Sunny
61°
Sunny
Hi 66° | Lo 42°

JFK assassination: ‘It was the birth of a lot of the cynicism we still see today’

  • President John F. Kennedy applauds Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Fort Worth, Tex., Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Nov. 22, 1963. The vice president's wife, Lady Bird Johnson is at far left. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)

    President John F. Kennedy applauds Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Fort Worth, Tex., Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Nov. 22, 1963. The vice president's wife, Lady Bird Johnson is at far left. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)

  • President John F. Kennedy, front, right, exits the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, at 8:45 a.m., Nov. 22, 1963. He is on his way to greet crowds and make a speech. At right holding hat and wearing raincoat is Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. (AP Photo)

    President John F. Kennedy, front, right, exits the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, at 8:45 a.m., Nov. 22, 1963. He is on his way to greet crowds and make a speech. At right holding hat and wearing raincoat is Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. (AP Photo)

  • President John F. Kennedy is greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in front of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth,  Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

    President John F. Kennedy is greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in front of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

  • Protesters are seen among throngs of supporters of visiting President John F. Kennedy at Love Field, Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963.  (AP Photo)

    Protesters are seen among throngs of supporters of visiting President John F. Kennedy at Love Field, Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

  • President Kennedy and the first lady Jacqueline Kennedy receive an enthusiastic welcome as they arrive in Dallas Love Field, Nov. 22, 1963.  Later that day the president was assassinated as his motorcade moved through the city. (AP Photo)

    President Kennedy and the first lady Jacqueline Kennedy receive an enthusiastic welcome as they arrive in Dallas Love Field, Nov. 22, 1963. Later that day the president was assassinated as his motorcade moved through the city. (AP Photo)

  • U.S. President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy are riding in the backseat of an open limousine  on Main Street at Ervay Street as the presidential motorcade approaches Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Only moments later the ride ends in the president's assassination. Texas Gov. John Connally, who will be wounded in the ambush attack, and his wife Nellie are seated in the limousine's jump seat. (AP Photo)

    U.S. President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy are riding in the backseat of an open limousine on Main Street at Ervay Street as the presidential motorcade approaches Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Only moments later the ride ends in the president's assassination. Texas Gov. John Connally, who will be wounded in the ambush attack, and his wife Nellie are seated in the limousine's jump seat. (AP Photo)

  • President John F. Kennedy is seen riding in motorcade approximately one minute before he was shot in Dallas, Tx., on Nov. 22, 1963.  In the car riding with Kennedy are Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, left, and her husband, Gov. John Connally of Texas.  (AP Photo)

    President John F. Kennedy is seen riding in motorcade approximately one minute before he was shot in Dallas, Tx., on Nov. 22, 1963. In the car riding with Kennedy are Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, left, and her husband, Gov. John Connally of Texas. (AP Photo)

  • The limousine carrying mortally wounded President John F. Kennedy races toward the hospital seconds after he was shot in Dallas, Tx., Nov. 22, 1963.  With secret service agent Clinton Hill riding on the back of the car, Mrs. John Connally, wife of the Texas governor, bends over her wounded husband, and Mrs. Kennedy leans over the president. (AP Photo/Justin Newman)

    The limousine carrying mortally wounded President John F. Kennedy races toward the hospital seconds after he was shot in Dallas, Tx., Nov. 22, 1963. With secret service agent Clinton Hill riding on the back of the car, Mrs. John Connally, wife of the Texas governor, bends over her wounded husband, and Mrs. Kennedy leans over the president. (AP Photo/Justin Newman)

  • A view of the pergola on the north side of Elm Street in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963, moments after shots felled President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally while riding in the presidential motorcade, Nov. 22, 1963. Man with back to camera is Abraham Zapruder with his assistant Marilyn Sitzman beside him. Charles and Beatrice Hester are sitting on the ground. (AP Photo/Ike Altgens)

    A view of the pergola on the north side of Elm Street in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963, moments after shots felled President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally while riding in the presidential motorcade, Nov. 22, 1963. Man with back to camera is Abraham Zapruder with his assistant Marilyn Sitzman beside him. Charles and Beatrice Hester are sitting on the ground. (AP Photo/Ike Altgens)

  • Two unidentified women burst into tears outside Parkland Hospital on hearing that President John F. Kennedy died from the bullet fired by an assassin while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. Gov. John Connally of Texas also shot and in serious condition. (AP Photo)

