As the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination approaches, we asked our readers to share their memories of the fallen president. Here are recollections of those iconic "Where were you?" moments.
As the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination approaches, we asked our readers to share their memories of the fallen president. Here are recollections of those iconic "Where were you?" moments.
JFK's assassination is one of those events that is indelibly etched in my mind. I was a 7th grade student in Mr. Hogan's class at George Dewey Elementary School in Chicago and we had just returned to school after going home for lunch. At that time, there would have been my sister, along with 3 brothers who were returning to school with me after being served a hot, home-made lunch by my mom. Since my mom wanted us to eat during that lunch break, she would not let us watch television so we were not aware of anything when we arrived at school about 12:45, although some students were.
I walked into the building and upstairs to the 3rd floor and teachers were just standing around, some in tears and rumors were floating around that the president had been shot and that seemed incomprehensible to me. None of the teachers were saying anything to the students and instead continued to congregate in the hall with one another while the students remained in the room feeding all kinds of rumors with nothing being confirmed by the teachers. I didn't think about it at the time, but I am sure the teachers were probably trying to figure out how much information they should give to the students.
Finally, our teacher, Mr. Hogan, came into the room and confirmed that the president had been shot and that they didn't know much and were trying to find out. A television set was rolled into the room and all of the 7th grade classes came into our room and watched the news unfold until it was time to dismiss. We watched and our worst fears were confirmed.
I just remember teachers crying, students crying, and everything being so sad. It was a Friday and I can remember thinking that I'm glad there is no school tomorrow. Everyone just wanted to go home and parents were coming to the school to pick up children. It was depressing.
Finally, there was an announcement from the principal saying that we would all be sent home early, and I just remember everything being so sad. I also remember the word "assassination" being used and how it sounded so much worse than being murdered. Many of our parents came up to the school to pick us up.
We sat around all weekend looking at the small black and white television of images that seemed unimaginable in my 11 year old mind. I also remember not everyone having television sets and neighbors coming to the house to watch with us. There were so many images. The pictures of Mrs. Kennedy, in her blood-stained suit on the airplane, while LBJ was being sworn in as president was one that really stood out. I just couldn't believe how brave she was. She seemed so in love with her husband. I just couldn't imagine her now being forced to live without him, especially since she had two small children. It was like a death in the family.
It feeling like a death in our family was so real because I can remember just 3 years earlier going to a rally for JFK in Chicago. I remember my father talking about how Kennedy was going to do so much for black people so when he came to Chicago, just before the election, our entire family went to the Chicago Stadium to see him speak. I can just remember so many lights and so many people and so much excitement about Kennedy possibly being president. Mayor Daley wanted a lot of people to come to the rally and my father took all of us. I have since researched that event and learned that it was a special rally put on by Mayor Daley guaranteeing that Illinois would vote for Kennedy. I remember being in the glare of the television lights and now wish that I could find footage of that event which occurred just 4 days before the election on Nov. 4, 1960 — also a Friday. So, when Kennedy was elected president just 4 days later, he somehow became "our" president because "we" supported him.
In the days following the assassination, there are so many images that stand out — the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, the murder of him on live television and the funeral procession are vivid memories. It was like the world had gone mad and you didn't know what was going to happen next. The image of little John-John saluting his father's casket and Mrs. Kennedy with the veil over her face are still firmly etched in my mind. I just remember feeling for John and Caroline about how sad it must be to lose your father. There were so many images that you saw of them as children in the White House. I couldn't imagine his life being taken away so tragically and his wife witnessing it. There were so many stories of his brain being blown out in front of her and LBJ being behind the murder plot. It was just too much for my 11-year-old self.
As an educator, I have shared my remembrances of where I was when Kennedy was shot and also what I was doing when so many others after him had their lives tragically snuffed out by gun violence — Malcolm X, JFK'S brother Bobby Kennedy, Dr. King and countless others that we came to know through the images seen on television. But in spite of being older at the times of the other deaths, I can't remember what I was doing and how I felt in the same way that I can remember JFK's. Despite the fact that I was a junior in high school and African-American when Dr. King was shot, I can't remember the details. There is a student in my graduating class who is writing a book about the day King was assassinated and he recently reached out to members of our class to share what they remember about the riots and it is only through reading their accounts that I can begin to faintly remember some of the events of that day.
