For the soldiers she knew and met there, Viet Nam would change their lives in ways they could never have imagined. Read more...
- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: July 2000
From the book
It was a chill gray day in Savannah, and there was a brisk breeze blowing in from the ocean. There were leaves on the ground in Forsyth Park and a few couples were wandering hand in hand, some women were chatting and smoking a last cigarette before they went back to work. And in Savannah High School, the hallways were deserted. The bell had rung at one o'clock, and the students were all in their classrooms. There was laughter coming from one room, and silence from several others. The squeak of chalk, the looks of bored despair on the faces of sophomores ill prepared for a surprise quiz in civics. The senior class was being talked to about College Boards they were going to take the following week, just before Thanksgiving. And as they listened, far away, in Dallas, gunfire erupted. A man in a motorcade catapulted into his wife's arms, his head exploding horrifyingly behind him. No one understood what had happened yet, and as the voice in Savannah droned on about the College Boards, Paxton Andrews tried to fight the sleepy waves of warm boredom. And all of a sudden in the still room, she felt as though she couldn't keep her eyes open a moment longer.
Mercifully, at one-fifty the bell rang, all doors opened and waves of high school students poured into the halls, freed from quizzes, lectures, French literature, and the pharaohs of Egypt. Everyone moved on to their next rooms, with an occasional stop at a locker for a change of books, a quick joke, a burst of laughter. And then suddenly, a scream. A long anguished wail, a sound that pierced the air like an arrow shot from a great distance. A thundering of footsteps, a rush toward a corner room normally used only by teachers, the television set flicked on, and hundreds of young worried faces pressing through the doorway, and people saying "No!" and shouting and calling and talking, and no one could hear what was being said on the television, as still others shouted at them to be quiet.
"Hush up, you guys! We can't hear what they're saying!"
"Is he hurt?. . . is he . . ." No one dared to say the words, and through the crowd again and again, the same words. . . "What's happening?. . . what happened?. . . President Kennedy's been shot. . . the President. . . I don't know. . . in Dallas. . . what happened? . . . President Kennedy. . . he isn't . . ." No one quite believing it at first. Everyone wanting to think it was a bad joke. "Did you hear that President Kennedy's been shot?" "Yeah. . . then what? What's the rest of the joke, man?" There was no rest of the joke. There was only frantic talking, and endless questions, and no answers.
There were confused images on the screen with replays of the motorcade breaking up and speeding away. Walter Cronkite was on the air, looking ashen. "The President has been seriously wounded." A murmur went through the Savannah crowd, and it seemed as though every student and teacher at Savannah High School were pressed into that one tiny room, and crowding in from the hallways.
"What'd he say?. . . what did he say?" a voice from the distance asked.
"He said the President is seriously wounded," a voice from the front started back to the others, and three freshmen girls started to cry, as Paxton stood somberly in a corner in the press of bodies around her, and watched them. There was suddenly an eerie stillness in the room, as though no one wanted to move, as though they were afraid to disturb some delicate balance in the air, as though even the tiniest motion might change the course his life would take. . . and Paxton found herself thinking back to another day, six years...