I realize some of the Insiders were not born yet But I was one day older than 19 that November day.
I remember that it happened just after lunch fifty tears ago. Penn State’s campus was filled with wandering students. University Park's buzz was about the upcoming football game at Pitt, the University of Pittsburgh Panthers, our arch rival. It was chilly, but not yet the bone-chilling cold we came to know in the mountains of central Pennsylvania.
That morning I’d scanned the Daily Collegian, the school newspaper, discovering that I was supposed to be the evening newsreader on WDFM, the student FM radio station. I called my girlfriend, Myra Lynch, telling her that we’d need to catch the later movie.
After morning classes I headed for the basement radio studio, hoping to find enough copy to fill that 15 minutes of air at six o’clock. It was just the chattering Associated Press news ticker and me. I looked at the long sheets of paper hanging on the wall, old copy that had been red-lined, meaning that it was already used. This could be the shortest newscast on record. Myra might see me after all.
The ticker stopped, not that unusual, and then the bell rang three times. Once was a breaking story, twice at major story of national importance, and three times—well, it never rang three times before. I looked at the machine, waiting for the words to come. Obviously someone somewhere in AP had a momentous story but was having trouble composing.
Finally, it punched out all caps: SHOTS FIRED AT PRESIDENT’S MOTORCADE IN DALLAS TODAY (more). I ripped the page from the machine, pocketed the third copy, and waited for more. Three more bulletins came in quick succession. Word spread and within 10 minutes the studio was crowded with senior staff, and I was summarily excused from doing the news.
I saw people walking more slowly on the campus, some crying, others wearing sunglasses even on this cloudy day. A few people held bulky little transistor radios to their ears, sitting on park benches. Bars in State College with televisions were crowded within a half hour. Saturday classes were cancelled later that day.
A friend told me, with authority, that they’d never cancel the Saturday football game, that it was not that big a deal. I looked at him wondering if he’d really caught the importance of what happened in Dallas, in Dealey Plaza that November afternoon. A few of us sat around, wondering what it meant. A gaggle of conspiracy theorists holding forth at the Student Union told me it was the communists who did it, that World War III was just around the corner. Since we’d lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis only a year before I thought they could be right.
I called home; spoke with my parents, toyed with the idea of going to Washington, thumbing, just to be there. My parents asked me to come home to Pittsburgh, just be with them.
Saturday morning I rode on the Edwards Lakes to Sea Bus home, and then took another to my suburban neighborhood. I fell asleep on the bus, sitting on my suitcase in the aisle, since all the seats were taken.
My parents were watching the black and white images on the old Zenith when I got home. The long national nightmare was unfolding before our eyes, real-time. Sunday morning we drove downtown to the Trinity Cathedral, our church. Dean Moore, the rector, struggled for the first time to find the words to explain it all, to give us a sense of what happened. Jack Ruby stepped forward and killed Lee Harvey Oswald while we sat in our pews.
Myra Lynch and I broke up. The football game was not canceled, just postponed. Classes resumed at Penn State the following Tuesday.
None of us was ever the same.
Wonderful! Just wonderful!
For those of us that recall that day, it was more than just a day, it was the whole week-end of wondering if "This was the end"
I was in my second year of high school at Lutheran High School South in STL and just before lunch the Principal came over the intercom to give us the news. It was shocking. It was a Friday and as our family got together that evening, we were really worried.
Then Sunday came and just after we left church, we were going to get our "Salk Vaccine" shots for polio, as a family. The news came over that Oswald had been shot, it was news that made us think, "Was this now the real end"! ( I am not sure of what, but, just that life as we had knew it, was going to be over)
anadyr, having been to Dealy Plaza, it is an emotional place.
I must add on, that if JFK had lived, we would never have had the loss of life in Vietnam (My opinion), and only those that lived in that period will ever understand the reality of the time. No movie or TV show can ever replicate that "Period"!
Thank-you again for allowing me to share this experience and thought with you!
Sorry I misspelled "Dealey", but that aside, today I heard that more people visit the plaza than the "Kennedy Library'!
Should also like to share that my old boss was a MD/Intern at Parkland when JFK was delivered to the ER. It was "Hopeless".
Now I am no "Anything", but he spoke of "Jack Ruby" as one "Unusual" person?
I will never forget on the "25th Anniversary" of the event watching it on TV and thinking what a historic time that was!
anadyr, thank-you again for sharing the thoughts of the experience!
Thank you Jerry.