    Two unidentified women burst into tears outside Parkland Hospital on hearing that President John F. Kennedy died from the bullet fired by an assassin while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. Gov. John Connally of Texas also shot and in serious condition. (AP Photo)

  • An unidentified plainclothes officer carries the rifle which was used in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

    An unidentified plainclothes officer carries the rifle which was used in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

  • As President John F. Kennedy lay dead of an assassins bullet in Dallas all the world awaited further news, this picture was taken at AP headquarters, Nov. 22, 1963, New York. Shown studying the incoming A trunk news wire reports are left to right, AP Special Correspondent Relman Morin, Genera; News Editor Sam Blackman, General Manager Wes Gallagher, Managing Editor Paul E. Neville of the Buffalo Evening News (an office visitor) and Deputy General Manager Harry T. Montgomery. (AP Photo)

    As President John F. Kennedy lay dead of an assassins bullet in Dallas all the world awaited further news, this picture was taken at AP headquarters, Nov. 22, 1963, New York. Shown studying the incoming A trunk news wire reports are left to right, AP Special Correspondent Relman Morin, Genera; News Editor Sam Blackman, General Manager Wes Gallagher, Managing Editor Paul E. Neville of the Buffalo Evening News (an office visitor) and Deputy General Manager Harry T. Montgomery. (AP Photo)

  • People look over stacks of the Dallas Times Herald final edition of the day, with the headline of President Kennedy's death, Nov. 22, 1963.  (AP Photo)

    People look over stacks of the Dallas Times Herald final edition of the day, with the headline of President Kennedy's death, Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

  • In this Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, Marina Oswald, second left, stands with her mother-in-law, Marguerite Claverie Oswald, in the police station in Dallas where her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald is being held, accused in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (AP Photo)

    In this Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, Marina Oswald, second left, stands with her mother-in-law, Marguerite Claverie Oswald, in the police station in Dallas where her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald is being held, accused in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (AP Photo)

  • Lee Harvey Oswald sits in police custody shortly after being arrested for assassinating U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby, a local club owner, as he was being transferred to a city jail. (AP Photo)

    Lee Harvey Oswald sits in police custody shortly after being arrested for assassinating U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby, a local club owner, as he was being transferred to a city jail. (AP Photo)

  • Police Lt. J.C. Day holds aloft the bolt-action rifle with telescopic sight which was allegedly used in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.  (AP Photo)

    Police Lt. J.C. Day holds aloft the bolt-action rifle with telescopic sight which was allegedly used in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. (AP Photo)

  • Her stockings and dress soiled, widowed first lady Jacqueline Kennedy reaches for the door of the ambulance carrying the body of her slain husband at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Nov. 22, 1963.  The late President's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, accompanies her at right. The first lady had just arrived from Dallas with her husband's body aboard a presidential jet.  (AP Photo)

    Her stockings and dress soiled, widowed first lady Jacqueline Kennedy reaches for the door of the ambulance carrying the body of her slain husband at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Nov. 22, 1963. The late President's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, accompanies her at right. The first lady had just arrived from Dallas with her husband's body aboard a presidential jet. (AP Photo)