I can only attribute my poor memory of tragic events following JFK's assassination to perhaps a desensitizing caused by so much violence in the world. The death of JFK and his failure to do so many of the things my father hoped for helped me to see at such an early age that putting one's hope in men to solve world problems is a doomed proposition because of the uncertainty of life and evil forces designed to seemingly block any good to certain groups. Being an "eyewitness" to such history-making events as the assassination of a president and the Civil Rights Movement, while growing up in Chicago, gave me a much needed perspective as a teacher, and although tragic served to enrich my discussions with both students and my fellow teachers. I really wouldn't trade it for any other time period.
Izona Burgess, Urbana
I was in the county clerk's office in New Madrid, Mo., signing for my marriage license. The clerk had the radio on when the announcement came on announcing that President Kennedy was shot. She started crying (and) could barely sign our license. She wanted to know if we still wanted to go on with it or come back later. We signed and later got married that evening.
My husband, Robert L. Kelly, and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary on Nov 22, 2013.
Samella Kelly, Rantoul
On the day of Nov. 22, 1963, we were rejoicing at the safe arrival of our only son Brian. He was born in the Paxton Hospital early that morning.
Our pastor of the church we attended came for a visit to bless our son. All of a sudden, nurses were running in the hallway, saying, "The president's been shot."
I had a radio by my bed and turned up the volume. Much sadness filled the hospital.
In two days, we took our baby boy home and even though my main concern was for his care, tears were shed for our president's family and the condition of the world.
Fifty years have passed quickly. The events of this day are yet vivid in our minds along with the many happy times and memories we've enjoyed with our son Brian and he too with his two sisters.
Bob and Joyce Brown, Rantoul
My son Todd was born on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 22, 1962 at 2:22 a.m. and I was 22.
Fast forward one year to Nov. 22, 1963. I was getting ready for Todd's first birthday party. It was about 12:45 p.m. and I had the TV on watching "As the World Turns" and waiting for my friend JoAnn and her four girls ... to come over for cake and snacks. About 10 minutes later we heard the bad news. We did nothing but watch TV for the rest of the week.
In 1960 I did walk to the campus from Randolph Street in Champaign to see JFK. He was the first presidential candidate I was old enough to vote for and I voted for him. However he was the only Democrat that I ever voted for.
I am now 73 and my son is 51.
Nancy Asklund, Philo
Where to start? It was my senior year at Lebanon, Ill., High School, already committed to the UI the next fall. A group of us who usually had lunch together heard the initial report, that President Kennedy had been shot. Someone had a small, battery powered radio we huddled around. There were fragmentary reports at best — news did not travel at warp speed in those days.
Our pricipal went room to room after lunch with the horrible news that JFK had been killed. I was in college prep English, with Mrs. Neal — the assistant principal, who was generally regarded as a tough lady. But like the rest of us, she was stunned and speechless. What stands out to this day were her first words, following several moments of silence and more than a few tears throughout the classroom: "You will always remember where you were at this moment."
She was right, and history repeated itself on 9/11 when our son phoned from college and recounted that oft-told family history.
As I wrote later in my DI column, the speech JFK was to have delivered that day was titled "Watchmen on the Walls of World Freedom." It was in many ways a recitation of Cold War doctrine, but it would have been delivered at a point when JFK was beginning to have serious doubts about our role in the Far East generally and Vietnam in particular.
In retrospect, even Bobby came to share those doubts and eventually to turn fully against that war. And while commentary from the Kennedy inner circle has been mixed, the weight of evidence suggests that JFK would if anything have bridled the hawks had he not been murdered.
Count me among those for whom college and life after were changed that day, and not for the better.
