Honestly? JFK didn't mean much to me when he was alive. He was rich, Catholic and his wife wore great clothes. That's about all I knew. As a sophomore in high school, I had more important (albeit shallow) things on my mind.
Even though I couldn't put words to the event at the time, I'd have to say that Kennedy's assassination turned out to have monumental effect on my life. For me, JFK's untimely death was the beginning of the end of my innocence. Other than polio and the ever-present threat of Communism, I -- like most leading-edge Boomers -- felt safe growing up. We basically had happy childhoods coming of age in the bucolic '50s and early '60s. Then came Kennedy's death, the formal U.S. involvement in Vietnam, the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations, the draft, the seemingly endless body bags coming home, and so on. All in one decade, no less. After that, it was hard for anyone to be innocent again.
Today? Parents can't even send their kids out to play or to school and be 100 percent sure they'll return safely. Back in the day, something like that would have been unimaginable. I miss those days.