  • President John F. Kennedy applauds Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Fort Worth, Tex., Chamber of Commerce breakfast, Nov. 22, 1963. The vice president's wife, Lady Bird Johnson is at far left. (AP Photo/Ferd Kaufman)
  • President John F. Kennedy, front, right, exits the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, at 8:45 a.m., Nov. 22, 1963. He is on his way to greet crowds and make a speech. At right holding hat and wearing raincoat is Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. (AP Photo)
  • President John F. Kennedy is greeted by an enthusiastic crowd in front of the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth,  Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)
  • Protesters are seen among throngs of supporters of visiting President John F. Kennedy at Love Field, Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963.  (AP Photo)
  • President Kennedy and the first lady Jacqueline Kennedy receive an enthusiastic welcome as they arrive in Dallas Love Field, Nov. 22, 1963.  Later that day the president was assassinated as his motorcade moved through the city. (AP Photo)
  • U.S. President John F. Kennedy and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy are riding in the backseat of an open limousine  on Main Street at Ervay Street as the presidential motorcade approaches Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Only moments later the ride ends in the president's assassination. Texas Gov. John Connally, who will be wounded in the ambush attack, and his wife Nellie are seated in the limousine's jump seat. (AP Photo)
  • President John F. Kennedy is seen riding in motorcade approximately one minute before he was shot in Dallas, Tx., on Nov. 22, 1963.  In the car riding with Kennedy are Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy, right, Nellie Connally, left, and her husband, Gov. John Connally of Texas.  (AP Photo)
  • The limousine carrying mortally wounded President John F. Kennedy races toward the hospital seconds after he was shot in Dallas, Tx., Nov. 22, 1963.  With secret service agent Clinton Hill riding on the back of the car, Mrs. John Connally, wife of the Texas governor, bends over her wounded husband, and Mrs. Kennedy leans over the president. (AP Photo/Justin Newman)
  • A view of the pergola on the north side of Elm Street in Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Tex., Nov. 22, 1963, moments after shots felled President John F. Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally while riding in the presidential motorcade, Nov. 22, 1963. Man with back to camera is Abraham Zapruder with his assistant Marilyn Sitzman beside him. Charles and Beatrice Hester are sitting on the ground. (AP Photo/Ike Altgens)
  • Two unidentified women burst into tears outside Parkland Hospital on hearing that President John F. Kennedy died from the bullet fired by an assassin while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. Gov. John Connally of Texas also shot and in serious condition. (AP Photo)
  • An unidentified plainclothes officer carries the rifle which was used in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. (AP Photo)
  • As President John F. Kennedy lay dead of an assassins bullet in Dallas all the world awaited further news, this picture was taken at AP headquarters, Nov. 22, 1963, New York. Shown studying the incoming A trunk news wire reports are left to right, AP Special Correspondent Relman Morin, Genera; News Editor Sam Blackman, General Manager Wes Gallagher, Managing Editor Paul E. Neville of the Buffalo Evening News (an office visitor) and Deputy General Manager Harry T. Montgomery. (AP Photo)
  • People look over stacks of the Dallas Times Herald final edition of the day, with the headline of President Kennedy's death, Nov. 22, 1963.  (AP Photo)
  • In this Nov. 22, 1963 file photo, Marina Oswald, second left, stands with her mother-in-law, Marguerite Claverie Oswald, in the police station in Dallas where her husband, Lee Harvey Oswald is being held, accused in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. (AP Photo)
  • Lee Harvey Oswald sits in police custody shortly after being arrested for assassinating U.S. President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963. Oswald was shot and killed two days later by Jack Ruby, a local club owner, as he was being transferred to a city jail. (AP Photo)
  • Police Lt. J.C. Day holds aloft the bolt-action rifle with telescopic sight which was allegedly used in the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.  (AP Photo)
  • Her stockings and dress soiled, widowed first lady Jacqueline Kennedy reaches for the door of the ambulance carrying the body of her slain husband at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on Nov. 22, 1963.  The late President's brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, accompanies her at right. The first lady had just arrived from Dallas with her husband's body aboard a presidential jet.  (AP Photo)

We asked Monitor readers to tell us what they remembered from the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, 50 years ago today. Here’s what they told us:

Feet away from Jackie

I was in my junior year at Georgetown University. Over the lunch break, I heard on a dormitory radio that the president had been shot. During an afternoon theology class, we heard the bells tolling at nearby Trinity Church, JFK’s parish before he became president. Immediately we knew what had happened, and class was dismissed.

A Mass was being said in the University Quadrangle with hundreds in attendance. I was anxious to get home. My mom was a devout Irish Catholic and took so much pride in the first Catholic president. She was heartbroken. For three days, nothing but somber classical music was played on the radio. On Sunday morning, like millions of others, I witnessed the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on live television.

My most vivid memory was the funeral. I stood only feet away from Jackie Kennedy as she passed by on the way to St. Matthew’s Cathedral where the funeral was held; Bobby and Teddy were beside her. Caroline and John John rode in a limousine behind them, and just a few feet behind Charles DeGaulle towered over the other mourners.

It was a moment forever etched in my memory.

Less than a month later, I had the honor of taking a trip with the Georgetown Glee Club to the home of the great cellist Pablo Casals in Puerto Rico. He was still in deep mourning for the president who had honored him in the White House.

The assassination left its mark on everyone who lived through it. It was the loss of an age of innocence for millions of my generation.

By the time the decade was over, we would lose Bobby and Martin Luther King, leaders who would never be fully replaced. It was the birth of a lot of the cynicism we still see today. There are few heroes in our society at a time when we desperately need them.

FRANK WARMAN

Hopkinton

About to cut the cake

President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on my 16th birthday. I was a junior in high school and living outside of London, England. It was 7 p.m., and we were just about to cut my birthday cake when the phone rang and my father, who was a U.S. Air Force officer in charge of all air traffic control for southern England, was called to work. A worldwide military alert was called as there was no one to “man the red phone” until Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in. This event may have ruined my birthday celebration but was definitely more disastrous for our country.

