Thursday, June 5, 2008
Some things are harder to write about than others. This is one of the former.
In the Spring of 1968 I was in my second year of college; my first at Arizona State University in Tempe. My roommate at the time was the son of a Democratic National Committee Member (his father) and the Vice-Mayor of Phoenix (his mom). Kim and I were both deeply involved in the Anti-War Movement and Democratic Politics as well.
We both were working on RFK’s campaign in the Phoenix area; we had spent weeks going door to door in South Phoenix, one of the poorer areas, doing voter registration. I was making speeches, debating on and off campus and generally exercising my constitutional rights. It was a pretty exciting time to be 19 and a prime target for the draft (and the FBI-but that is a different story).
The night of June 5, forty years ago today, we were to be at a celebratory campaign party at the home of Kim’s folks. Democratic big-wigs from around the state were to be there. The night before the party, Kim and I spent at his parents’ house, so we could be up early helping set up things. The morning started just fine, a beautiful day in Phoenix. Things changed about noon.
About that time, I started feeling agitated, within an hour I was very agitated and, soon thereafter, way beyond agitated. I was close to hysterical and was crying, inconsolably. I remember that Kim was looking at me like I had gone off the deep end. I was pacing back and forth, crying, barely able to breathe. Kim good friend that he was tried to console me to know avail. He finally got me to calm down enough so that we could talk. He asked, quite rightly, what the hell was going on. At first I said I didn’t know (because I didn’t) and then started getting upset, very upset, again. Kim kept asking what was going on. Then I blurted out “They’re gonna kill him tonight”. Kim asked who and I said “Bobby, they’re gonna kill Kennedy tonight”.
Kim told his dad, who was a doctor, that I was freaked out and why and his dad gave me something to calm me down. I napped for a couple of hours. Then we got ready for the shindig. The party was fun. There was victory in the air and we all were having a great time. The TV was on in their living room. The networks were broadcasting from the Ambassador Hotel I was talking with some folks in the den. To this day, I can still see Kim’s face as he came in the room. We all know what happened that night. The rest of the night is sort of a blur for me. Neither Kim, nor his folks, ever looked at me quite the same after that.
I don’t know why I knew about it before it happened. I don’t think there is anything special about me. I do know that for days after that, I wished I had been higher up in the campaign, high enough that someone close to Bobby would have listened if I called and warned him to stay away from the Ambassador that night. This would have been a better world if that had not happened. At least, I think so.
That was not the first or last strange experience I have had. I don’t feel comfortable talking about this stuff. I think maybe I was just nuts then. Maybe I still am. But the memory of that day, that very sad day, remains. Kim passed away almost two years ago. I know we would have talked a lot today. About what could have and should have been. I think he would have seen, as do I, hope on the horizon.