Forty Five Years

Where were you forty five years ago today? If you were old enough to remember at all, then you undoubtedly remember where you were on Friday November 22, 1963 at 12:30 pm central standard time.

I was at a desk, two from the rear, in the left most row, in Mrs. Hollingshead’s first grade class. Each kid had their own desk, and they were big, made out of solid wood and heavy. They had to be heavy, of course, because they were going to protect us when we ducked and covered from a Soviet nuclear strike. There were, as there were in most elementary school classrooms of the day, a large clock and a big speaker on the wall up above the teacher’s desk.

I can’t remember what subject we were working on, but the principal’s voice suddenly came over the loudspeaker. This alone meant there was something important up, because that only usually occurred for morning announcements at the start of the school day and for special occasions. The voice of Mr. Flake, the principal, was somber, halting and different; perhaps detached is the word. There was a prelude to the effect that this was a serious moment and that the teachers should make sure that all students were at their desks and that all, both young and old, were to pay attention.

There had occurred a tragic and shocking event that we all needed to know about. Out attention was required.

Then the hammer fell and our world literally caved in.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated. Shot and killed in Dallas Texas. Then without a moment’s pause, we were told that the nation was safe, Vice-President Johnson was in charge, the government was functioning and that we need not have any concerns about our own safety. We were not at war.

Twenty four some odd little hearts stopped, plus one from Mrs. Hollingshead. You could literally feel the life being sucked out of the room like air lost to a vacuum. Many of us began looking out the window, because no matter what Mr. Flake said, if our President was dead, we were at war and the warheads were coming. They had to be in the sky. They were going to be there.

Unlike the hokey color coded terror alerts, ginned up fear mongering of Bush, Ashcroft and Tom Ridge, things were dead nuts serious at the height of the cold war. If President Kennedy had been killed, we were at war; the missiles were on their way. Had to be. Looking back, the school officials and teachers had to have been as devastated and afraid as we were, yet they were remarkable. They kept themselves in one piece, held us together, talked and comforted us into calm.

We had not been back in class from lunch break for long; it was still early afternoon in the west. Before the announcement was made, the decision by the school officials had been made to send us home. The busses would be lined up and ready to go in twenty minutes. Until then there would be a brief quiet period and then the teachers would talk to us and further calm the situation. Then off we would go to try to forge a path with our families, who would need us as much as we needed them.

Except for me and a handful of other kids. My mother was an educator and was not at home, so I and a few other similarly situated kids were kept at school until we could be picked up. Somehow it wasn’t right to be inside, so we all, along with another teacher, Mrs. Thomas, went outside and sat underneath a large palm tree in front of the school. We talked about how it could be that our President, our hero, our king, was dead. Maybe he wasn’t really dead, maybe it was all a mistake. Maybe Soviet troops were on their way; possibly tanks. This kind of excited me and the other boys; we perked up at this thought, tanks were cool. The Russians probably had awesome tanks. Each minute that passed made us feel a little better because there were no missiles in the sky. That was a good sign.

In about half an hour, maybe an hour, I don’t know any more, my mother drove up and off we went. My mother was also reassuring. It was good to be with her; mom saying it would all be alright meant a lot. Once home, we ate and sat dumbstruck and transfixed in front of the Curtis Mathes console television the rest of the afternoon and night. We watched Walter Cronkite on CBS and Chet Huntley and David Brinkley on NBC. These men were giants of news and journalism; to say that they don’t make them like that anymore is a understatement of untold proportion. Things slowly, but surely, stabilized; but it took awhile. A long while.

Well, that was my day forty five years ago. What was your day? Take a moment and reflect back and share with those of us that know the traumatic event, and help those who are younger to understand what the day was like. The palpable sorrow. The sinking, abiding fear. The comfort of teachers, friends and family.

There may be another Kennedy like figure in our midst, Barack Obama. He stands to assume office in a similarly, albeit it from different factors, troubled time. The world roils and America’s existence hangs in the lurch; not from Soviet missiles, but our own selfishness, avarice and stupidity. To draw a parallel, I have included the inaugural speech given by JFK (due to time restrictions of YouTube, it is in two parts). Once again, it is time for the citizens of this country to ask not what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country. Let us do one other thing folks, let’s make sure this inspirational, young, vibrant leader, that we need so desperately to bring the voice and inspiration to get this country moving again – as we did with JFK – let’s make sure he doesn’t suffer the same fate.

237 replies
  1. BayStateLibrul says:

    Historic moment through the eyes of a child.
    Great reflection.
    Obama carries the torch.
    Sacrifice will carry the day.

  2. RevDeb says:

    Seventh grade in science class. The first announcement over the loud speaker was that he was shot. We were told to quietly put our experiment equipment away, I remember we had bunsen burners out with little stands that had asbestos screens on them. A while later the next announcement went out. We also were told that we would be sent home early. I remember seeing my home room teacher in the hall in tears. I hadn’t yet grasped it all until that moment.