RICHARD BERRYMAN

Concord

In school, we held the same job

I was a student at Choate, the same Connecticut boarding school from which President Kennedy had graduated 28 years earlier. Of course, we all knew that he had gone to our school, and somehow I learned that he had held the same position I did – business manager of the yearbook. After lunch that Friday, we were milling around waiting to head into a math final exam when the news came over the radio in someone’s room upstairs that the president had been shot in Texas. We had no idea of his condition or details of what had happened, and the exam went forward as scheduled without interruption or any news updates from the proctor.

Two hours later, we emerged from the exam room as it was getting dark, learned the tragic news and could not help but feel the profound gloom and sadness that had descended on our campus. Headed back to my dorm, the first thing I noticed was the flag at half staff in front of the administration building. A third of the faculty had taught or coached him, and many were in tears. It was all very hard to comprehend. Remember, we were living away from home and parents during a time when long-distance calls were rare. Stories from teachers about him helped make our fallen president more real to us, but didn’t soften the sorrow.

As events cascaded over the weekend with Ruby shooting Oswald and continuous TV coverage through the unforgettable funeral, teachers opened their apartments so that we could watch their televisions (the only ones on campus). Ironically, the only other time that occurred during my years at Choate was a year earlier when we were allowed to watch President Kennedy’s speech during the Cuban missile crisis when many thought World War III was imminent.

The headmaster surely spoke words of comfort at evening chapel after JFK died; I have no recollection of that, but what I did not understand that day was that things would never be the same.

TERRY SHUMAKER

Concord

Who would be next?

I will never forget where I was when JFK died, as it was my birthday as well. I was living in Saigon, Vietnam. It was my 12th birthday, and my mother had taken me for my first professional haircut at a hair salon. We heard it on the radio (there was no TV in Vietnam) and I was so shocked – I excused myself to the restroom. I apparently fainted or so I was told. They had to forcibly open the door, and I was on the floor. This came three weeks after the president of Vietnam, Ngo Dinh Diem, was assassinated. I remember thinking at the time: Which president is next?!

LAURIE METHVEN

Bradford

Kicked into a different gear

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a 17-year-old senior at Clearwater High School in Florida. I was in Catherine Henry’s fifth-period advanced English and writing class when the announcement came over the intercom that Kennedy had been shot.

I had done some sports writing at the Clearwater Sun  and knew my way around the newsroom there. I bolted out of Henry’s classroom and jumped in a jeep with two friends. We drove to the Sun and ran up to the second floor.

It was hectic. Typewriter carriages were flying as the editors hustled to remake that afternoon’s paper with news of the shooting. I went into the wire room, where I knew Bobby, the crew-cut copy boy. As we stood talking, editors hunched over the teletype machines reading the bulletins from Dallas. I was there when the bing-bing-bing shook the air and the news clacked in that Kennedy was dead.

It was long past deadline, and the mechanical challenges of remaking a paper that had already been put to bed meant that the editors had no time to kill off earlier stories in which JFK was very much alive. Readers would probably understand this, but when the paper came up that afternoon, the presence of those stories made the assassination seem not just sad and shocking but also surreal.

This was my first experience of how a news story, no matter how big and awful, kicks journalists into a different gear from other citizens. The compulsion to tell the story overrides all personal feelings. If you’re not careful, you can even feel a little guilty for having something useful to do. I felt this many times in my newspaper career, never more deeply than when the Challenger exploded in 1986 with Christa McAuliffe, our hometown teacher, aboard.

MIKE PRIDE

Concord

TV during the day

The day is still so clear in my mind 50 years later. I was 8, and my sister Robin was 6.

Nov. 22, 1963, was report card day at Pembroke Elementary School. What stopped us as we rushed through the door to show our mom our cards was the fact that the television was on. The TV was never on during the day! Mom sadly told us the president had been killed. One friend after another called to spread the word.

We spent the next few days glued to that TV, watching every bit of coverage. To this day I can’t comprehend seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.

And speaking of report cards: My family believed that the reward of a good card was the good grade. The only time my sister and I ever received a dollar for a good card was that November, as we “weren’t crazy” like Lee Harvey Oswald.

