USA - I Was There That Day, by Jonathan Martin (1963)

I was based in Houston as BOAC’s sales representative for South Texas and it was my daughter’s first birthday.

I flew up to Dallas on the morning of November 22 for a meeting of the district office staff, aware that I wanted to be back home that evening at least before my daughter Cindy was tucked up in bed. On that bright autumn morning, Dallas was its usual bustling self and I shared jokes with our small team on the 17th floor in the downtown offices.

But after lunch on that fateful day I went blissfully into the reservations room to be struck by an awful, even palpable despondency. No tears or hysteria, but a cloud of bewildered numbness. Everything around one seemed to be irrelevant or strangely unreal. The day’s business was wiped from memory. I slipped away down to Main Street, which was devoid of traffic, feeling rather inadequate and foreign in the midst of a most alien situation.

The taxi down to Love Field was without the customary local banter. The airport terminal seemed ominously lacking in activity. My flight to Houston was subdued and almost empty. Fortunately Cindy was too young for her birthday to be spoiled but occasionally we remind her of the macabre connection.

Whenever I passed the warehouse in Dallas from which the awful deed was done, I always thought about that November day that turned so bleak.

(originally published as a letter in the BA staff magazine 'Touchdown')

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