    The next four days were spent in front of the tv almost non stop. The images of John John saluting the coffin as it went by and him holding Caroline’s hand, the image of the black horse with no rider and the caisson going by slowly drawn by horses with one rider are the ones that stand out. And the replay over and over of that last ride in Dallas. The still photo of LBJ in the airplane with his hand up taking the oath with Jackie in the background. The unbelievably long lines of people who had waited to see his body in the capitol rotunda. Lots and lots of images, forty five years and still fresh.

  3. dakine01 says:

    Fifth Grade, Mrs Prahl’s classroom at the “old city high school”. Mr Gilbert, the principal, came to the door and told us the news,

  4. acquarius74 says:

    Eloquent tribute, bmaz. Thank you.

    45 years ago today I was a young 29 year old mother of 5, at home with the 3 year old twins whom I had just fed lunch and put down for naps. That was MY time of day to call my own. TV was still a wondrous thing then. I remember that it was on and I was standing at the washer and dryer doing the never-ending laundry when the news broke in.

    I can still recall my horror and disbelief. I’m a native Texan whose Texas ancestors go back to 1859. My first thought then, which I still maintain, was: “that SOB Johnson is behind this!”

    I remember collecting myself enough to present a fake calm when my other 3 children returned from school– bathing my eyes with ice water and cold milk to reduce the redness and swelling. Life had to go on, sanity had to be maintained.

    I did not know then that the innocence and sanity of my prior life was gone; that Vietnam and “the 60s” were upon us; the ugly struggle for civil rights; RFK and MLK assassinated; Nixon and Watergate and learning the power of a psychopathic president; Reagan and Iran Contra, Ollie North and illegal arms sales, cocaine and the CIA; then George H W Bush and the trumped up Gulf War I whose four amoral sons all contributed to driving us down the dark road to arrive on our knees in the present with our Constitution shredded, our rights abused and our grandchildren burdened with our obscene debt.

    I believe that Barak Obama has the qualities of a true statesman, something we’ve not seen since JFK. He seems to have the support of the common peoples of the world as well as the majority of US citizens. We must all stand steadfast to reduce bigotry and restore willingness to consider the viewpoints of others. Only then can Obama’s Hope be realized.

    Thank you, bmaz, for reminding us of this day and the Camelot that could have been.

    • bmaz says:

      I did not know then that the innocence and sanity of my prior life was gone; that Vietnam and “the 60s” were upon us; the ugly struggle for civil rights; RFK and MLK assassinated; Nixon and Watergate and learning the power of a psychopathic president; Reagan and Iran Contra, Ollie North and illegal arms sales, cocaine and the CIA; then George H W Bush and the trumped up Gulf War I whose four amoral sons all contributed to driving us down the dark road to arrive on our knees in the present with our Constitution shredded, our rights abused and our grandchildren burdened with our obscene debt.

      Extremely well stated. Innocence lost; forever gone.

      • acquarius74 says:

        Thank you, bmaz, for your kind words. I remember you and Rayne welcoming me not long ago to the lake; it felt good and still does. You all have touched me and I have grown.

        So, I too, welcome mhurtt @ 12. I hope to see more of your input here; it’s sort of strange being the oldest that I know of (age 74).

        Sara, I am always eager to see what you will show us next! I wish I could have had the advantage of your formal education. Thank you for the book ref @ 175 on JFK by the historian Kaiser. I must find it.

        Leen @ 182: Yes, the 5 kids at age 29 has been quite a trip. Lots of hilarious memories. The twins are now age 48, have degrees and fine families. I am equally proud of the older 3. They have never known anything but being part of a community and that we all had to pull together for the good of us all.

        One of the commenters on another diary said something that we should carry through with; my apologies for not remembering who and where. The idea was that we here at the lake should be able to find a way to be more effective in supporting Obama in the times ahead than just writing diaries and comments.

        How about a permanent petition plank? We could become feared as those formidable firedogs! One alone can be tossed aside, but a pack of pitbulls is something to be dealt with.

        I don’t have the required organizational skills to start this, but I’ll surely sign on and contribute what funds I can to support it. There is abundant talent among us. You who have participated here would make up a good founding group. Any opinions on this??

    • Leen says:

      Five kids at 29. You sure did have your hands full. Thanks for sharing your experience and historical perspective

      167 Sara..Thanks

      all of these stories confirms for me how the assassinations of John, Malcolm, Martin, Bobby, …lots of push back by those who were threatened by the “times they are a changin’ factor

  5. Rayne says:

    Forty-five years ago I was a few months younger than acquarius74’s twins; I wouldn’t be three for several weeks. I remember nothing from that time.

    But the shadow of that day hung over the lives of children of that age. I remember vividly the assassination of JFK’s brother years later, and all the talk about the Kennedy family preceding and after that time.

    There’s always been a giant “What If?” that remained unanswered, or at least I believe the answer has only begun to form.

