by Joe Shea
American Reporter Correspondent
August 30, 2009
BRADENTON, Fla. -- At the instant they lowered Ted Kennedy's casket into the ground, lightning struck up from the earth. Yes, at precisely that instant - huge flashes illuminated the near horizon from the ground up.
Don't be surprised if miracles happen.
I spent a minute with Sen. Kennedy once, at the 2000 Democratic Convention. He had finished up some event or another and I was standing on a two-tiered riser, and Willie Brown was glaring at me from just below. Sen. Kennedy walked up, climbed the riser and stood beside me, looking at me. He didn't say anything. I shook hands with him and said, "Joseph Shea of New York." He looked at me for a little longer, and then went to the other end of the riser, 10 feet away, and turned and looked at me again. I looked back. The duration of that "exchange" was perhaps a minute. It is as fresh and clear in my mind tonight as it was a minute later. Why, I ask myself, Why?
The Kennedy family has stood at center stage in American politics for 49 years, and now they are gone. Family members will distinguish themselves in many way in the years to come, but they are the second generation. There can be no substitute for the originals. For 49 years we have followed their every move, their every word. Now, it is over. No one will pick up a tabloid newspaper because any of the remaining Kennedys have been elected, caught, rumored, married or died; it will take more than that to make the sale. If there are still newspapers 25 years from now, precious few of the paragraphs will be devoted to what a Kennedy child is doing, has done or will do.
Ted Kennedy, may he rest in peace, was 15 years older than I am, and had been in the Senate 47 years. I was born in in 1947 and became a teenager in 1960. From that day and all through my lifetime to this moment, starting with the late President John F. Kennedy, the Irish men and women of Boston and Hyannisport have never been absent from that stage. Every newspaper, network newsman, radio talk show host, historian, reporter, comedian and magazine found reason to mention them.
I saw myself in their mirror. I repeated their words in my speeches when i was in high school, when I became a young adult, when I ran for public office. I quoted them in things I wrote. I saw their faces in mine, and imagined myself imbued with their eloquence. That's all gone now. One rat killed John, another killed Bobby, and Teddy did himself in, living hard and long and well.
Would you believe I had no particular fascination with the Kennedys? Honestly. They were like the air I breathe, the water I drink. They were part of the very atmosphere of life, a dynastic drama worth of Shakespeare in a nation that has none. They had enemies and friends, affairs and escapades, they sinned and they sought salvation, lost elections and then won them, on and on, in every year since I came to adolescence, the storyline like a long flowering seasonal vine, always changing, always new. Plane crashes. Car crashes, Boat sinkings. Drunken romps. Assassinations. Scandals. Deaths. Cancers. Wars. Causes. Heroism. And children, always children, lots of them, with big teeth and great hair and great determination to have fun and to serve, in any order.
But not today. Like America itself, after the great speeches and the endless motorcades, they were huddled in the dark, beside a grave, and none but the widow stood out. They were smaller, and more like all of us, because like us, they were stage left or stage right, not deep in the middle, in the spotlight all the time, doing and sayng big things. Now they do smaller things, and as from the world, the curtain falls away, into dark.
Until just as Ted Kennedy hits earth the lightning strikes up, brilliantly busts the sky again and again. Miracles will happen.
And I know where Ted Kennedy will be tomorrow. Take yourself to the shore and look up. See all those big, long clouds? Watch them, all of them. Let them resolve before you into figures. of faces and thngs. And look there, that very long one - look! There's two sails, see? And a funny long boat. And see the sails fill out, and billow! Look! The man! That's Ted! He's sailing in the clouds! Look ye, with the hearts of a child, and see my world sail away.