One other Kennedy connection, however slim: I wrote a letter to President Kennedy in 1961 when I was a student exchange participant living in South America. The letter, handwritten of course, spoke to what I was seeing in the slums, the sadness of the underclass in a hierarchical society. As a 16 year old thousands of miles from home, I praised the Alliance for Progress, then in its infancy. I also mentioned the Berlin Wall, for reasons lost to me now, but tried to tie the two events together. My letter now seems childish and even naive, but it was written from the heart.
The letter was read by someone in the government and responded to by the Ambassador to the country in which I lived. It was the boilerplate (and I have written these myself for our nation's leadership) letter, thanking me, etc. I came back from the adventure intolerant of high school's social whirl, the dances, the fast cars, the good haircuts. I was an outsider now, the kid who left most of his junior year and some of his senior year to go away. What good did it do you, my friends asked, as only good friends can.
I had no answer, I just smiled.
In the next two years I watched the missiles go into Cuba, us at the edge of the precipice for 13 days, and finally the terrible events in Dallas that day. Lost in the rush of commemorations are the words that the president spoke in Fort Worth at a breakfast on November 22nd, "America is second to none in military strength," he said. "This is not an easy effort... this is a very dangerous and uncertain world." Three hours later he was gone.
Jack Kennedy represented hope, far more than any president did before and only once has since. So it did me good to write that letter long ago, even if he never knew I did.
I was in Father Moosebrugger's freshman speech class, at St. Ignatius H.S. (later "College Prep") in Chicago, when the announcement was made that Kennedy had been shot. Then, maybe 15 minutes later, that he was dead. The following several days were the first instances of a series of events that absorbed all of one's attention for days at a time -- Bobby's death; King's assassination; the Democratic convention in '68; Watergate hearings; Princess Diana's death; 9/11. Way too many of those events, and way too few of the others -- the Super Bowl Shuffle; the White Sox win a World Series; Da Bulls and Jordan; Obama wins re-election.
One thing the Kennedy retrospections are reminding me of is the relative civility (and maybe common sense?) that existed between politicians and the public and the various media. A short personal analysis --- 1963 "Sure he's a philanderer, but he's a good president and represents our country well with other nations." 20xx "He's stupid, naive, can't even use English properly, and makes terrible decisions.... but he's never had a fling with another woman... so let's elect him."
I was in the 8th grade and we were outside of the school on a fire drill. One of my classmates had a transistor radio in his shirt pocket under a sweater with the ear plug running up the collar into his ear. An excellent strategy since the old nun had never caught on to that particular misdeed. The whispered news spread quickly among the students. It wasn't until about 45 minutes later that we had the official confirmation from the Mother Superior over the public address system that President Kennedy had been assassinated and we were sent home early. This is one of those events that will be indelibly etched in my mind forever. Also, I will always remember watching television as Lee Harvey Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby as school was closed that day. The interesting part is that it seems like just yesterday.
I was on the bus about to leave school for home when the Principle got on each bus before it left the parking lot and said "President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas, please pray".
I was in second grade at the time and didn't really understand for a few months, maybe even until Nov. 22, 1964, the impact and loss to the nation.
I was in 6th grade at Resurrection Grade School in St Louis, Mo. I do not necessarily remember the day in detail, but I do recall the nuns and priests gathering all of us together to give us the news. It was a very sad day for everyone, especially Catholics. That day changed everything and America lost it's innocence. It's funny what we remember, I recall seeing the reporters on the networks smoking away as they brought us all the latest news. The spectacle of the coming days, the pomp and circumstance of the funeral, the indelible site of Jackie and the children, the outpouring of support, was something none of us will ever forget.
Having lived in Dallas for 25 years, I had reason to take visitors to the Book Depository often and found myself going to the area almost every thanksgiving.
As a side note as well as a dose of reality, some time in the late 80's, several of us were in a limo and we passed the exact spot where the shot's rang out. My boss looked to one of the younger women in the limo with us and he told her "this is where the president was shot'. Her comment: 'which one"???
I was a Junior in College when I heard the news. At that time I was a great admirer of JFK as was a great majority of the campus. The student body and faculty went into shock including me. It was like the end of the World had come to many of us. I almost dropped out of school at the end of the year, still mourning the loss of my hero. Then I reread Profiles in Courage and realized dropping out would not be too courageous in JFK's eyes.
I was in Sister Charles Miriam's 9th grade homeroom class at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree, MA. Being Catholic and from Kennedy's home State was a double whammy for us because of the reverence we held for JFK. He was going to be a 'life changer' for us and everyone talked of him as the person who was really going to change the world to a better place. As a youngster, I might not have known what that all meant, but, it was not to be. The news came over the loudspeakers and the school was immediately dismissed.