  6. MadDog says:

    Rather than writing about my reaction (Ok, I’m writing somewhat about mine too), I’ll mention that one of my sisters had her 11th birthday on November 22, 1963.

    She was a year younger than I, so you can probably figure out that like bmaz, we too were both still in grade school.

    Unlike bmaz with his excellent, my memory is more hazy about that day.

    I do remember being at school (St. Luke’s), that it was a cloudy fall-like day, and I remember playing out on the playground.

    That’s about all I distinctly remember, other than the dumbfounded emotions, the disbelief, the “what can this mean to us” and the almost unreal sense of loss and disconnectedness.

    Since that time, I’ve thought about my sister and her birthday many times. I’ve often wondered how her life changed when the very day that was supposed to bring her the most joy in her life at that relatively young age was instead turned into tragedy.

    And year after year, November 22th was still her birthday, and yet it was both “not just”, and perhaps “please, no!”

  7. RetirinInFive says:

    And 45 years later, we still do not know the truth. Fear the same for WTC. The magic bullet from a lone assassin — the magical fires that melt structural steel. Dispension of physics and science in each case.

    Sixth hour, tenth grade, Chemistry — Mr. Foos.

  8. Loo Hoo. says:

    Sixth grade, working on a social studies report. The principal came on the loudspeaker, much like bmaz describes. I remember Mr. Wix telling us not to worry, and leaving his beautiful student teacher in charge while he went to the office.

    Watching tv that night, I remember my dad crying…something I’d never seen before.

  9. skdadl says:

    I was in a first-year English class at the University of Calgary (MST), waiting for our prof to show up. Prof sticks head in door, says “I’ll be back in a minute with your papers, but then you’ll probably want to find a TV set or listen to the radio in the cafeteria to follow what has happened.” And we all stared at each other — “Wha? What has happened?” And then we did pretty much spend the rest of the day watching TV or talking in the caf.

    I remember watching Cronkite choke up as he made the first announcement, although I must have seen that in reruns. It makes me choke up to think of it now — God bless Walter. I can’t quite remember what time it was that we heard — I think it was before lunch our time — but I think we didn’t know at first that Kennedy was dead, only that he had been shot.

    See, you’re listening to a foreigner who was deeply affected by the Kennedy promise — we all were. We can’t have felt the blow quite the way Americans did, but especially if you were our age anywhere, at least in the West, you felt a kinship with everyone who responded to that promise. That, at least, continued for some time through the decade, although as Acquarius says, in the context of less and less innocence.

    In spite of everything we’ve learned since, I still think that what mattered most about the Kennedy phenomenon was the response of ordinary citizens who wanted to believe in and work for the ideals he articulated so powerfully. I hope that Obama sees that and grasps it too — that the most important thing about his election was the will of the people to elect him, the desire they expressed for change and hope. The cynicism — it has run so deep, infected and rotted so much, and not just in the U.S. People want Obama to have the courage to be not-that — and it will take courage, won’t it.

    Thanks for your meditation, bmaz.

    • kspena says:

      My story is similar to others in that I felt utterly destroyed by Kenney’s death. I was teaching sixth grade when a student returning from lunch- break came running into the room shouting that Kennedy had been shot. We turned on the TV and we all, as students quietly returned, sat in silence watching… We made feable attempts to do other activities, but returned to the TV throughout the afternoon.

      I want to respond to your comment about the feelings of foreigners.

      “See, you’re listening to a foreigner who was deeply affected by the Kennedy promise — we all were. We can’t have felt the blow quite the way Americans did, but especially if you were our age anywhere, at least in the West, you felt a kinship with everyone who responded to that promise.”

      Two years after Kennedy’s death, I was a member of a group that went to northern Nigeria on a teacher education project. The area was on the southern fringes of the Sahara. The nomads tradisionally graze their cattle on the flat lands and the Buli people occupied the wooded hills dotted around on the landscape One lazy afternoon I was out walking in the bush far from any town or village. I came across a grass hut in the area where a Buli family resided. The Buli are people who hunt and gather their food and wear leaves around their groin. I was waved by a couple of people over to their hut and invited inside. As I looked around, very curious because this was the first time I had entered such a home, I was shocked to see what was something akin to an alter where various token objects were placed, and hanging on the inner grass wall above these objects was a picture of President Kennedy. I gasped in surprise and the people, numbering about a half dozen, smiled with great delight. I didn’t speak their language, nor they mine, but the nodded with great charm and love as they pointed and expressed adoration for the man.

      I have often pondered on the enormous reach and influence that America has
      and the enormous responsibility that goes with it. As Americans, we are too often blind and deaf to the world, but the world is not blind or deaf to US. To me, the great strength of Obama is that he is fully aware of this, and takes responsibility from a worldly perspective.

      • skdadl says:

        I didn’t want to interrupt the very moving progression of memories here, but just in brief response to that wonderful memory of yours, kspena:

        I’m very struck as I listen over again to JFK’s inauguration speech by how often he mentions citizens of the world. He almost never says just Americans — he most often then adds the rest of us.

