One of my most vivid college memories is lying in bed listening to the radio.
It was a Tuesday night, forty years ago today. I was a 19-year-old freshman, living in the dorm and sharing a room with a guy I never saw again after the school year ended a few days later. I was never sure if he flunked out, as I suspect, or if he got a better offer, which doesnít seem very likely, considering his work habits. He somehow got himself invited to frat parties every weekend, and he did plenty of partying during the week as well.
After watching the election returns in the dormís TV room that night, Iíd gone to bed after the winner was declared, but before the candidates made any speeches. You had to be 21 to vote in those days, and I donít know for sure if I would have voted for Robert Kennedy. Gene McCarthy was the chic choice among students, and had been expected to win the primary. Kennedyís win that night probably prevented McCarthy from becoming the Democratic nominee to replace Lyndon Johnson.
My roommate burst into the room and before even flicking on the light said, ďTurn on the radio. Somethingís happening.Ē
We listened for hours, late into the early morning, hoping that the horror hadnít been repeated. A few months before, weíd seen Martin Luther King, Jr., murdered in Memphis, and now it was another assassination in Los Angeles. As more details kept coming in, we knew the worst had happened. This wasnít one of those news events that you hear about but donít realize what they mean. We knew what this meant, from that first night.