The Kennedy funeral that cadets Felix O’Callaghan, Brian McKevitt and Malachy Hanley played a role in, was the accumulation of four days of tragedy in November 1963. It began in Dallas on Friday afternoon at 12:34. The United Press International teletape wire switched from a Minneapolis murder trail to read: Three shots were fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade in downtown Dallas.
It was about 7.30pm Irish time. Telefis Eireann (the early name for RTE) interrupted programmes. An hour later it is announced that President Kennedy is dead.
Later that night Irish television viewers and the young Irish Army cadets at the Curragh watched the Greek tragedy unfold: the younger brother, Bobby Kennedy leading Jacqueline Kennedy by the hand as they stepped from the plane bringing her and her husband’s casket back from Dallas. She was still wearing her bloodstained suit and she stared wildly on the night air, the look of someone just hit by death and the disbelief that goes with it. The Camelot story was over.
On Saturday the photograph of the shot President slumped in the limousine was on every front page. On Sunday, the television cameras recorded live Jack Ruby lunging forward to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. It was murder live of our televisions. It just couldn’t have been invented.
CS Lewis, author of the Narnia stories, died on the same day as Kennedy. It was the end of Camelot - the name the Kennedys gave the White House - and all our innocence.