        I also catch a living memory in what he says of the international jurisprudence and diplomatic wisdom that arose from the Second World War. I grew up believing that those things mattered, that Nuremberg mattered, that Geneva mattered, that the UN Convention mattered, that they were now Canadian law and American law and everyone else’s law. Much of that legacy was created by Americans, and many of the rest of us still believe in it hard.

        If you are a foreigner like me (a mutt like me), you’ve been very aware during the Bush regime especially that the paranoia levels against everyone are high, even sometimes against American citizens but definitely against the rest of us, and even when we’re supposed to be friends and (sometimes) allies. This is the wrong place to go into detail about that so I won’t, but the profound difference in JFK’s attitude to the rest of the world is striking.

        I should add that I have been very moved by some of your congresscritturs who clearly do share JFK’s commitment to humankind. May their voices prevail.

  10. Artemesia says:

    I was in a Chemistry class at the U of W when it happened and as I walked across campus I heard some guys joking about shots being fired (it was before anyone knew it was serious) — I didn’t know where or about what from their remarks — but when I got into the student union and sort of smiled at someone, that person said ‘he’s dead’ —- and in that moment I knew even though I had not heard the name Kennedy up to that point —

    with MLK, I was a teacher and had been in a meeting and then rushed to the King County GOP Convention — I was a precinct committee woman and a Rockefeller delegate to the convention (Washington was entirely a caucus state in those days) — at the start of the meeting the chair said ‘I’d like to move that we send a telegram to Mrs. Martin Luther King’ like with Kennedy, I just knew immediately what that had to mean and was stunned — it was like a punch in the gut

    the GOP convention shouted it down — and on that day I became a Democrat — I realized I was in the wrong place surrounded by those bozos for whom a condolence telegram was too left wing

    • Professor Foland says:

      So my birth was still a decade in the future when Kennedy was shot; I’ve no story about the day at all. But the post is enlightening to me as well. I’ve only ever known Kennedy on paper. I know I’m not the only who, having come of age long after, and on reading about him, thought, “Great speeches, average-to-below-average policy.” The Bay of Pigs was the “Axis of Evil” moment that made the Cuban Missile Crisis just as inevitable as Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. So yes, not blowing up the world during that crisis was a good thing, but he really got himself into that situation all on his own. So for decades, this anniversary has come and gone every year with me just a little bit puzzled.

      But I understand a little bit more now, especially after Artemesia’s comment:

      that person said ‘he’s dead’ —- and in that moment I knew even though I had not heard the name Kennedy up to that point

      For my whole life, there hasn’t been such a person. But there is today. If I walked into a roomful of wet eyes and someone said that to me today, I’d know who it was. And I’d feel hope crushed just as much.

      So finally, this is the year I understand.

  11. mhhurtt says:

    I simply cannot leave this web site without commenting upon this beautiful soliloquy to an indelible time in our memory; a time that gave those of us who then were aware of and whom did know perhaps the most beloved President in our country’s history. I am a 72-year old man who is trying to keep his eyes clear of tears as I write this message. This is the first time I have viewed and listened to JFK’s inaugural address since his death–and I can tell you it is very hard to keep my thoughts clear through these tears as I keep hearing the tonality, the strength of purpose and conviction, and the inspirational fervor of his voice over and over. His election was the first I was able to vote in and like millions of others his ringing intonation of, “Ask not what your country can do for you can do but what you can do for your country!” brings a chill up my spine and a tear to my eyes every time I dwell upon it; I was a 24-year old Air Force airman serving in England at the time of his election. I was then a 27-year old, still an Airman, in the my bathroom when my wife screamed out to me, “President Kennedy has been shot!” I ran from the bathroom and much is a blur for awhile after that, until we heard that JFK was dead….and the we cried. Through the years as calamity after calamity was piled upon our country I would always ponder what would have happened if JFK had lived, and RFK had lived. And even now as we have inherited, through our own choice, a new President with the abiding characteristics, the charismatic charm and inspirational fervor of a JFK, I pray with all my heart our country will ensure his longevity so he can lead us to achieve and regain the American spirit and stature we once had….so many years ago. God Bless America, and may God Bless Barak Obama!

    • bmaz says:

      I have not seen your name here before. There are many here that I have not seen before.

      I would like to say to one and all…

      Welcome, and thanks for your contribution to this thread. Please don’t let it be your last. The is a new hope in front of us, bring your voice!

      • nahant says:

        I sure hope so bmaz. Obama does strike me in a similar way that JFK did those many years ago. I hope and pray he can lead us out of this morass we are currently in.

        Thanks again for the wonderful post!! I will take the time to read all the comments on this day of sorrow and remembrance!

  12. signsanssignified says:

    I was in third grade. I don’t remember anything at all about the day at school. I have a very clear memory of that night, though, when I first realized what had happened. I was in the living room as an announcer on the radio said that JFK had been assassinated. I went into my parents’ bedroom and said, “Mommy, the president’s been shot.” My father was holding my mother, who was crying. She replied, “we know.”