Ken Blan, Springfield
I had enlisted in the U.S. Coast Guard and on November 22, 1963 I was in boot camp in Cape May, New Jersey. It was Friday and every Friday a group would graduate from boot camp and be transferred to their duty stations. We were all lined up on the grinder when the Commanding Officer announced the shocking and sad news. We recruits naturally never had access to radios, TVs or newspapers so it was a while before we learned more about what happened.
Jim Esworthy, Ogden
One of the earliest memories I have is that of the day President Kennedy was shot. Just over 3-1/2 years old, I remember the news bulletin interrupting a daytime telecast that my Aunt Irene had been watching while she cared for me at our house on West Park Street in Champaign. From the sad, sad man on the TV to my aunt's alarm and the distress that seemed to infect every adult I witnessed that day, my young and innocent mind slowly began to comprehend what had happened as I was told of the tragedy.
A man — a very important man, had been shot — and killed. He was dead. "Dead? What is that?" I asked. It was a new and, as I came to understand that day, a very frightening reality. He was gone. No only him, but all would die — everyone — including me. For the first time in my short life, I became aware of my mortality. As it sunk in, I became hysterical; I couldn't be calmed or quieted. I ran from those who tried to comfort me.
I vaguely remember some of the scenes that followed that week. The long line of horses in the funeral procession, the flag-draped coffin on the small cart, and that little boy about my own age, who bravely saluted. I wonder now as I write this if he had also been forced to face his own mortality for the first time that week, too.
Fortunately for me, I was invited to Bible school not long after that by a kind, elderly neighbor lady. I was introduced to the truth that death was not the end, and there was One named Jesus who stood outside of the door of my heart and knocked; if I would only open the door and let Him in, I would live forever. This was the best news I had heard since that dreary November day; now, nearly 50 years later, it's still the best. I hope that other little boy heard this good news, too.
Randal Barton, Champaign
My father was a captain in the Army. We were stationed at Fort Kobbe in the Panama Canal Zone. I attended the American school on base. I was in the first grade. I remember that we had just come back from lunch, when the teacher gave us the sad news. She turned off the classroom lights and asked us to put our heads down on our desks and sit quietly. Several months after that, we had to be evacuated from Panama and we returned home to Champaign. The Panamanian people were rioting in protest of the American occupation of the Canal Zone and it had become too dangerous for non-military personnel to remain in Panama. What an experience!
Linda Hamilton, Champaign
My seventh grade teacher was a life-long Democrat and ardent Kennedy supporter. Her enthusiasm had probably rubbed off on many of the kids who were in her classroom on that twenty-second of November in 1963. That afternoon, she was in the process of trying to get us settled down for history or geography or some-such as the lunch hour adrenaline was thinning out in our bloodstreams. But lesson plan, agenda, and life would shortly be altered in a way unimagined by anyone in that classroom.
The woman who taught another seventh-grade class down the hall appeared at our doorway. She was distraught and clutching a handkerchief. There were some brief quiet words exchanged between the two teachers and then they just stared at one another for a moment before they both disappeared into the hallway. They were quickly back and had a television cart used for video classroom lessons. My teacher went to the front of the room and announced in a clear and steady voice that President Kennedy and Vice President Johnson had been shot in Dallas as they rode in a car.
One of the school custodians connected a rabbit ears antenna so that we could get the signals from Channel 3 and CBS. Walter Cronkite rolled up on the screen a few times then settled into view, bringing what news he had, none of it certain. We found out that the vice president had not been hit, but the governor of Texas had been struck. The other seventh grade class came down to watch and doubled up in the seats with us or stood around the edges of the room, all eyes on the black and white images on the screen. I don't think anyone talked.
At twelve years old I doubt that we had much of an idea of what it all meant. We were too old for it to pass undetected over our heads and too young to have any shot at understanding the ramifications of it in those initial hours. Reporters from different locations brought what news they could gather from wherever they happened to be. Television cameras caught the looks on people's faces that were a mixed array of shed tears and uncertainty and the frozen features that are the markers of senses and emotions that have been stunned. Cronkite delivered information with that trademark firm voice of his that spoke of professionalism. We may have gotten an inkling of just how serious it was when Walter's voice broke as it rode over an emotional bump upon making the announcement that Kennedy was, indeed, dead.
