Perhaps it has become routine, almost hackneyed, to remember where one was on 22 November 1963.

Yet memory of that event can still say something about its impact. For if the Kennedy Administration's 'Camelot' has undergone reassessment and has lost some of its lustre, it's important to recognise how strong was the feeling in America at the time that JFK's assassination ended a life of promise and called into question a future which, while he was alive, seemed to offer hope rather than despair.

My memory comes from the early months of graduate study at Cornell. On the afternoon of 22 November I had just finished working in the stacks of the Olin Library and was about to go outside when Mario Einaudi, the distinguished teacher and writer on European politics, came towards me weeping and said, 'They have killed my president.' Even then, and as I tried to comfort him, I was struck by his usage; not 'the president' but 'my president'.

When we emerged into the open air a crowd of staff and students had already gathered in the space between the Olin and Uris Libraries, standing quietly and talking in hushed tones. And then, silencing all who stood there, the chimes in McGraw Tower started playing 'America the Beautiful'. Many wept and I certainly felt deeply moved.

Now, it should be said that Cornell's is a strongly Democrat campus, then and now, with its links to New York City. So if there had not been grief and emotion, it would have been surprising. But what I saw and felt at that time had echoes all over America.

That evening, in a truly symbolic fashion, the first snowfall of the winter blanketed Ithaca.

Image from Wikipedia.