    I think about that moment when I hear wingnuts vilifying those of us who disagree with them for supposedly being unpatriotic. My parents were staunch old leftists. They were harshly critical of every modern U.S. government I can think of. But their criticisms were always borne of patriotism–an outraged sense that the values and ideals that this country was supposed to stand for were being subverted by cynical and/or ignorant politicians. Their dissents, in short, were patriotic, just as the shock and sadness they felt that day 45 years ago were the emotions of Americans of every political stripe, not as liberals, radicals, conservatives or any other label–just as Americans.

  13. merkwurdiglieber says:

    That bright November day, 10th grade, sounds of running and crying, some
    of celebration, yes there were those who cheered, most were quiet in
    shock… nothing was ever the same afterward. Liberalism did not fail
    in the 60’s, it was assasinated, repeatedly, in public with the assent
    of the FBI and the political establishment. There is another chance, now,
    to pick up the banner and advance those goals again. We should not forget
    that the same forces will stop at nothing to stop progress as they did
    then, but the great hope of our young people can overcome them through
    vigilance and determination. 45 years of wasted time is a lot to ovwecome
    but the election has shown that it is possible.

  14. AZ Matt says:

    I was a 3rd Grader and remember the principle, a Catholic sister, coming to the door and telling us that the President had been shot and that they were sending us home. It was my mother’s birthday.

  15. AZ Matt says:

    If by a “Liberal” they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people — their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties — someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a “Liberal,” then I’m proud to say I’m a “Liberal.”

    Acceptance of the New York Liberal Party nomination (14 September 1960)

    For of those to whom much is given, much is required. And when at some future date the high court of history sits in judgment on each of us, recording whether in our brief span of service we fulfilled our responsibilities to the state, our success or failure, in whatever office we hold, will be measured by the answers to four questions: First, were we truly men of courage… Second, were we truly men of judgment… Third, were we truly men of integrity… Finally were we truly men of dedication?

    Speech to Massachusetts State Legislature (9 January 1961)

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    My PBS radio station last night broadcast Kennedy’s June 1963 commencement speech at American University.

    It was breathtaking. An energetic intellectual eloquently dissected the problems of the day in stark but alliterative terms, convincing his listeners that he and they were capable of the restraint needed not to make them worse, the power to help make them better, and the will to do it. Change a few only of the problems, and it would be a speech Obama would be wise to repeat today.

    Imagine our national leader honestly appraising the problems we face, asking us to unite, not in naive trust or imaginary brotherly love, but in tolerance, so that we can take our best shot at solving those problems together. Because we all breath the same air on the same planet. Imagine what we could do with that, instead of the divisive power of hate that fuels the current administration.

  17. ecoop says:

    I was a senior in high school in south Louisiana at the time. I first heard of the shooting while returning to the girls’ locker room after an outdoor physical education class. In somber silence we all showered, changed, and went on to our next class; mine was Physics. My favorite teacher, who I’d had for science four years running, broke my heart. He said (can’t remember the exact words) it was a good thing and they should have also gotten his brother.

    • KayInMaine says:

      Good gawd. I was just thinking to myself about what people were saying back then who were happy that JFK was shot…and then read your comment. I wondered if the hate & vitrol of the neocons today was the same as the anti-JFK rhetoric was. Sure enough, it was. Thanks for sharing this.

      • californiarealitycheck says:

        yes, same back then. i remember the glee of the oil boys from texas who hated jfk. they said it was only a matter of time before he was taken out. those folks are still out there. be careful.

  18. Minnesotachuck says:

    On Thursday evening, November 21, I had arrived in my hometown in southern Minnesota to stow my few possessions and hang out with my folks for a week before reporting for induction into Army service for two years on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The next day the three of us were eating lunch during the 12:30 Noontime News on WCCO AM from the Twin Cities when the broadcast was interrupted to announce that the president had been shot while visiting Dallas. We immediately dropped our forks and rushed to the living room to turn on the television and watch the coverage of the events on the CBS station that had recently started broadcasting from Mason City, Iowa. About twenty minutes later Walter Cronkite announced with tears in his eyes that the president was dead. My father, who was a World War One veteran and a lifelong Republican (several times he’d proudly told me that the only time in his life when he hadn’t voted for the GOP candidate for whatever office was in play was when, at age 21 in 1912, he voted for Teddy Roosevelt on the Bull Moose ticket), immediately got up from his chair, went to the closet to get the family’s American flag, and hung it up at half mast from the front porch. I’ve never forgotten what he said as he came back in: “I may be a Republican, but I’m an American first!” An unexpectedly somber week later I was on a bus from Minneapolis to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri.

  19. diablesseblu says:

    Was sitting in Mrs. Snow’s 9th grade English class when Mr. Kornegay, the principal, came on the intercom. They played the CBS radio coverage as we sat in stunned silence.