That night there was a holiday bazaar held at the school. It had long been planned and organized and was already set in motion, so a decision was made not to cancel or postpone despite the events in Dallas. But the atmosphere was subdued. The colors on the posters were not as bright as they had been the day before. The aroma from the cotton candy machine was not quite so sweet as it might have been. The noise level of small children's voices as they went from booth to booth did not seem to make it to the high ceiling of the gymnasium and bounce back as it had in previous years. I was in a small knot of friends just wandering around the halls and floors, booths and tables, taking it all in.
The lady running the cake walk did her job at the phonograph. But she often let the music play a little too long, keeping kids following each other in that endless loop, then realizing it and popping the needle off the record so they could scramble to stand on a number taped to the floor. Her lips moved ever so slightly and she had one hand in the pocket of her skirt where it thumbed a rosary.
There was a lady running the fish pond. Her usual excited, bubbly demeanor was absent. It had been replaced with silence and a grim set to her mouth as she went through the motions of helping small kids catch a prize. Though I didn't understand what it was at the time, among many of the adults, I saw what I would come to know as the thousand-yard stare. They knew. They understood how history's turn in the previous few hours would change so much that was yet to come. Some felt anger. Some felt grief. Some felt fear. Some felt lost. Many, like the cake walk lady, prayed.
In some ways it was a blessing to be a twelve year old. We knew things too! We knew that it was horrible. We knew it was awful. We knew that we were in America and America was strong. America would do what was necessary. America would find whoever it was that killed our president and make them pay.
But the things that we knew were only on the surface. We thought nothing of what swirled beneath what we could readily see. We were glad when the shooter was captured and uncomprehending as to how this skinny, angular, goofy—looking bastard could have possibly altered our lives; or how this coward could ever have a reason to shoot as likable and important a man as our war-hero president.
And when, a few days later, a chubby man in a dark suit with a cheap handgun put an end to the killer's life, a small group of us, playing in the neighborhood, cheered at the news. Payback. Texas style. We all thought it was a pretty good thing, all except one kid who simply said, "Now, we'll never be able to ask him why."
Mike Knoke, Champaign
I was a sophomore in high school. I had just finished lunch hour at Urbana High School and had gotten dressed for PE. We lined up, alphabetically, for attendance to be taken. Since I was in the upper end of the alphabet, I was standing by the coach's office door when Mr. Armer (Gene Armer) came out and said "You guys better settle down. Don't you know your President's been shot?" There was a stunned silence. He took roll and we left to go up to the gym where we were in a basketball unit. We shot around and all of a sudden there was an announcement on the intercom. The intercom in the gym was horrible — we could not understand what was said. Mr. Armer sent Mike Larson down to the office to get what the announcement had been. He came back in a few minutes, very upset, and said "the announcement was that President Kennedy is dead." The entire class all sat down on the gym floor in silence.
The following days were days at home. My family was glued to the TV. We saw everything from the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald, to the showing of the rifle, to the shooting of Oswald, to the funeral and burial events in Washington D.C. Who could forget John-John's salute? It tugs at my heartstrings to remember it now.
The assassination of President Kennedy had a profound effect on my life. My family was entirely Republican, having supported Nixon in 1960. I began reading everything I could about President Kennedy and his administration and grew in admiration for his approach to issues — such as civil rights and the space program. My leanings began to shift, until I was in college, when my political views made a complete turn. I have been a Democrat ever since.
Steve Beckett, Urbana
My earliest childhood memory is watching on television the funeral procession of John F. Kennedy. I was four years old in 1963. The image I still remember is my mother telling me to watch for the riderless horse, with the boots on backwards. I can still remember the scene, watching the black and white TV in our playroom. Why I remember that particular part of the event, I don't know, but it's still clear in my mind. In fact, I just researched the details on the Internet, and indeed, the as-described horse was part of the procession.
