Robert F. Kennedy was shot 40 years ago yesterday, just after midnight. Just after declaring victory in the California primary in the Embassy Room Ballroom at the Ambassador Hotel, a landmark whose demolition was completed last year.
It’s become tiresomely clichÃ© to recall one’s location at the occurrence of calamitous events — especially on anniversaries. And as an entirely unaware 4 year old, where I was at the time and place Kennedy was assassinated carries no significance whatsoever. But still there’s something compelling to my “as the crow flies” proximity… at least to me. Perhaps because I grew up obviously knowing about the murder — and even its location — but in such an abstract, almost otherworldly context. And only in the last year or so did I realize it wasn’t near as far as I’d always thought.
At the moment the shots rang out in the pantry area between the hotel’s ballroom and its serving kitchen (pinpointed in the lower right of the map image above), I was 1.15 miles away — no doubt sound asleep upstairs in the front-most bedroom of the front-most apartment that was part of a Hancock Park-adjacent building centered around an open courtyard that stood on the northwest corner of 5th Street and Westminster Avenue (in the upper left of the image above), until it was torn down in the early 1970s for the condo complex that’s there now.
I remember the view from my bedroom window included the large Union Bank moneybag/bird logo hung high on the windowless western side of the skyscraper that occupies the southwest corner of Wilshire and Western, eight blocks from the hotel. I loved staring out the window at that big bird all lit up at night.
I don’t remember anything from that day that transpired between the time of the shooting and the time he died. It may have been, but I don’t remember the television being tuned to news reports. She may have, but I don’t remember my mother crying or commiserating at length with any neighbors or friends. I can’t recall anything particular or specific about that day, but in all likliehood I can say with some confidence I was most likely loaded up into my mom’s old Corvair that workday morning and dropped off at the Bambi preschool I attended in Hollywood and had a mega toddlercrush on my teacher who I recall wore those white go-go boots that were the style then. Her name escapes me.
Some time later I can recollect leafing through the pages of the old “Look” magazine my mom had gotten and being very intent on photos that featured the locations of the assassinations of Robert and his brother John. I remember being frightened
Robert Kennedy died 40 years ago today at the hospital where I’d been born on the same day as his brother.