NANCY R B FRAHER

Chichester

A voice on the bus

I was fresh out of college and working at the only job someone with a B.A. with no experience could get, as welfare investigator for New York City, checking up on recipients to see if they had paid their rent or if there was evidence of a man lurking about. On my way downtown to visit a client in the East Village, riding on the Second Avenue bus, a passenger came aboard saying, “Isn’t it a shame what they did to the president,” but in a matter-of-fact voice. When I got off the bus, I headed for the nearest bar with a television and entered just at the moment that Walter Cronkite announced that “President Kennedy is dead.” I then walked to a nearby church (good Jewish boy that I was) and sat in stunned silence. Several schoolgirls came in crying as they kneeled and prayed. The afternoon light shone brilliantly through the stained glass windows.

ROBERT FRIED

Concord

On the other side of the world

I was a 20-year-old sailor aboard the USS Essex CVS 9 anchored off the coast of Karachi, Pakistan. About 5 a.m. on the morning of Nov. 23, about an hour before reveille, a fellow sailor woke me up saying that President John F. Kennedy had been shot to death in Dallas. I thought the guy was kidding and rolled over and went back to sleep!

At 6 a.m., when reveille went off, the ship-wide address system announced that the president had been assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson was the new president and commander-in-chief. Other than the ship’s flag being lowered to half mast and a subdued general feeling among the crew, the ship’s daily routine continued unchanged. I really did not feel any great emotion, as we were on the other side of the world and the whole event seemed very removed. We had no television, internet or even broadcast radio to inform us of what was going on. To this day, I feel detached from the event of President Kennedy being assassinated.

RICHARD O. BLANCHARD II

Concord

Just like yesterday

I can still recall taking my infant daughter Denise, born just 12 days before, to her pediatrician, Dr. Gouchoe, at the Concord Clinic (then located on Pillsbury Street, across the street from the old Blue Cross/Blue Shield insurance building) because she had developed a cold. We were in the examining room awaiting the doctor, when suddenly the door flew open. The nurse entered and frantically shouted, “The president has been shot.” I have never forgotten the shock of this moment. When I returned home, I found out our president had died. My whole family was glued to the TV for four days to witness the mourning of this terrible and untimely event. It is like it just happened yesterday.

GERRY MARTEL

Concord

Deep sorrow and foreboding

I was 17 years old, a freshman in college, in a biology lab in the early afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963. The professor came in and told us the president had been shot. Class was dismissed, and I ran back to the dorm to find out more on television in the company of a lot of my dorm friends.

When I learned that President John F. Kennedy had died, I called my family in California. How could this happen in America? Everyone was in shock. Nothing was comforting. Next came days of tearfully watching TV in the dorm living room with friends, hearing Walter Cronkite’s narration of events, trying to grasp the new reality while feeling hollow inside because we felt we had lost something amazing. It was almost surreal when I saw Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald Sunday morning on TV. What would happen next?

I felt deep sorrow and foreboding. We all felt the grief of Jackie and the little children, of the Kennedy family. What would it be like for them to quickly move out of the White House under these circumstances? Where would they go and how could they feel happy ever again? We thought about the difference between what might have been, what we hoped would have been, and what was. We cried until the TV coverage stopped. President Kennedy represented hope for a bright future, and his youth, charm and sense of humor helped make him a charismatic figure for the young people I knew. To lose all that in such a violent way was just crushing.

CLAUDIA DAMON

Concord

Too stunned to move

I was a Hopkinton High School junior, sitting in my civics class, when the principal, Bill Milne, walked into the classroom, a somber look on his face and tears in his eyes. “President Kennedy has been shot,” he said. “He just died in a Dallas hospital.” We all gasped, and many of us began sobbing. Our civics teacher, Gus Moynihan, was a rabid Kennedy supporter. His face just crumpled and he burst into tears and had to leave the classroom.

We sat there, too stunned to move, shocked into silence. Most of us loved Kennedy and the youth and excitement he brought to the presidency. Not only was it our first collective tragedy on a huge scale, it was as though we’d lost someone we all knew intimately. As teenagers, JFK was truly the first president to whom we’d ever given any thought.

Of course the school day was cancelled and we all stumbled home to sit numbly in front of the TV for the next three days, committing to memory the events of the state funeral, seeing Le Harvey Oswald killed on live TV and feeling so sad for the young children and glamorous widow.

It was especially meaningful when, next April, we took a class trip to Washington, D.C., and visited Arlington National Cemetery and Kennedy’s eternal flame. Standing at his grave vividly brought back that November day in 1963 when students and teachers cried together.

