For those of a certain age, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963 will always be ingrained in their memory. Unfathomable to be sure, but it happened.
Vice President Lyndon Johnson became president. The Kennedy Cabinet became the Johnson Cabinet. There would be no vice president until after the 1964 election — that wouldn't be remedied until 25th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1967. Still, the government went on.
As horrific as the Kennedy assassination was, I can't imagine how the people of Poland are dealing with the devastating news of Saturday's plane crash, which claimed the lives of the country's top political and military leadership, including President Lech Kaczynski and his wife, the deputy foreign minister, a former president, dozens of members of Parliament (including the deputy speaker), the head of the National Security Bureau, the army & navy chiefs of staff, and the president of the national bank. Ninety-seven died in all, including Anna Walentynowicz, the former dock worker whose firing in 1980 led to the famous Solidarity strike that ultimately ended communism in Poliand.
Adding to the horror and sadness was the fact that the plane, which crashed in western Russia, was on its way to commemorate the massacre of 20,000 members of Poland's officer corps by the Soviet secret police at Katyn Woods in 1940, following the Red Army's invasion of Poland. For those Poles of a certain age, it has been an image that has lasted a lifetime.
Poland, a country with new-found democratic institutions, will survive. Nonetheless, an indescribable and unfathomable tragedy.