ARLINGTON, Va. -
Buglers from across the country gathered at Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to Army Sergeant Keith Clark, the man who played taps during President John F. Kennedy's funeral. Clark flubbed the sixth note in the song. It was a moment that seemed to encapsulate America's grief and it later became known as the 'broken note.'
Sandy Jones, former Pipe Major with the Air Force Pipe Band, was standing a few feet away from Clark back on November 22, 1963. He says, "I can still tell you exactly what I was thinking. I was like, oh that poor guy!" Jones and more than a hundred other musicians gathered for a ceremony Saturday along with Clark's family.
Clark was a dedicated musician who had just played taps for the President on Veterans Day two weeks earlier. Over time, his broken note has come to be remembered as a symbol of what that moment meant to the American people. "It was a mistake, but it was almost like a tear brought to his eye," said 13-year old David Cervellino who came from Connecticut with his grandparents to play the bugle during the ceremony. He and his grandfather's wife Lisa stood at Robert Kennedy's grave site when it was their turn to sound Taps. Other musicians were stationed at various sites throughout the cemetery. They each played after the chimes signaled noon.
Sergeant Clark passed away back in 2002. He's buried at Arlington National and his bugle remains on display at the visitor's center. Family members also marked the 50th anniversary of his moment in history by laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Daughter Nancy McColley, who was 13 at the time, says, "If he had hit that note perfectly, it would not have had the significance that it has today. I'm not happy that he didn't give a perfect performance but I'm very proud of what he did and I think it did represent the grief and sorrow that all of us were feeling as a nation."