SUSAN TULLIS

Henniker

Five TV dinners

I remember the day clearly. I was walking home from downtown when a neighbor called out, “The president’s been shot.”

It seemed impossible to absorb. I hurried home to find my family glued to the television. We all watched till nearly suppertime. I had always sneered at the idea of TV dinners, but that night, too numb to consider making a family meal, I drove to the A&P and collected five Chinese TV dinners. I don’t remember eating mine but must have. In the ensuing days, we watched all the news, the funeral, little John saluting his father’s casket, all the speculation over who had done it. And, then, as it usually does, life went on, minus one important citizen.

MARY KIBLING

Concord

I learned adults could cry

I was just 4 years old and coloring at our family’s kitchen table in Foxborough, Mass., while my mom scurried around the kitchen, as she often did, taking care of my five sisters and me. The phone rang. A few moments later, Mom let out a deep sigh, dropped the phone and sat down next to me at the table with her head in her hands, crying.

Needless to say, I was shocked. Until that moment, I didn’t think any adults were capable of crying! Not long after, my dad came home early from work, and hushed conversations ensued while we kids were ushered outdoors.

Days later, they let my sisters and me watch his funeral on TV and tried explaining to us what had happened and why President Kennedy was such a great leader for our country and the world. The only scene I remember is when little John John stepped out to salute his father’s casket. The fact that John was about my age made the enormity of it all hit home for me. I’ll always be grateful to my parents for including us kids on that day, and for talking to us about all the events of that turbulent time.

JIM GRAHAM

Concord

‘Joie’ was gone forever

On that snowy Illinois day my three young sons and I were cuddled together on the big bed watching their favorite after lunch show, Bozo’s Circus.

The screen went black. “Mom, the TV’s broken!”

No, our world was broken!

Walter Cronkite’s strong, but shaky voice tried to describe the horror. Terrifying pictures filled the screen. No, it can’t be! Why? Who? What would we do without our hero president? His poor wife, those little kids!

I had grown up on Cape Cod, sailed in Hyannisport waters, swum off the beach, played tennis with his sister-in law. We admired his family, their contagious joie de vivre. John was our home-town guy. I was desperately sad for our country and suddenly afraid for everyone’s safety. The joie was gone forever.

BOBBI STONEMAN

New London

Glued to the TV

I was in ninth grade at Friends Academy in North Dartmouth, Mass., standing at my gym locker. Our gym teacher shared the information.

There was shock around the room and school. We finished our school day and were sent home, where we stayed glued to the TV watching Walter Cronkite or Huntley/Brinkley Reporting.

ANNE CLARKE HUNT

Tuftonboro

An early memory

Back then I lived in Lancaster. The year of that awful event I was just a toddler, about 23 months old. I do, however, clearly remember being in my mother’s arms and she ran up the stairs, carrying me and crying and then calling out to my dad, “Paul! Paul! The president has been shot!”

NANCY DONOVAN

Andover

Heard it from shop boys

I was 16 then, going to high school in Brighton, Mass. I remember coming out the big front doors of the school with my girlfriends. It was a cold afternoon, and I was wearing a black turtleneck sweater and a plaid kilt skirt – the kind with a huge safety pin on the side. All of us girls carried arms full of books, no backpacks then.

The boys, the “shop boys” we called them because they took woodworking classes, had all gotten out earlier than we did. They were riding around the town in their cars, honking the horns, yelling out the rolled-down windows, making a lot of noise.

I remember they were yelling, “He’s dead!” “They killed the President!” “They shot him, someone shot him dead!”

I didn’t know what to think because they were making so much noise, but I remember being worried about my family that was living in Dallas at that time. I hoped they would all be okay.

WANDA LEMBO

New London

Invisible moral leader

I was at college. We all gathered in the convocation hall and created a service.

I was impressed that the whole world stopped; no matter what the orientation or politics, all countries seemed to be mourning for a good man.

John F. Kennedy’s true nature was what was left. It was, indeed, a personal loss for each of us. His death propelled us even further along the trajectory he had set in motion: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” resonated throughout collective hearts.

As so often happens with death, he automatically became “perfect.” His personal problems did not count. He became the invisible moral leader for the nation as we plunged into freedom rides and free love.

CATHERINE TODD

New London

Sad, and mesmerized

I was a young mom of two children. I worked the night shift at a nearby factory. My routine included arriving home from work around 7:30 a.m., driving the kids to their caregiver, then going home to sleep for about four hours. At noon, I would pick up the kids.