Kevin Huffman. Arthur
I remember a very overcast, gloomy day. I was in first grade at Pleasant Ridge School in my home town of Glenview, and it seemed a typical school day, until suddenly our teacher got up and left the room. I remember all of my fellow classmates and I were very confused and worried about why she suddenly just left. After just a few minutes she came back into the room, but she was crying. She continued with our math lesson, but it was very uncomfortable, because we could all tell something was wrong, and she seemed to not really be paying attention to us. After a while (not sure how long) she got up and left the room again. After a few minutes she came back in, and told us all to put our materials away, and gather up our things to go home. School was let out early, and I walked home as I usually do. I remember feeling a lot of confusion. It was so obvious that something terribly wrong had happened, but our teacher never told us what it was.
It was cool and drizzly and I remember walking home feeling really sad, but not knowing why. As I walked down out street toward our house, Mom came walking down the driveway to pick up the newspaper that had been delivered. She saw me coming and waited for me to get to the driveway, and asked me what I was doing home, why wasn't I in school. So apparently, they did not call parents to make sure that they knew kids were being sent home. I just clearly remember telling her I had no idea, but that they sent everyone home and the teacher was crying. I told her that something really bad must have happened, and I was worried.
We went right into the house and Mom turned the TV on. Then we watched for the rest of the afternoon as announcements came on about the whole situation. Mom cried and I cried, and the days after just seemed like everyone was just so sad. It seemed like everyone was so sad for weeks afterward.
Ellen Kirsanoff, Tolono
I was a freshman student at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Ind. I first heard of the tragedy shortly after my political science class started. Our professor, Dr. Fowler, asked that one of the students with a transistor radio keep the class informed. (At first, we didn't know Kennedy was dead — only that he had been shot at.)
When we learned he had died, a shocked silence enveloped our class. Dr. Fowler left immediately, not saying a word to us. For a few minutes, we students sat, not knowing what to do. I remember thinking, this is history. I'm living through a moment that will be long remembered.
Slowly, one by one, I and my classmates left the room. No one said a word, silence all the way out of the building and to my dorm. All the men of the dorm clustered at radios and the television in the lounge.
A deep sadness was on all faces. Words were spoken, if at all, in whispers. No thought was given to anything but what was on the broadcasts. I remember spending hours that weekend and on the following Monday watching television.
On the day of Kennedy's funeral, it was difficult stifling tears to see the march to Arlington — the solemn music played, John-John's salute, Jackie and the other Kennedys, pain, grief etching their faces.
Some of the lady cafeteria workers of our dorm stepped into the room to watch. They were quietly weeping. Overwhelming grief made it difficult to hold back my personal tears.
I and many others of my generation could relate so much with John Kennedy and his family. I know I had really wanted him to be elected and admired many things he did as president — the Cuban missile crisis, the setup of the Peace Corps, the stress he gave to physical fitness.
Even more sadness followed in 1968 when Bobby was killed. That, for me, really ripped out the heart!
Richard Lamb, Indianola
I was 5 years old. I was in kindergarten. My memory is vague, but I remember my mother standing at our kitchen stove telling me President Kennedy had died. My mother was very, very sad. My father's family was Irish/Italian and Catholic. When John Kennedy was elected president it was a very proud time in their lives. His assassination was devastating. My father saved many newspapers from those days and over the years when I would see them in the hope chest I could still sense the sadness and the depth of loss that resulted from the death of JFK.
Denise Donnelly, Urbana
It was a dreary day in late November in Albany, New York where I was a freshman at The State University of New York. It was Friday so I had only one class at 8 a.m., punishment for being a "frosh," I suspect. As usual, I stopped at the Newman Center for coffee and conversation after. I met up with a buddy, Ron Campisi, who moonlighted as a rock and roll announcer at a 50,000 watt radio station in Albany. He mentioned that he was heading in at noon and that I could tag along.
We caught a bus a little later and went to the station. All the conversation at Newman that morning was about Jack Kennedy (We were proud that we had a Catholic president) and his trip to Texas that day. We griped about the fact that it was Friday and we couldn't eat meat but he had been granted a dispensation by the Cardinal because they were scheduling a steak dinner in Dallas.
