Credit: George Danby / BDN

Letters submitted by BDN readers are verified by BDN Opinion Page staff. Send your letters to

America changed forever

I was six years old some 57 years ago in Chicago, Illinois, attending William B. Shoesmith Elementary School on a chilled day. Over the intercom, all the teachers were summoned into the principals’ office immediately that Friday afternoon, Nov. 22, 1963.

When our teacher returned to our unruly class, she was crying, as all the teachers were. School was dismissed with everyone instructed to go home immediately. It seemed a long walk home, as I wondered why the South Side of Chicago sounded so eerily quiet beginning that weekend. I arrived home and found all my family there, weeping in front of the black and white television screen. Mom informed me that the 35th president of the United States of America, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was assassinated that afternoon.

The next three days, the world stopped and watched in reverent silence as the funeral services were broadcast over the three national networks. Mrs. Kennedy was radiantly stoic, as were her brothers in law. Little John John saluted his dead father and the world wept more. It was inconceivable. It was impossible. Nevertheless, that generation of escalating Vietnam, the Peace Corps, free love and NASA was marred forever. My generation lost its innocence as well, seeing my invincible parents weep for a white man they had never met, but felt touched enough to mourn his death.

America changed forever. We continue to remember where we were when JFK died, and the world wept together.

James Weathersby


An offensive banner

The recent BDN article about homelessness in Portland featured a photograph of a protester holding a sign adorned with several hammer and sickle insignia, the universal symbol of communism. The symbol has become increasingly common among protesters involved with the unrest in our cities the past few years. Honestly, I cannot grasp how anyone who is purportedly advocating for “social justice” can do so under the banner of communism, other than sheer ignorance or blatant dishonesty.

Have we already forgotten what this symbol represents? Such as the systemic deaths of scores of millions of people through outright murder or starvation? Economies based on slave labor ( the gulag)? The suppression of free speech, culture, and thought? Walls built not to keep people out, but to keep them in, enforced by guards with shoot to kill orders? The list goes on.

This during the lifetime of many reading this. The hammer and sickle is a symbol no less offensive to free, moral, and just people than the swastika. Yet the media, academia, and politicians remain silent regarding its use.

I suppose there’s the possibility that the symbol is being used as a prop by a bunch of disaffected rich kids trying to look “cool”; at least I hope so. If on the other hand this is truly the system they want to bring to this nation, I foresee some very dark and violent times ahead.

Larry Balchen


Not surprised by Collins win

Sen. Susan Collins’ big win on Election Day has been coined as “perhaps the most unexpected victory of the 2020 cycle” by some in the media. But to me, there was never any question that Mainers would ultimately stand by the woman who has stood by us for decades.

For 24 years, we’ve been able to count on Collins to fight for us in Washington. She works harder than anyone else, and puts our needs above the whims of her party. She’s a true public servant, and a force to reckon with, so we’re incredibly fortunate that she is willing to serve us for a historic fifth term in the U.S. Senate.

Maine will benefit from her seniority, experience and her willingness to work with whomever occupies the White House.

Brent Buck