Nov 11, 2013
05:30 AMArts & Entertainment
NBC's “Where Were You?” Documentary on JFK Assassination Has Connecticut Ties
There are some human events so shocking that those who live through them never forget. The moment of discovery is so intense that the circumstances are seared into the memory, as vivid 50 years later as on the day they happened.
It was a day that had featured festive political pageantry and that was imbued with the optimism of a nation experiencing great peace and prosperity. That mood vanished with the muzzle flash from Lee Harvey Oswald’s gun and the nation would never be the same again.
The day is being revisited again on Nov. 22, 2013, at 9 p.m., when NBC airs “Where Were You?” It is narrated by Tom Brokaw and produced by Harry Moses of South Kent and New York City. (Moses, above, in South Kent; photo by Kathryn Boughton.)
The two-hour documentary combines archival footage with first-person stories of those who lived through the shock of the assassination and examines the effect of President Kennedy’s death on America and the world.
In early November, NBCNews.com will launch an interactive video experience that invites users to dive into the interviews featured in “Where Were You?” Divided into sections–(JFK’s) Life & Legacy, The Assassination, Kennedy Mystique, The Era, Conspiracy Theories and The Impact—the interactive will also feature footage from the NBC News archives.
There is also a 300-page book of the compiled interviews, “Where Were You?: America Remembers the JFK Assassination,” written by Moses and Gus Russo, with a forward by Brokaw. Moses will sign copies of the book in a Nov. 16 event in Litchifeld County.
“The idea [for this documentary] kind of popped into my head,” said Moses, a veteran “60 Minutes” producer who has created about 100 stories for the television program as well as directed three docudramas for television. “For anyone five years over the age of 50 it is the one event everyone knows.”
Moses said the documentary will include a short biography of the nation’s 35th president, the youngest ever to enter the Oval Office. “There is a little less biography than I would have liked,” he confessed, “but I think it gives insights into his character.”
Moses believes the Kennedy legacy continues to hold its mystique because of his violent death. “He is remembered not so much because of his accomplishments—he wasn’t terribly successful in passing legislation and his high-water mark was the Cuban missile crisis when he remained so calm and rationale. But what was extraordinary about him was his sense of style. He was handsome, dashing, funny, a war hero who had a lot of handicaps he managed to overcome.”
He added that Kennedy and his equally photogenic wife and children were exciting to a new generation that had grown up in the “bland and boring” 1950s. In that naïve era before the cultural shocks of serial assassinations in the 1960s, before an unpopular war divided the nation, and before a corrupt administration saw a president toppled and 43 persons, many top administration officials, sent to jail, Kennedy, in the words of historian Richard Reeves, “changed the way Americans thought of themselves.”
But Moses also refers to a statement made by conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan. “He said that if Kennedy had lived there would have been no Camelot, no myth involved. It was the nature of the man and the way he died that created the myth.”
Whether Kennedy was a worthy vessel to carry national idolatry is quite beside the point, however. He died visibly on a much larger stage than did a much greater president 98 years before him and he left a traumatized country that had been brutally shaken out of its complacency.
As NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw observes, “The assassination of this vibrant young President who was changing American politics and expectations for the future was a monumental event in a century filled with epic developments. A half century later we’re still bewildered, wondering and trying to cope with who he was and how his death changed us.”
“Where Were You?” is composed largely of reminiscences that explore the aftermath of the assassination. Among those who shared their memories were historians such as Richard Reeves and Robert Caro; singer and Civil Rights activist Harry Belafonte; a future president, Bill Clinton, who had been captured in a memorable picture shaking Kennedy’s hand; Vice President Joe Biden, a college student when Kennedy was slain; actor Robert DeNiro, who was riding a subway when the new broke, and Civil Rights leader Andrew Young.
But some of the most interesting memories are from those who were in Dallas, according to Mr. Moses. “We got the memories of people who had never been interviewed before—like Buell Frazier, a 19-year-old neighbor of Lee Harvey Oswald who drove Oswald to work that morning. It was just an act of kindness, but it affected the rest of his life. People wouldn’t talk to him and at one point the police thought he was involved and interrogated him for 12 hours. He was haunted by the memories.”