Ron began his shift at noon as Rockin' Ronnie Roberts, the DJ. The station was soon pretty well deserted since it was Friday. I think it was just an engineer, Ron and me. Ron would do double duty as DJ and news announcer (with echo effects). He would run into the teletype room occasionally to tear off stories he would announce at news times. Since I was there he asked if I would tear the teletypes and bring the stories in to him. I was glad to be of help and excited to be at the station.
I don't remember the exact time but, at one point, the teletypes started dinging and they just wouldn't stop. Ron told me to go in and record the time because they would send out test alerts occasionally and he had to record the times. I went in and looked at the machine as I looked for the log book. Someone was typing "Get off the line, get off the line." Then it garbled. Then they typed, "Get off the #$%1\&(#$%& line!" Then, and this is all to the best of my recollection, they typed, "Dateline Dallas. The president has just been shot and they are rushing him to the hospital." (They went to Parkland Medical Center in Dallas!) I literally freaked out! I grabbed the teletype sheet and ran in to Ron. He looked at it and started making phone calls. I don't remember if he announced it over the air or not.
Within ten minutes, the station was crowded with staff and I felt it was prudent for me to leave. (I don't think I was supposed to be there anyway.)
I grabbed the next bus back to campus. The rest of the day is a blur. I think I went to the Newman Center but I'm not sure. Saturday it rained all day and the capital city of New York was like a ghost town. I went out to get newspapers but most of them were sold out. Life magazine was putting out a special edition but I don't remember exactly when.
On Sunday Ron got hold of me and asked if I wanted to go to the station again. He said the staff was there but they were bored silly. Nothing was being broadcast but hymns and other religious and patriotic music interspersed with news bulletins. He wanted to go because the station was an ABC affiliate and we could keep up with the latest. We went and when we got there the announcers were all in a huddle regaling each other with what they had heard about each conspiracy theory. The consensus was that Lyndon Johnson had something to do with it. The Kennedys hated Johnson and Jack had only picked him as a running mate to bring in the Southern vote! We all knew that Johnson thirsted for the presidency. Meanwhile, a small TV was on in their break room. All of a sudden screaming and yelling and shots came from the TV. Jack Ruby had just shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald!
After that, every crackpot theory was fair game. We did all agree though that Texas cops were the dumbest in the world!
The days and weeks after all run together in my mind. There was the funeral, the riderless horse with the boots backward in the stirrups, the caisson with Kennedy's coffin and, of course, little John-John saluting his fallen father.
The carefree days of Camelot had drawn to a close. All that lay ahead were more assassinations, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the race riots, Vietnam, draft resisters and a generation of flower children. I don't know what would have been different if John Kennedy had lived but I do know it would have been more tolerable.
Personally, I fell into a slow decline emotionally and, like a lot of kids my age, couldn't see the sense of an education and a long but undistinguished life. There was no purpose for a while. By 1964 I had given up a full scholarship from the State of New York and quit school. I didn't even take the finals in my fourth semester. I received my suspension notice while in basic training in the Air Force. I was destined to serve in Vietnam, albeit not as a combat soldier. I will always feel that what we were doing there was right for that time.
All the young people I knew at the time idolized Jack Kennedy and Jackie and the kids. As the British do with their Royals, we hung on his every word and deed. He was of us. He wasn't a general or a haberdasher from Missouri. He was real born and bred American royalty. He was a wonderful speaker and he could inspire us to do great things. The Bay of Pigs invasion was his low point but the Cuban missile crisis elevated him to Genius status. In one quick move he averted nuclear war and forever made it clear to the USSR that we would retaliate to anything they tried to pull. Yes, we now know of all his foibles and failings and that he had feet of clay, but, while he was alive he was a giant.
Don King, Champaign
I am currently reading Bill O'Reilly's book "Killing Kennedy". I have read the Warren Commission report as well as many other articles pertaining to the assassination of President Kennedy and also President Lincoln. I have also read O'Reilly's book "Killing Lincoln."
