The East Wing


November 22, 2020-

On this day, fifty-seven years ago, the trigger was pulled on hope and change in America, as fleeting as it seemed to be under John F. Kennedy. Too many who flew the banner of progress, in the 1960s and ’70s, had their lives cut short by those who had much invested in the status quo.

On that day, I remember sitting in a middle-of-the room seat, in a Study Hall, in the East Wing of Saugus High School. We were attending afternoon sessions, as eighth graders, as our Junior High School had been torched by a disturbed individual, several weeks before. Thus, the high school was the site of double sessions, with the upper level students taking classes in the morning, so as to be able to go their jobs, in the afternoon.

A classmate, who was sitting behind me, asked “Why did you kill the President?” I turned around and looked at him curiously, then noted he was listening to his transistor radio (the predecessor to a cell phone, for the disaffected of our adolescence), through ear buds. All the same, I went back to my reading material.

Several minutes later, the School Counselor came on the Intercom and informed us that President Kennedy had been shot and that classes were being dismissed for the day. I walked home, somberly, and found my sobbing mother, saying he had died in hospital.

The East Wing was itself torched, by the same individual, who was eventually caught by a vigilant school custodian, at our third venue of that year. 1963-64 was, for me, the 2020 of virulent mayhem. There was no microbial pandemic, but I began to wonder who, and what, were next. Five years later, we had our answer.

I will always be fond, though, of the East Wing. All the schools we used that year are now gone, replaced by consolidated school buildings, which the present administration of Saugus Public Schools regards as more efficient. For the sake of the children and youth who depend on that school system, I trust it works out well.