Next week will mark another day in history. For those fortunate enough to attend the inauguration of President Barak Obama, it will certainly be a day they will remember for the rest of their lives. I, along with millions of others, will watch the ceremonies from the comforts of our homes. But I had my day with history back on June 4, 1968.
I was attending Our Lady Queen of Angels High School in the Chinatown section of Los Angeles. On this particular warm summer day, we got out of school early since it was finals week. My friend Liz and I left school and walked/ran towards Broadway as we knew that Robert F. Kennedy's motorcade would be driving by. Not wanting to miss the event, we got there as quickly as possible, walking east on Orr St., then going south on Broadway. Although this was quite a distance from school, we were accustomed to taking this route since boarding the bus home on Broadway was the "in" thing to do.
We decided that the best place to watch the parade was in front of the Bradbury building, just across the street from the Million Dollar Theatre, near 3rd St. Plenty of other people also had the same idea but that didn't stop us. There were businessmen, lawyers, secretaries, street vendors but not too many students. The carnival atmosphere only added to the excitement as everyone eagerly awaited the motorcade.
The convoy was driving north on Broadway, towards City Hall. The anticipation grew as the policemen's sirens blared, clearing the foot traffic from the street. Los Angeles's finest drove by in their shining motorcycles, looking proud as ever. Several cars carrying some politicians quickly drove by as they waived to the crowd. Since we were both somewhat short, we were able to make our way to the edge of the street and could see the advancing motorcade. Someone shouted "Here he comes!" as the convertible car that RFK occupied was in plain sight.
RFK was tall and lanky, somewhat pale, with his graying light brown hair parted to the left side, with a wave as it was swept across his forehead. He was smiling and waving his hands at the crowd. A man shouted "?íQue Viva Kennedy!" and crowd responded "?íQue Viva!" As his car passed us up, he was bending over, shaking the bystander's hands. I reached out to touch his hand and his fingertips touched mine, as the car slowly drove away. I was so excited that I was in a frozen state of shock. The future president of the United States touched my fingertips!
I was still excited when I got home. I told my Mom what happened but she wasn't too interested. She was more concern with me going to downtown when I should be at school. My parents had just become legal residents. They were never interested in politics. No one at home seemed to be as excited as I was.
Later on that night, as I was watching TV, a news flash came across the screen. Robert F. Kennedy had been shot at the Ambassador hotel. I could not believe what I was hearing. A pain pierced my heart as I saw the images of newscaster's try to explain the tragedy. From our house you could hear the neighbors sigh in disbelief. First it was JFK, then it was MLK and now it was RFK.
I remember crying myself to sleep that night. The next day at school, everyone was in a somber mood. Instead of sharing my exciting adventure, we said a rosary for the soul of Robert F. Kennedy. His fingertips had just touched mine and now he was dead. My recollection of that sunny day in June will be embedded in my memory forever.