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Growing Up in Arlington

 

My Background

My father worked for Bobby Kennedy as an economist in the Antitrust Division of the Justice Department from 1960-1965. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia about a mile from the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. I was fortunate to be able to attend President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. I stood with my mother in the bitter cold on the lawn of Capitol Hill to hear JFK's famous inaugural address, and later stood along Pennsylvania Avenue to see the inaugural parade pass the presidential reviewing stand.

Just about all of my neighbors and my classmates' parents worked for the military or the government. When we played "war" in our neighborhood, we didn't always play with plastic guns and rifles. Many of my friends also brought out real World War II flame throwers, bazookas, German Luger pistols, and other war souvenirs their fathers had in the house.

I had one classmate whose father spent a year in Antarctica. I remember being fascinated by home movies and pictures of my friend's father and his returning buddies sunbathing on the deck of the naval vessel taking them home. The most amazing thing was that they were in their swimsuits surrounded by naval personnel bundled up in cold weather gear. When we asked him how cold it was, he said it was about +20 degrees, but they had spent a year getting used to temperatures of -50 degrees. "It felt warm to us," he marveled.

I had another classmate whose father worked for the CIA. He told me one day his father was in Pakistan on a "top secret mission" and would be gone for about a year. So much for operational secrecy! (This is a reason I've always doubted Valerie Plame's story about how she worked for the CIA and nobody knew it. In Washington, D.C., everyone knows what everyone else is doing. The most powerful currency in D.C. is knowledge and gossip.)

Growing up in Arlington with my family at that special time in history was a unique experience. The Mercury Seven astronauts all lived in Arlington. John Glenn lived a short distance away, and his house was surrounded by news crews during and after his brief orbit of the earth.

I was supposed to attend a lecture by Jacques Costeau at the National Geographic Society on the evening of November 22, 1963 with one of my best friends, Jack Lane. After the news of the president's assassination, official Washington slowly began to shut down and the lecture was cancelled.

I was standing in the crowd along the cortege route in D.C. on November 24, 1963 when someone in the crowd shouted: "Oswald's been shot!" The somber mood of the crowd quickly turned to anger as someone else screamed out in frustration, "Now we'll never know what really happened!" I silently agreed with him.The next day, we could hear the twenty-one gun salute at Arlington from the front lawn of our house.

Each and every time I crossed the Memorial Bridge over the Potomac River from D.C. to Arlington, I looked for the glow from the eternal flame. It still deeply affects me to this day.