Friday, March 12, 2010

Dear Jackie,

There would be more than 1.5 million condolence letters in all, enough to stretch on for two miles if placed together. Only a few thousand were saved and eventually archived in Boston's John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Historian Ellen Fitzpatrick has compiled 250 of them in Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation. The book offers a fascinating window on history, capturing the voices of everyday Americans who wrote words of anguish, homage and comfort to First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy after the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy. There was a front page newspaper article about the book this week and our 12-year-old was struck by how much people seemed to love, respect and idolize the president. That's a foreign concept in his post-Camelot world of unrelenting media coverage. He also wondered whether as many people would send a handwritten sympathy note if this happened today. And, if they e-mailed instead, would the messages be saved for history's sake?

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