A Life Lost, A Life Changed

The death of Robert Francis Kennedy

By Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: September 7, 2012

A Life Lost, A Life Changed

Editor's Note: Please read the first part of this story at: Dreams Became Reality, Then Died on June 6, 1968

In the moments that it took for me to walk from the living room to the bathroom, to make ready for the day to come, applause and cheers became wailing and confusion.

I ran back to the living room -- not a far distance, our house was small -- and turned on the TV once more. Around me, I heard the sounds of sleep from my family. In front of me, as the TV came into focus, I saw Robert Kennedy lying on a concrete floor, a kitchen worker nearby, Ethel Kennedy making her way through the crowd. Calls of "We've got him" came from off screen. The TV commentators said a man had been apprehended and was being held by Rosey Grier and Rafer Johnson. Blood was beginning to run onto the concrete.

Robert Kennedy's eyes were open yet, and he appeared to be lucid. What none of us knew were that those were his last moments of awareness.

The next morning we learned more, my Papi and Mami telling us what had happened. I told them what I had seen and heard. We all decided that we should pray. At school, an all girl's Catholic high school, that same sentiment was echoed. Pray. And we did.

From my youngest days, my Papi had talked to me about politics and our rights. He and my Mami taught us all the difference between right and wrong, justice and just looking away, truth although it hurt. I was immersed in politics before I even knew the word. My Papi used to say if he had stayed in Mexico, he would have become a revolutionary.

And that is what I became here. Quietly, secretly, trying to achieve justice for the victim, as well as for the defendant. Trying to ascertain the truth, even if it hurt.

Eventually, through the course of that horrible day in June, 1968, it dawned on all of us, young and old, that Robert Francis Kennedy would not open his eyes again. That he would leave a huge family, his wife pregnant with their last. And it was true, my hero, Robert Kennedy died.

As I sat before that TV set in our living room, as I had sat just a few days before, I was struck by the reality I was witnessing. But a week before, we had seen the Senator, drinking water, pushing his hair back in that familiar gesture, watching him from a few feet away.

And then, we had seen people's reactions as we followed him to the Greek Theater. Only, now I was watching a train carrying his casket to his resting place. And I was watching, through the lens of a camera on the train, masses of people, come together for one last time, to pay their respects to Bobby Kennedy.

I was struck by the dissonance in all of this. Joy turned to sorrow. Hope turned to ashes. Smiles now tears.

I was in my early teens at this time, and all that I saw was filtered through the eyes of a young person, with coke-bottom glasses. But the tears that I shed were heartfelt.

I have since read much of the alleged shenanigans in the White House in the Kennedy administration, of the inuendoes about the Kennedys and their personal lives. And now I see that we are all human, prone to frailties and missteps.

Yet, I wonder, what if Robert Kennedy had not been assassinated? How different would our world today be? What if Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. had not plummeted to his death in the ocean? Would he have sought to follow in his father's footsteps?

These are musings with no answer. I still have hope. I still retain dreams. I still want justice. For others, who cannot articulate their losses and indignities, and for all who seek a better tomorrow for themselves and their children.

My Papi and Mami gave me life and created a woman who still sees wonder in this world. This is my revolution.

Guadalupe Gonzalez, (c)2012.

About Guadalupe Gonzalez, Contributing Writer:
Writer and Los Angeles Attorney

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