JFK Jr's famous salute
Who could forget that tribute to his dad, captured forever by photographers and sent to the world-wide press via the news wire. It's a touching image. Do a Google image search and you can see numerous iterations of that fateful photo.
And who has not seen the footage of little John John raising his arm to honor the late President during one of the many televised documentaries about JFK, JFK Jr, or Jackie O on one of the stations such as A&E or CNBC?
What you won't see
What you won't see in that footage is the little boy lowering his hand after that salute. You'll see him standing with his mom and his uncle as the coffin approaches, then you'll see the salute, then the camera cuts away to something else.
So who cares, you ask? What makes the difference? The kid salutes, he stops saluting, and life goes on, right?
Maybe. I remember watching the many live newscasts that week in '63. These were the televised productions that were being presented before they were edited into the newsreels we see today as the historical record. For whatever reason, perhaps in the mind of an impressionable elementary-aged school student that I was, I remember it slightly differently than that which is presented today.
In that live footage, I remember John John raising his hand to salute, which he held for several seconds, and then I seem to recall either his mother or his uncle noticing this gesture and then gently helping the lad lower his arm back to his side.
If it did indeed happen as I believe I recall, I'm sure it was nothing more than an instinctual response on the part of Junior's relative. Kids make gestures all the time, some appropriate, others not, and three year olds are specially prone to such behavior. It is a parents' or relatives' instinct to try to correct a child's deeds on sight without having the time to consider its historical significance, specially at a time while grieving. Which parent of a three year old do you know who has not had to leap into action as their kid was fidgeting with their trousers or picking their nose in public?
Here's what I think happened. When the media got raw footage from the videographers of the day, they saw the magnificent salute, followed by the well intended "correction," and decided to run the video up to the salute only, so as not to taint America's love for the Kennedy family in general. And specifically to avoid tarnishing that historical image with a follow-on gesture that would imply the action was somehow prohibited. The salute is so powerful that to run the insignificant and harmless aftergesture would greatly reduce the emotional impact of the moment, so why not cut the tape at the peak of the moment?
What's the point?
Why do I bring this up? No reason. Every year since 1963 about this time, we see documentaries and biographies about the Kennedys. Every time I see one, I see that stock footage. And every time I wonder, Was I imagining this? Granted I was young, but the memory is so strong. I've often wondered how I can prove my theory. Somewhere in this world, somebody owns that original news footage. Besides, the funeral of our beloved President was a well attended event, and video cameras did exist in 1963. Somebody has a private clip of that moment.
Anyway, if you were "there" in '63, or if you might have seen the original, unedited footage, do you recall if young JFK Jr had any help in completing the salute seen 'round the world? Or am I just imagining things?