The date was June 4, 1968. I was eleven years old. Five of my friends and I decided to grab a basketball, and head over to Lincoln Elementary, in Santa Barbara, California where I grew up. We were on summer vacation. The basketball court was fenced in on the corner of Anacapa and Cota streets. About 15 minutes after we began our game, I noticed a black sedan pull up to the red light. Suddenly, a window went down, and a famous and familiar Boston accented voice said, ” Hey boys! How you doing?” “Fine”, we all responded, almost in unison. We all recognized that face and unmistakable smile as Robert Kennedys. He had spoken earlier in town, and was headed for the freeway. I asked him, ” Sir, would you like to join our game?” We had all stopped the game by now, and had gathered near the fence where his car was. He stared directly and me, then his gaze went to the basketball that I was holding. For a moment, I actually thought that he was going to get out of the car, and join us. That smile soon turned to a frown, and he said, “I’d love to, but I’m headed to an engagement.” We all said goodbye as the traffic light turned green, and his driver slowly accelerated.
Upon going home, I told my mother that I had actually spoken to Robert Kennedy, and that he almost joined us in our game. She was excited to hear the news. I watched that evening with my brother as Mr. Kennedy won the California primary for President of the United States. I became tired as midnight approached, and told my brother that I was going to bed. He inquired wasn’t I going to wait for Kennedy to speak, and I told him that he could fill me in tomorrow morning with the details.
My brother woke up before me the next day, and immediately informed me of the news. Robert Kennedy, had been shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I told him to quit kidding around, to which he gave me a look that I’ll never forget. The seriousness of my brother’s voice and tone had told me that he that was hurting inside. I turned on the news on TV, and sadly, I remember all the major networks carrying the story of the Kennedy shooting. Hours later the news channels had changed their story from an assassination attempt to the murder of Robert F. Kennedy, who had lingered for 26 hours before dying from his wounds. I couldn’t believe it. Only the day before, I had actually spoken to this great man. Tears filled my eyes then and well as now. while I am typing this. He didn’t deserve to die. My thoughts went to his brother John, who was shot and killed in Dallas, some 5 years earlier. When I recall this story, I wonder if he had actually gotten out of his car, and played ball with us, would that have altered his schedule, and somehow kept him alive? But then again, a lone deranged 24-year-old Palestinian immigrant by the name of Sirhan B. Sirhan, also had an agenda, and sadly kept his and took the life of a great man. Robert Kennedy was only 43 when he died. I also thought about what could have been. This man held the hopes of the nation who wanted to see him become President. But sadly it was not to be, and once again, the we went through the pain of seeing the Kennedy family having to bury one of their own again. I’m forever grateful for fate allowing me to speak with this man. And for our paths crossing, if only for a moment.