In the case of President Kennedy not only have I read about it but I also experienced it. At the time of the presidential election in 1960 I was 11 years old. I remember going to see Vice President Nixon when he made a train stop in Danville. The train stopped with the rear car about halfway across Main Street blocking the street, which was barricaded off. I don't remember anything he said but remember the experience. We had a mock election at my school (Collett) and I voted for Nixon. Nixon lost our mock election as well as the presidential election in November of 1960. I was not too upset because I didn't really understand politics. I had no concept of what a liberal or conservative were.
Things were changing in my life. Danville had built 3 new junior high schools and instead of staying two more years at Collett, I would be going to a new school the next year. It was East Park Junior High. It was an exciting as well as scary experience. I had forgotten about politics though I would see things on the television that would bring my attention back. I remember the talk about the Bay of Pigs invasion but didn't understand the politics involved. I remember the James Meredith situation and how I couldn't understand why they didn't want him to go to school at the University of Mississippi. I also remember the Cuban Missile Crisis and how everyone was afraid of what the outcome might be. I remember the drills at school where you would get under your desk and cover the back of your head with your hands. I don't really know what good that would have done had an attack taken place. I remember thinking that they would have no reason to send a missile to Danville and in my mind wondering what effect a missile in Chicago would have on us in Danville.
In November 1963 I was 14 years old, in the 9th grade and my last year at East Park. I was looking forward to going to Danville High School the next year. I enjoyed participating in choir and we had performed several times. I remember going to choir on November the 22nd of 1963. Everything was normal until Mr. Perkins informed us that the president had been assassinated. I didn't know how to process that information. Trying to be manly I fought back the tears that were welling up in my eyes. Many of the girls were weeping.
The next several days were filled with historical events. I saw on TV that they had arrested a suspect in the killing. I watched on live TV in horror as he was then assassinated by Jack Ruby. Most people thought that Ruby had silenced Oswald to keep him from exposing other people.
I remember the sadness of the funeral procession with the rider less horse. I was in awe of Jackie who somehow maintained her composure in public. The event changed our country. Johnson got us deeper into a no-win war that many felt Kennedy would not have done. I gained a deeper appreciation of President Kennedy, which I may or may not have had if the assassination had not taken place. I became more aware of politics. I am thankful to have been able to be alive as these historical events transpired.
David W. Hardesty, Danville
It is probably very difficult for anyone much younger than me to remember where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22nd, 1963. I was a little over 5-1/2 years old and just home from Marquette School morning kindergarten. My baby brother was sleeping, and my older sister was in the third grade and still in school. It was just Mom and me.
My mother made one of the usuals for lunch, toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. Our black and white Sylvania was tuned to Channel 3 news; it might have switched to a soap opera and then next thing I remember was the screen changing to Special Report, and there was Walter Cronkite telling the country that the president had been shot in Dallas.
There was footage of the landing and reception at the airport and other recaps of the day's events, and shortly after the start of the broadcast Cronkite told us the president had died.
My mother cried. I did not understand why. Moving images of a walking, speaking president were replayed again and again. I said, "Don't cry Mom, see there, the president is fine, look at him."
You see, at that point in my young life I did not know what death was. That footage of the events prior to President Kennedy's shooting insulated and validated my young mind's belief that the president was not dead.
In the days to come, with almost all television time dedicated to the funeral, and the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, I came to understand he was indeed dead. The horrible twang of the new president and early in 1964 the new half dollar bearing the face of President Kennedy cemented my loss of innocence and introduction to death.
When I was 10 years old, I won a trip to Washington, D.C. for selling the most subscriptions on my paper route. I turned 11 on that trip and saw the grave and eternal flame at President Kennedy's grave site at Arlington National Cemetery in 1969.
Ten years later, in the fall of 1979, I went to West Berlin Germany to train for my first Olympics in skating, On my few off days from training, I would explore the city. I stood on the spot that President Kennedy gave one of his most famous speeches in June of 1963, just five months before he was assassinated. I remain amazed and proud of the reverence and love the Berlin people had, and still have, for President Kennedy.
Erik Henriksen, Mahomet