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I met Senator Robert F. Kennedy hours before his death on June 5, 1968. By Mike Limon

2 Jun

rkennedy( This is a true story which makes his death  difficult for me to write about. )

This Sunday, June 3, 2018, at 9 a.m. on Fox Channel 11 on television,  journalist Hal Eisner will be doing a story on the life and death of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who was brutally murdered on June 5, 1968, as he was leaving the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He has just won the Democratic primary for President of the United States, and had given a speech to many people in that hotel. I will be watching this program with more that usual interest. Allow me to explain.

Hours earlier that day, Senator Kennedy was in my hometown of Santa Barbara, California, where he was given an election speech on his way to Los Angeles. A few of my friends and I were on summer school break, and decided to go to school to play a game of basketball. The basketball court was located on the west end of the campus near the intersection of Cota & Anacapa streets. Although Lincoln elementary is no longer there, at the time (1968), there was a chain link fence facing Anacapa street (which is a one-way) street. There was an opening in the fence on Cota street just a few feet away. There is a reason I am describing this which I will get to later. My friends included Bobby Torres, Donny Moten, myself and three other boys of whose names I cannot remember at the moment. As we played, my eyes saw a Santa Barbara police motorcycle officer escorting a large black sedan. The car came to a halt on that corner and was waiting for the light to turn green. Senator Kennedy’s car was headed West to catch the freeway on ramp. At first, we didn’t think much of it except that it must be somebody important to get a police escort.

I watched the left rear window  come down. Suddenly, a very familiar face leaned out, and an even more familiar and famous smile greeted us with, “Hello boys! After the moment of shock kicked in and with all of us looking at each other with the unspoken message (is that really Bobby Kennedy?) I spoke up first.

Hello Mr. Kennedy!  Can you join our game, Bobby? I asked as though he were a relative or close friend. I will never forget what happened next. He looked at me, smiled, and thought about it for a moment. I  showed him where he could come in via the doorway in the fence a few feet away The Senator turned away for a moment, and said something to a person sitting next to him. I couldn’t see exactly who it was. He then turned to me, and asked, ‘What is your name son? I told him mine, as well as everybody’s in our group.  basketball

“As much as I’d like to join you guys Mike, I’m afraid I won’t have time. I’m so sorry.” His face was so sad, but I also noticed how tired he was.   I actually thought for just a moment that he was going to jump out of that car and join us. He wanted to so badly. His face conveyed that message so clearly to this smiling eleven year old boy. I couldn’t help but think later that night how desperately he wanted to just stop all the speeches, and campaigns, and just play ball, if only for a few minutes.

As the traffic light turned green, he thanked us, and said “So long boys, and take care!” Of course we were terribly disappointed but we shouted, “Goodbye Bobby!” as his car sped away. We couldn’t believe what has just happened and who had actually spoken to us.

Later that evening, I watched the election returns on television, but as the night wore on, I told my older brother Victor that I couldn’t stay up. He told me that he would let me know who  won in the morning.

I was shocked the next morning when my brother told me that Senator Kennedy had been shot. I thought he was kidding around with me. Sadly, I quickly found the devastating truth.

I am so grateful to that wonderful man who made the day of some eleven year old boys. The only regret that I have is that Bobby almost joined us and how I wished that he could have, if only to take the pressures off of him for just a few minutes.

Rest In Peace Robert Kennedy.

 

 

 

 

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