It was a bright sunny morning on this date 40 years ago. It was early, a bit after 7 as I remember it. My mother came up into my room and awakened me. I had been up watching the election returns the previous night, somehow finding time between school and two jobs to check in on the progress of the campaign. As RFK spoke his final words, I turned off the television and, reinvigorated after the disappointing loss a week before in Oregon, went off to bed much encouraged. I remember her shaking me and saying, “Joe, Bobby’s been shot.” I tried to wake up but it was difficult; long weeks of living on three to four hours sleep a day were taking their toll. She repeated herself, “Bobby’s been shot.” Having seen her son go off and join the campaign she said, “It’s on the news now, I hate to wake you, but I know you’d want to know.” She then left my room and I got up, put on a few things, and came down the stairs. On television was Frank Blair of NBC’s morning, “Today Show” covering the story as it came from Los Angeles. It didn’t look good. A head wound, rushed to the hospital, critical condition. I watched, like the nation, the drama of the day, like the fatality of a Greek tragedy, play itself out.
Shortly after 8 that morning, I walked out into the bright morning sun. The temperature was already rising and warm for this climate at this time of the year. Everything seemed so bright on this dark morning; perhaps the ultimate irony as the fates played with our soul.
“Those were the days my friend,
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live a live we choose
We’d fight and never lose
For we were young
And sure to have our way” --Mary Hopkin, “Those Were the Days”
Later that morning, my aunt called to express her condolences. She told me that if he survived, he would win, but we both knew otherwise. The campaign lasted a mere 82 days; days of hope and inspiration, days of challenge and days that transformed both the Democratic Party and the nation. Today, when people speak of the “Kennedy wing” of the Democratic Party, they are not referring to Teddy, who now 40 years later finds himself battling brain cancer and fighting for his own life, nor are they referring to Jack, but Bobby. His is the voice that speaks from the soul of the Democracy to the nation. After all these years, we can still hear that voice in our ears.