    They rescheduled that evening’s Coronation Ball at the HS and sent us home early. I remember vividly attending the dance the next Friday night. We were all just going through the motions…..participating in an local adolesecent tradition as if the world had not changed forever.

    Was watching live TV on that Sunday when Oswald was killed. I felt that day that we would never know the whole story about what happened in Dallas.

  20. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Links to JFK’s June 1963 Commencement speech at American University, in Washington, DC. Listen to it here, or read it here.

    It’s been named after its prime topic, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Speech. But it was really his vision of leadership speech. He sometimes fell short of his aspirations, and lacked LBJ’s intimate knowledge of the Hill, his directness and persistence, and his horse-trader’s thick skin. But his restrained handling of the Cuban missile crisis, when his DoD would have given us World War III, shows how quickly he learned in his short, 2 1/2 years at the helm.

  21. Argonaut says:

    Freshman year at university, and the night before I was out gathering wood for Big Game bonfire, so I woke up late. On the way to the cafeteria I saw a “classes canceled” sign and let out a big Yeeeeeeeah! Only then did I notice how quiet everyone else was. Someone told me Kennedy had been shot, so not only did I feel bad, but stupid bad. We watched on TV hoping he might live, and then the second blow fell when Cronkite said he had died. I wasn’t angry at anybody, or worried about WW III, just really really sad, and I think most of my fellow students felt the same.

    There was talk about canceling the football game, and I would have voted for that, but it was delayed a week and played on Thanksgiving (!) weekend. Today is again Big Game day, and it’s impossible not to remember 1963.

    • jrberg says:

      Don’t know if it’s the same Big Game, but I was a freshman at Berkeley and walking down the hall in my dorm when somebody burst out of a room and shouted out the news. As many of you have stated, that’s a punch in the gut, and everything about that day remains burned in my brain.

      I was a Goldwater republican in high school, mostly because of my friends and family, but in retrospect, this event was the beginning of my evaluation of what I really believed in. And then came the events at Berkeley the following year (FSM, etc.) which opened my eyes further. My parents have regretted letting me go to Berkeley ever since.

      I was visiting Detroit in 1968, visiting relatives, when MLK was assassinated. My relatives, who lived very close to the riot zone, celebrated this event. I was horrified that any human being could celebrate the death of such a great person.

      I’ve never understood how I came from this family, but I will add that my staunchly conservative father, a 24 year Navy veteran, ended up writing a letter supporting my application for Conscientious Objector status during the Vietnam War. I didn’t get approved for that, but ended up winning the lottery in the end.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        my staunchly conservative father, a 24 year Navy veteran, ended up writing a letter supporting my application for Conscientious Objector status during the Vietnam War.

        To an outsider, that seems like quite a testimony to your father.

        • jrberg says:

          “To an outsider, that seems like quite a testimony to your father.”

          Thanks. Yes, he was a principled conservative, who could respect deeply held convictions of others, and we still do fine together. He’s almost 92 now…and recently started to explain to me how Clinton was responsible for the derivatives crisis. Sigh.

          • californiarealitycheck says:

            bless his heart. after slick willie was out of office i began to see what they didn’t like about him. a little of him goes a long way, imo.

          • eCAHNomics says:

            I have no problems with principled conservatives. Wish that’s the sort we’d had to deal with in the past 8 years.

            • ratfood says:

              Bingo. I was telling someone recently about Everett Dirksen’s contribution to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and how the GOP of today would be completely unrecognizable to Republicans of that era. Not to say they didn’t have their faults but they were mostly fiscal conservatives and didn’t pander to what we now refer to as social conservatives.

              • californiarealitycheck says:

                we need more people like everett. back then i was a rep bc it wasn’t so bad to be one. at least there is a bldg named after him. remember ‘billion here and billion there”?

              • T-Bear says:

                I was telling someone recently about Everett Dirksen’s contribution to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and how the GOP of today would be completely unrecognizable to Republicans of that era. Not to say they didn’t have their faults but they were mostly fiscal conservatives and didn’t pander to what we now refer to as social conservatives.

                Good point, at one time the Republican party was a principled organization, peopled by principled folks (with the requisite cadre of rapscallions) and it still held a slight claim to the party of Lincoln. The success of the New Deal lay largely to the fact it was written and addressed to meet this principled opposition. That principled opposition will never be assembled again, likewise no economic, social, or political policy will be as conscientiously written again or have the quality written into the New Deal that allowed for a major continuing success until it was dismantled by the sions of privilege presuming the ownership of the Republican Party.

                I would commend this post to SnarKassandra to print out and keep in file. In twenty years, most of those who will remember this watershed date in history will no longer have their voices, only the youngest then alive will have vague direct memories, colored by what they subsequently recall. I can vouch for the enormous trauma experienced that day and those that followed, being 20 years myself.

