Though Saluki Marooned is fiction, and neither Peter Federson nor Catherine
Mancini actually existed, the two characters were written to represent baby boomers who had strong memories of the 35th president.
For Catherine, Kennedy's death was a mere eight years before, but for Peter, who had been forced nearly forty years back in time, the memories were more distant, but just as powerful.
Pete and Catherine are paddling a canoe on Lake on the Campus in May of 1971. Catherine turns to Pete and says,
“‘Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.’” Catherine looked out across the lake.
“I can’t believe he’s been dead for forty—for all these years.” I was thinking of the dreams of Camelot in the ‘60s, and the revelations of JFK’s indiscretions in the late ‘70s.
“I remember the day he died like it was yesterday,” she said. For her, that “yesterday” was eight years ago. The shock of November 22, 1963 never really went away. My mother told me that when she heard the news on the radio, she thought it was about JFK’s father.
“Where were you when it happened?” Catherine said quietly.
“In sixth grade. Howie Fergusson ran through the hall yelling, ‘The president is shot. The president is shot!’ Then they wheeled in a TV and we watched Walter Cronkite tell the nation that he had died. I think they dismissed class for the rest of the day. No one could concentrate. It was pretty grim. ”
“I was home sick from school, and had just finished some soup when I heard my mother crying. She came upstairs and gave me the news. I wrapped myself in blankets and went downstairs and watched it on TV. Both of us were crying. I guess it was just his time to go. We had such high hopes. I think all of us had high hopes, the whole country.”
I thought about the Kennedy years, with the stock market blasting along, plenty of good jobs, NASA aiming at the moon, the Soviets humbled by the Cuban Missile Crisis, and few Americans having even heard of Vietnam. “We considered ourselves the greatest country in the world,” I said.
So what happened to us? What happened to me?