Thought this may be of interest to some of you:
We in DC schools who were still conducting "duck and cover" air raid drills, have similar stories to many of the posts.
A friend of mine who serves in the Secret Service (not then of course) gathers with a group of fellow officers and pay tribute to Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit. A treasured letter from Jackie Kennedy - Video on NBCNews.com
A lovely gesture by a first lady in mourning.
I was in the 10th grade of high school (DH-J) in Ft. Worth. It was the homecoming football game that night at Farrington Field. Being in the pep squad, we got to dress in our homecoming clothes that morning and then go home for lunch to change clothes into our pep squad uniforms. I got to bring the '58 Dodge we had for my brother (2 grades below me but only 18 months younger) and I to use, so I was all giddy when I got back to school and was going into the lunch room.
The silence was deafening. That was not lunch room noise. Everyone was sitting around crying and bowing their heads in disbelief.
Some of the Young Democrats had gone to the breakfast that morning and had pictures and reports of JFK there in the hotel. They were especially unbelieving. They'd just seen him.
The game was postponed until the next night.
As Texans, we were blamed by everyone in the country seemingly. Texans visiting in other states had to remove their license plates. That especially seemed contradictory to me for those in PA who had to do that or have their cars stoned because of it's nickname, but now TX is having the same contradictions with it's nickname of "The Friendly State" (taken from the Tejas Indians, meaning "friends").
Ten years later, I was living in Ft. Worth and commuting to my job in Dallas on TX Motor Coach. That's where I met my husband. A couple of years later, we married and he worked in the Dallas Co. Records Bldg. across from Dealey Plaza, so we would often see people gathering for prayers and tours in the square until he left that job in '85 or '86.
I was in sixth grade, of all things in the middle of a history test, when our teacher announced we were all to go down to the math teacher -- Mrs. Lewis's -- room, which was one of the only rooms in my grade school that had a TV (B&W). We were all in a state of shock and they sent us home. My mother was in bed (she was a night nurse) and had just heard. All weekend we had the TV on.
I was in my third-grade classroom, listening to the radio reports from Dallas, which the principal had piped over the school's intercom. I remember my teacher and several classmates sobbing. It was the quietest bus ride home ever.
For six months in 1958, I lived with my family in hastily constructed barracks in Oak Ridge, TN. My father, a dairy scientist, was one of many ag and food science researchers "on loan" from their respective universities to the federal government, researching how much radiation it would take to make the nation's food supply unsafe, should a nuclear exchange occur. And like others have posted, after the missile crisis, we had regular "duck and cover" drills, as our schools in Georgia were well within reach of the missiles in Cuba. Also, all school children were issued ID bracelets, with name, address, phone number, and religious affiliation, if any. When I asked why we were getting bracelets, my mother (very calmly) said, "So they can tell who you were if they drop the bomb." Pretty heavy stuff for 7-year-olds.
The final instruction given to us in our bomb drills was always, "And never, EVER, look at the flash!" Even as an 7-year-old, having seen the pictures of Hiroshima, I remember thinking to myself, "If I'm close enough to see the flash, I might as well look."
Friday morning I belive. I was attending Cerritos College. I heard about the Kennedy shooting before I left for school. I went to school, but everything seemed to be in suspended animation. People we litterally wandering around - some going to class, others not. I went to my first class of the day (it was afater the shooting) and we talked about what had happened, but most of it was speculation. We had no internet or smart phones to get news on, so what we knew was minimal. We were supposed to have a football game that evening, but it was, of course, cancelled. Time seemed to stand still and none of my friends seemed to know what to do. Wow, 50 years ago this Friday.
Small world, lakersfan. Cerritos was my first college, but not for many, many years after that fateful day. I graduated from Gahr HS and we also lived right behind the college; used to be able to hear the marching band practice at night in the summer. To stick with the topic, I was too young to remember this tragic event.
Returning home for Thanksgiving during my junior year at U. of South Carolina when I heard the news on the radio. Tragic event, particularly for family with two young children at the time, and the family problems didn't end with JFK. Looking back, I had respect for JFK as president, from what little I knew as a college student, but not so much for being faithful to his wife and family.
We were all shocked that day Bill. And like others I have been watching the Cronkite coverage over and over, still feeling that sadness and the urge to cry that he barely stifled that horrible day. Friends of mine worked as junior staffers on the Warren Commission and ironically, though I have known them for decades, we never mention the Commission or its findings.