  22. klynn says:

    My father was a regional volunteer for Kennedy’s campaign in Ohio. My parents were originally from Mass and my parents were working on the campaign as transplants from MA, (came to Ohio in 1952) they made for good campaign contacts.

    As mentioned earlier this week, it was my birthday…And bmaz “did the math” as to which one. 45 years ago today, my parents walked in the door with all 6 lbs of me at 12:20 PM, showed me to my older brothers and then at 12:28, my father began to carry me upstairs to the nursery. The radio was playing and they could hear the broadcast of Kennedy’s Dallas trip. When the broadcaster shouted Kennedy had been shot, my father collapsed on the steps but was able to keep me safe in his arms. My father sat on the steps weeping, holding me tight, as my Mom and brothers stood at the bottom of the steps looking up through tears in total disbelief.

    It was suppose to be the happiest of days for our family and yet it turned so tragic.

    I learned this story from my older brothers when, one day at age four, I asked what was it like the day I came home from the hospital. The family was silent for a while…I was confused. Then my brothers retold of the day.

    I have been blessed over the years to actually have contacts with the extended Kennedy family through a few different venues but in particular through my Dad’s service as president of the Ohio Special Olympics and also service on the national S.O. board. I have been volunteering for Special Olympics since I was 5 years old. Our family has viewed our participation as a, “Thank you,” to JFK, RFK and the Kennedy family.

    Thanks for this post bmaz.

  23. Mommybrain says:

    We 5th graders were in the library when Mrs Vest (whom we unaccountably called Vester Vanschnincklebutt) made the announcement over the school PA system.

    The teacher started crying. The rest of us sat, stunned, in our seats, not sure what to do. One boy on the other side of the room said “Hurray!” or something like that. Like lightening, the teacher was at his side, slapped him in the face and sent him to Vester Vanschnincklebutt.

    At the time, my dad worked for Pat Brown, the last great liberal Dem governor of California. When Kennedy came through on a campaign stop the families of all the Guv’s employees gathered in the giant reception room and Kennedy went through shaking hands. My mom didn’t wash her hand for a week after. I had brought my Madame Alexander Jackie Kennedy doll (she wore her yellow inauguration suit with pillbox hat, not the white, sequined ballgown), which he thought was sweet.

    There was much crying in our house for the next week. I still get verklempt on this day. Thanks, bmaz.

  24. Jkat says:

    eighth grade .. little town in north texas .. i was on flaf duty as a boy scout .. wen’t with two others out in a light rain to lower the flag to half mast … right after lunch period .. i’ll never forget it ..

  25. Jkat says:

    i was on …”flag duty” .. not flaf duty .. we were only 85 miles northwest of dallas .. years later i went to the memorial in dallas .. very spooky .. one enters a walled enclosure .. it’s empty .. has a large plaque inlaid in the floor .. nothing else .. the first thing you feel is “something’s missing here” .. sure is .. JFK is what’s missin’ … i too recall watching jack ruby shoot LHO on live teevee …

    • tjbs says:

      Oswald said “Jack you son of a bitch” as Ruby shot him ,this has been edited out from the live TV clip, that we all saw. That was the day ……

      • Beerfart Liberal says:

        thought it as a cop or security guard who said that. i don’t think oswald knew ruby. didn’t a dallas cop also get shot and people kinda wigged a bit?

  26. masaccio says:

    I was a senior in High School, sitting in religion class, as I remember, when the principal made the announcement that the President had been shot. We couldn’t believe he would die, we said a prayer, but a few minutes later Brother Reginald announced that he had died. I have no clear memory of anything else for the next couple of days, although I know I was watching TV and saw Oswald murdered. My orderly world was shattered, turned upside down.

    My first clear memory was watching the funeral procession, with Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and thinking it was the most perfect music for this sorrow. Every time I hear it I think of irretrievable loss, but feel some small hope.

  27. Mnemosyne says:

    Thank you for that, bmaz. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard that speech in its entirety since it was given.

    I was struck by several things: Most if not all of the words were from Ted Sorensen, a brilliant political wordsmith. And after the very famous phrases (”ask not, etc.”), there are several others. One stands out:

    Civility is not a form of weakness, and sincerity is subject to proof

    That would come back some years later, shortened for an MTV world, from Reagan’s writers as “trust, but verify.”

    In addition to all the losses of those times, I am greatly saddened to realize again how we have let ourselves as a nation be ruled for so long but such very small men.

    Like others, I, too, believe Obama has the potential to be a great president, and I offer up my thoughts, prayers, vibes, whatever to that end.

  28. Teddy Partridge says:

    Thank you, bmaz.

    Fourth grade, Miss Rosencrans stepped out of class and returned in tears. She was so young and pretty, and it hurt to see her cry. She said the president had been hurt and we were being sent home; that we mustn’t listen to the older children but get right home to our families as soon as we could. Because it was Friday, I knew my Lulu would be at our house — it was Mother’s “day out” and so our sitter was there with my little brother. Imagine my horror to arrive home to see Lulu in tears watching Walter Cronkite crying. Then my mom walked in, also crying. I thought the world had ended.

