I still remember vividly the only time I met Senator Ted Kennedy. It was back in the Spring of 1975 on my senior class trip to Washington DC. I was from a small, rural school in southwest Michigan and I remember loving DC. My favorite part was visiting the monuments: Iwo Jima Flag raising, Arlington Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. I think it was on that trip (my only trip to DC) that I got the idea of joining the Marine Corps. Semper Fi.
So there I was in DC with about nine other students, all female, and taking in the sights. I'm sure I had "tourist" written all over me. The girls wanted to meet Teddy, so they camped out in front of his office for quite a long time just on the off chance that he would walk out. I thought it was silly. They were treating him like a rock star and I've never understood that mentality much. All I knew about Ted Kennedy was his brother had been President and had been assassinated. I remember watching the funeral motorcade on TV in black and white at my grandmother's house while very young. I remember watching his brother, Robert, get shot several years later.
So there I was in front of his office door surrounded by giddy girls, bored out of my skull, when out walked three people. The girls started to swoon. I remember my first thought was: "I think he has red hair? Did his brothers have red hair?" Truth be known I'd never seen his brothers in full color since all we had during those days was a black and white television. While I was lost in my deep thoughts, Ted Kennedy walked up to me and stuck out his hand. On reflex alone, I shoved my hand out and he took it and pumped it up and down a few times.
We had a small conversation and it went like this:
Senator Kennedy: "Hi."
Senator Kennedy: "Thanks for stopping by."
Senator Kennedy: "Well, it was nice meeting you."
Senator Kennedy: "Okay, you have a nice day."
And then he walked off down the hall. I turned and watched as he left, his young daughter on one side and his wife on the other. I was still silently watching as he stepped into the elevator and the doors closed.
And then I noticed the girls hovering around me saying "He met Ted Kennedy. Jerome met Ted Kennedy!" (Jerome is my legal name and the one I used back in school.)
I just walked away. Truth is, I was intimidated by the man. Despite his friendliness toward me, he was an imposing figure. Many times since that day I've wanted to relive that experience and give him a piece of my mind. But that's the "adult" Skip Coryell talking, and the child "Skip" is the one who met him. That will never change. Since the announcement of his death, I've been getting several emails from conservatives celebrating his demise. I don't like that.
Sure, he was about as liberal as they get, and I disagree with him politically, especially on gun control issues, but, still...
You have to draw the line somewhere. You have to be civil. At the very least, you have to respect the dead. I was raised with values like that. When a man dies, even a man like Ted Kennedy who fought to stifle our Second Amendment rights at every turn, you have to render respect. At the very least, don't give your darkest thoughts voice, don't send me emails celebrating a man's death. It's not right.
That's been on my mind since yesterday and I just wanted to get it off my chest. And I've been wondering, if I could speak to Ted Kennedy now, what would I say to him? And the same answer keeps coming back to me. Probably nothing. The Lion of the Senate is dead.