On Nov. 22, 1963, while my husband was at work, I rushed about our small mobile home, getting lunch and preparing to put kiddies down for a nap. The TV on a kitchen cabinet was on.

I loved President Kennedy and his family and enjoyed watching them through his presidency. I was stunned by the shooting. I doubt that I moved during the next hour – sad, terrified, mesmerized by that awful day.

Even as the children and I later played, I constantly monitored the breaking news. When I went to work that night, the atmosphere in that huge room where I worked was somber, conversation low and concerned.

It is easy for most of us to remember that day. Because of today’s too-frequent tragedies and the practiced way in which the media handles them, the contrast stands out in my mind: the erratic videos, the confusion of the masses of people, the emotion of the network announcers. I can easily feel once more the horror of those moments from 50 years ago.

JOAN CHANDLER

Sunapee

Indescribably wrong

I was a freshman in college. I remember being outside Harvard Yard, walking back from some long forgotten errand. There was a buzz in the crowd around me, a feeling more than a sound that something was indescribably wrong.

People turned to those nearby, asking, “What’s happened?” “Haven’t you heard? The president shot.” “Sweet Jesus, are you kidding?” – and on and on.

I have no recollection of how much time passed before I found a TV with Walter Cronkite’s face on the screen. When I see his image on tape these 50 years later I tear up immediately, knowing what words will come from his mouth. In Cambridge that day, his announcement of the president’s death was transporting, a passage to a place no one wanted to be in. And then there were the bells, near and far, tolling.

PETER BURLING

Cornish

Stoic, at age 23

On the afternoon Kennedy was shot, I was working as a receptionist/switchboard operator for an electronics company in Plainview, Long Island. Dressed in skirt and high heels, my hair in a bouffant style, I’m sure I was thinking about lunch. A woman from sales would relieve me after returning from her lunch break; at this time, most employees were in the cafeteria.

I sat behind a glass window where I could receive visitors, salesmen and applicants. I shared the small area with a man, Norm, his desk facing a wall, and a woman, Catherine, her desk behind Norm’s. Catherine was late getting to lunch this day and was busy putting forms together to go with a shipment of electronic equipment almost ready to be packaged.

Then Norm came busting into the office. Breathlessly he blurted in a loud voice, “Kennedy’s been shot. It was just announced on the radio in the cafeteria.” Catherine let out a little squeal and they both ran outside to hear the report.

The news did not particularly upset me. I remember thinking that I probably should be more emotional, but I tend to be stoic in general. Another factor could be that I was 23 years old.

I don’t remember exactly what my thoughts were, but I guess I was wondering if the woman from sales would be late to relieve me so I could go to lunch.

TRUDY COHEN

Croydon

Our commander-in-chief

I was in the Navy, serving aboard USS Constellation (CVA-64). We were under way from San Francisco to San Diego. My shipmate, JB Hite, told me that the president had been shot. Of course I thought he was joking and didn’t believe it. Later, the captain announced it on the 1MC and we were all stunned. We all thought JFK was our president (and commander-in-chief) and represented hope for the future. We experienced a loss that day that we still have not recovered from.

PAUL HAGUE

Weare

Air sucked out of the room

I was 20, a newly minted R.N. three months into the Charity Hospital School of Anesthesia program in New Orleans. Because our 12-hour work day began at 6 a.m., I often found myself falling asleep in the organic chemistry class that began at 1. But that day, I’d barely put my head on my desk when Dorothy Adriani, the stern, brook-no-dissent director of the school, burst into the classroom.

My first thought, of course, was that I’d been caught. But her terse message, delivered like a gunshot itself, “The president has been shot. The school is closed, all elective surgeries are cancelled. Go to your dorm,” put my infraction in perspective. While the classroom was filled with daylight coming in the tall windows, the air had been sucked out: I see only her face, swathed in a tie-in-the-back surgical cap with the sailor-cap connoting her status as a nurse anesthetist perched atop, her starched white uniform, white cotton stockings, white nursing shoes framed by the door. She then turned on her heels and left us with our mouths gaping. It would be shortly afterward in the dorm that we watched Walter Cronkite choke up when he announced John F. Kennedy’s death.

Time seemed to stand still the moment Mrs. Adriani delivered the news that would send this country, particularly the disenfranchised who benefited most from his policies, into a deep mourning. I still cannot watch Cronkite’s announcement without a sob rising up.

