Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Haunted Man

Carrying a burden he never asked for:
[RFK] was shot while holding Romero's hand.

At Arlington on Saturday, Romero, now 60, walked slowly. His chest was tight and his shoulders stiff as he made his way toward the simple, small white cross that marks RFK's grave. He had wept the night before as he anticipated this moment, telling me how he had refused to wash Kennedy's dried blood off his hand.

...Romero holds himself at least partly responsible for Kennedy's death, and in his private moment with Kennedy now, he wanted to ask forgiveness. If he hadn't been so intent on shaking Kennedy's hand, he told me, he might have seen and stopped the assassin. He would have taken the bullet himself, he said, if Kennedy could have been spared.

I told Romero it's time he let go of the guilt. RFK, a man of peace, was killed by Sirhan Sirhan, a man of violence and rage. There's no way to make sense of that, but I urged him to listen to his buddy, Chacon, who reminds him that in a moment of tragedy, Juan did a humane thing. He didn't run, he didn't take cover. He tried to help, thinking perhaps that Kennedy had merely been pushed out of harm's way and hit his head on the concrete. When the young busboy realized the situation was grave, he took his own rosary beads out of his shirt pocket, twisted them around Kennedy's hand and prayed for him.

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