Thursday, 26 September 2013

Things come in threes, even assassination attempts

John Lennon in 1980, before
his death on Dec. 9.
It always came out of the blue, totally unexpected. It was Grade 6 and we'd be working in class. Suddenly the silence was broken by what sounded like a news feed from TV or radio.

And it always bore bad news.

During that fateful year, I will always remember where I was during three fateful events – three assassination attempts, one successful – because I was in the same place: my desk in Mr. Sorge's room in St. Joseph's School in Coaldale, Alberta.

On December 9, 1980, class was interrupted by a broadcast announcing John Lennon had been shot at 10:50 p.m. the previous evening by Mark David Chapman, and had died. I wondered, "Who is John Lennon?" Only in the following hours when we talked about it in class, did I discover he was a member of the Beatles. After all, I was only 10 and the Beatles had broken up before I was born, although I knew Paul McCartney, his work with Wings, and some of his songs with the Fab Four.

Ronald Reagan, president of the United
States, in 1981, before an attempt was
made on his life on March 30.
On March 30, 1981, the silence of our class was broken by a radio broadcast. Ronald Reagan, president of the United States, had been shot by John Hinckley Junior. Reagan would live, becoming the first serving U.S. president to survive being shot in an assassination attempt.

Pope John Paul II in 1981, before an
attempt was made on his life on May 13.
On May 13, 1981 Pope John Paul II was shot four times in St. Peter's Square at Vatican City by Mehmet Ali Ağca. Being a Catholic school, this one struck us all the hardest. I recall one classmate, David, gasping, covering his mouth and exclaiming, "Oh my god!" We all prayed for the pope, who would overcome a severe loss of blood and go on to live another 25 years.

It was a strange time. Never again, in the four years that followed that I attended that school, was class ever interrupted again by any kind of announcement, of good news or bad. Thankfully, the president and the pope survived, but the death of John Lennon was a loss I did not come to understand until I was an adult who could appreciate his music.

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