Assassination of Robert F. Kennedy: In Chicago, readers demand information

As published in the Chicago Daily News, sister publication to the Chicago Sun-Times:

Since its inception, the Chicago Daily News has been published every afternoon, Monday through Saturday. When it fell on June 5, 1968, newspapers likely flew as Chicagoans clamored for news about Robert F. Kennedy.

Just after midnight that day, the senator and presidential candidate was shot dead as he exited the kitchen of a Los Angeles hotel. Kennedy had just won the state’s Democratic primary and appeared to have a shot at winning the nomination and the White House. The assassination happened around 2 a.m. CT, so the Chicago Sun-Times had no coverage of the shooting that morning. It would have been up to the Daily News to provide some of the most up-to-date coverage at the time.

After operating on Kennedy, doctors gave him “a 1 in 10 chance of survival,” according to Daily News science editor Arthur J. Snider. He had regained his breath on his own, and medical experts told Snider that if Kennedy survived, he would recover without any impairment, as the bullet had not hit the part of his brain responsible for “thinking, cerebration, speech, sight and motor ability”. ”

“But the rest of the picture is serious,” the reporter wrote, “because the injury involved the brainstem, the area that controls heart rate as well as respiratory rate.” And the trajectory of the bullet had dramatically decreased the amount of blood flowing to the brain.

“The open question,” explained neurologist Dr. Eric Oldberg of the University of Illinois School of Medicine, “is whether there will be enough blood flowing in to keep vital centers going.”

Even if Kennedy survived, politicians almost all agreed that he would drop out of the race. Thus, between the filming and the end of the career of a brilliant candidate, the people of Chicago woke up to a whole new reality.

The newspaper sent reporters Barry Felcher and John Gallagher to the city streets to gather local reactions to the shooting. At a tavern in the Old Town in the early morning, Richard Cohn, 30, “threw himself off his chair and ran towards the bar when he heard about the shooting”. He wondered aloud “how much this poor family should give”. In the same pub, housewife Wana Brandstetter shouted, “Where are we?

As the loop came to life and people rushed to work, Philip Samson, 42, told reporters from State and Madison, “These gun laws are worthless and this proves it.” He worked at a West Side company until the building burned down during riots following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. just two months earlier. “They should stop worrying about places like Vietnam and start trying to figure out what’s wrong here,” he added.

Outside the Wrigley Building, a black advertising executive who asked to remain anonymous said: ‘I cried this morning for the first time in a long time. America is in danger; that’s all we can say about it. It is no longer a question of race. America is going to have to start working together and forget the ethnic groups.

A Michigan Avenue driver wondered if this tragedy could have been avoided if national gun laws had been enacted in 1948 as troops returned home from the war. A secretarial student said the shooting “is truly an embarrassment to our country,” and an Indiana job seeker called it “a new sign of our social decline.”

The reporters then crossed paths with Reverend Thomas Sullivan, Associate Superintendent of Catholic Schools in Chicago, who told them, “The world seems to be falling apart.

Then he added, almost prophetically given the upcoming events in the city: “I wonder if this stuff might lead to over-enforcement, though. They can really try to make the law heavy now, and that would be a mistake too, I think.

The next day, Bobby Kennedy died. He left behind a loving family and a country for many difficult years to come.

About John A. Provost

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