown area ending at the main plaza where a huge mounted statue of Artigas, the George Washington of Uruguay, dominated the streetscape.

I couldn’t help but to be amazed at the outpouring of genuine adoration and grief at the passing of a world leader who had lived so far away in a country often reviled for its global policies and seeming indifference to smaller states such as Uruguay.

After witnessing such an outpouring of feeling, I was hugely disappointed when the “Ugly American” reared its vile head. I was standing with a group of Americans the day after the announcement when we were approached by a Uruguayan woman who, with head bowed, expressed her sympathy at the loss of our president. Immediately, one of the group of Americans spoke up. “Aw, what the hell! Somebody should have shot the stinking Democrat long before now!”

The rest of us were appalled and could hardly fathom what had just been said to someone who was trying to assuage, what she thought, would be our grief. What could we say? Perhaps we said it best when each of us turned our backs on the man and walked away arm-in-arm with the grieving woman. At such times, political affiliation, to me, seems to be of little consequence.

We live in troubled times. So, in a world of tribulation, I think we need to remember our faith. Let’s live life more fully, with more boldness and courage than at any other time. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Where were you when John F. Kennedy was assassinated? I would like to hear your story.

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