This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the July 13, 1968, issue of the Post.
By now everybody has said all the inevitable things about violence in America, and about the fates hammered at a proud family. What remains, different for each of us, is some personal memory of Robert Kennedy, of what he was.
I’d had a number of encounters with Kennedy — beginning with a long and fascinating lunch with him two years ago — but I had never observed him among the people. And so, last April 22, I boarded the Kennedy press plane in Washington, bound for the Indiana primary campaign. We were headed for the southern part of the state, “Nixon country.” The weather was beautiful, but the day went sour almost immediately. Kennedy was taken to a motel in Vincennes, where perhaps 100 members of a Rotary-like group called Civitan were assembled. Kennedy was late, and the audience had started their meal, and they continued it as he spoke, their eyes on the shrimp salad instead of the candidate.
I felt the coffin move, and my heart jumped.
But in the days that followed, the crowds grew and were enthusiastic, which made Kennedy blossom. In Huntington someone presented him with lots of petunias. “I am very happy to be in Petunia,” he said. “I have always wanted to come to Petunia.” The crowd loved it. It was a nice moment.
Seven weeks later, I again saw Kennedy among the people, the thousands of mourners who streamed past his bier in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. A new honor guard was due to relieve the previous guard, but one member was absent; and so a Kennedy staff man I knew nodded to me, and I went and stood at the foot of the coffin. My hands were in front of me, and because space was cramped, my fingers touched the flag-covered bier. I felt the coffin move, and my heart jumped. Then I realized that the coffin was unsteady, and that each mourner who bent to pat or kiss it made it stir, rocking it softly, as if to aid his rest.
This article is featured in the July/August 2021 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
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