DARLENE OLIVO

Concord

Surreal juxtaposition

I was in the Florida Everglades on a flat-bottom boat with my Nan-Nan and Pop-Pop, having just watched a Seminole Indian wrestle a live alligator, when I heard on my little white Japanese transistor radio that our president was shot in Dallas. We all cried.

CHARLES P. BAUER

Concord

The view from Ethiopia

I was 14 years old and, unlike most of the kids my age on that day, I was not in school when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In fact, it was not even light out; it was about 9:30 or 10 at night when things started to unravel.

You see, I was living at a small military base with my parents and three younger brothers – a place called Kagnew Station in Asmara, Eritrea, Ethiopia, East Africa.

I was at the Teen Club when the phone rang. It was so late because of the time zone difference, and an officer from the base commander’s office told us that the club would be closed and that a bus would soon be there to take us all home. When the bus arrived, no one would tell us what was going on, but there were armed MPs on board as well as two armed jeeps that escorted us back to the housing area.

When we left the club, we saw more armed jeeps riding the perimeter road around the base; it was a full alert.

We got home and our parents finally told us what was going on. No one slept that night. We all spent the next many days either in front of the TV – or if you knew anyone at the Armed Forces radio and TV station, you went there and saw the news coming in on the teletype and radio system as it happened. The base was on alert till well after the president was buried. They had machine guns at the gates and armed jeeps all over the place. Life was much different overseas and even then it changed much more.

GARY GORDON

Bow

Like 9/11

The day that John F. Kennedy was shot was two days before my 17th birthday. It was early on a Friday afternoon, and I was sitting in Mr. Moynihan’s World Problems class at Hopkinton High School in Contoocook.

Mr. Milne, the principal, came in with a radio and said there were reports that the president had been shot. He turned it on and we all listened in shock. Some of us were crying.

It was a very sad day. And it was a watershed in my life when everything changed – much like 9/11 is the day when everything changed for this generation.

JEAN LIGHTFOOT

Contoocook

We never forgot

I was 11 years old, a sixth-grader at Sacred Heart School in Auburn, Maine. It was art class, and I was coloring a rabbit I had drawn. A nun burst into the classroom and whispered into the ear of our teacher. She was sobbing. Our teacher said something like, “Oh, mon dieux!” then asked us to sit quietly for a moment. She would be right back. They left quickly for a classroom that had a television in it. We knew something was very wrong. A few minutes later our teacher returned and told us that the president had been shot and that we could join the other students and teachers to watch the news on TV. We all ran into the other room. The newsman shortly announced that the president was dead. The nuns were crying, the girls were crying, and even some of the boys were crying. Not sure if I did.

I don’t remember what happened at school for the rest of the day, but I have one clear recollection:

A friend and I were walking down Pleasant Street at 4 o’clock to pick up the newspapers I had to deliver on my route.

As we discussed the events of the day I said to him, “We will remember this day for the rest of our lives. And I will remember telling you that we’ll remember this day.”

And I always will.

ANDRE TREMBLAY

Bow

It left an impact

I grew up in western New York and attended Newfane Central School.

Some school classes leave more of an impact on students than others. The class had just started when the PA system came on with the radio announcement of the attack in Dallas.

The second announcement confirming the death of President Kennedy came before the end of class. How profound for 20-some students, that we should hear this in eighth-grade World History taught by Mr. Ed Wappen.

THOMAS R. GRAY

Penacook

Related

How do you spell ‘assassinated’?

Friday, November 22, 2013

On Nov. 22, 1963, at lunchtime, I was the sole occupant of the Monitor newsroom at the old North State Street location. I was assistant city editor and education reporter and, being the junior staffer, I remained on duty in the newsroom while everyone else went to lunch. The paper had been put to bed. It was the day the …

Listening on the showroom floor

Friday, November 22, 2013

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was just 19 years old and working at Banks Chevrolet-Cadillac in Concord. I answered my phone and my mother told me to find a television or radio – President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Texas. I told my co-workers what I had heard, and we turned on the radio in one of the …

A mob in the TV department

Friday, November 22, 2013

I was working the evening shift at Malley’s Department Store in New Haven, Conn., that day and was in the television department when the news flashed across the screen about JFK’s assassination. Suddenly every display television – 20 or more – had the same dreadful pictures of the event. Customers were sobbing, and one fainted. Suddenly, customers who had been …

Legacy Comments0
There are no comments yet. Be the first!
Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.