    Later that night, I remember asking if my parents had ever heard of this new President, Johnson, because I never had. They said, yes, adults knew who the vice president was even if kids didn’t, and that everything would be okay.

    Of course, it wasn’t, not really.

  29. hayduke says:

    well I was at Conant Elementary in Bloomfield Hills, MI. Miss Stokes 4th grade. Right after lunch our principal, Mr. Lemke, came in our room weeping. He told us the President had been shot. It was a stunned class, with no one really speaking at all….back then it was pretty unheard of to have your principal come into your room in tears, so it got our attention, and really froze us in time. It was a mighty quiet trip on the bus ride home.

    My cousins (10 of em)came to town that weekend. It was still fun, but the somber nature of those days still is vivid. Sunday I was sick of being pummeled at touch football (yeah sure, touch/tackle with big ass Norwegians), so I sat and watched TV. Another weird moment as I watched Jack Ruby take out Lee Harvey Oswald. Very surreal for me to go outside and tell em that.

    bmaz, do you remember the next week of all channels on the TV being only coverage of the funeral? I recall missing my programs and thinking how big a bummer it was that my favorite shows were being pre-empted.

    So yeah it was one of those things. Sorta like the moon walk, or Bobby Kennedy’s or Martin Luther King’s tragic murders. Like placing markers in our lil brains, reflecting the trauma that couldn’t fade away.

    “when after all it was you and me….”

  30. behindthefall says:

    Sophomore year at a small college. Lovely day. Grand century-old trees towering over old stone buildings. Just picked up my mail and was walking to the dorm. Something different in the air of the place. People’s voices were in a different key. Asked someone coming out of the dorm if something had happened, and he told me. It was odd how out of touch we were and how hard it was to find a way to get news. I wondered, what happens now? Does this change everything? Little in the news reports after that made sense then or ever after that: someone always seemed to be lying. Someone always seems to be lying now.

  31. behindthefall says:

    I ran across the recording that my dad made of Kennedy’s inaugural speech yesterday. It’s on a band of red plastic, the sound trapped in grooves. For years it lived behind the front cover of an old edition of “Bartlett’s Quotations”, but it showed up under the back cover of the second volume of the “Shorter Oxford”. I wondered whether any working examplar of the machine that cut that belt was being maintained in any museum, thought probably not, but made a mental note to check YouTube some time. We listed to the address as a family, all Republicans in our genes, but my father knew something great was happening, and he handed me the belt in an envelope after the address had ended and told me to keep it safe, that it would probably mean a lot some day. Maybe that was the first time it was made clear to me that a Democrat might have something worthwhile to say.

    • Sara says:

      “I wondered whether any working examplar of the machine that cut that belt was being maintained in any museum,”

      Try your local Public Library, a University Research Library or your State Historical Society — they do maintain old machines for research purposes. What you describe is a Dictabelt, and I actually own both the transcription and the dictating end of the system. Before small cassett tape recorders (mid 60’s) it is how audio was preserved in many instances.

  32. Sara says:

    It was my first year in graduate school, International Relations, and I’d been offered a short-term job that paid extremely well, organizing a conference of Foreign Students sponsored by the National Student Association’s International Program, paid for, so I was told, by the Ford Foundation. The fifty students in this program were all from third world countries, many just emerging from colonial status, and virtually all of them had been officers in their respective national student unions. At about 11:30 on Friday, Nov. 22nd, I had a meeting scheduled with NSA’s VP for International Student Affairs, visiting from DC, in the Foreign Student Advisor’s office at the U of Minnesota, then in Eddy Hall.

    Properly hired for this job of conference coordinator, at about 12:15 I offered to drop the NSA VP off at his next appointment — and when we got to the parking lot, the attendant ordered us to turn on my car radio. The lot attendant refused to calculate my parking fee, the cars ahead would not move — and only when the radio warmed up did we comprehend why everyone was acting so strange. Minutes went by, people sorted out the traffic, I did my drop off, and went home. Of course it would only be about three years later, when Ramparts Magazine published its expose on the National Student Association’s serving as a covert sponsor for a CIA Foreign Student Leader’s Program, passing through Ford Foundation gobs of money, that I would realize that as Kennedy was being shot, I was unwittingly being hired by the CIA. (The Conference went fine, and I made enough money to pay for half a year of grad school.) I should add that the FSLA program of NSA was an outgrowth of an earlier program NSA had done, with Ford Foundation support, and through IIE, the Institute of International Education, called informally the African Airlift. It was that program in 1959-61, that brought Barack Obama’s father to the US from Kenya.

    But it would be immediately after this conference that I would make a critical decision — to take another opportunity and go to work full time in the Civil Rights Movement, and for a decade leave Grad School behind. For short months after Kennedy’s Assassination, the mood of “finishing” Kennedy’s agenda was palpable, and the climate was ripe to do it, and creating the public support for the whole web of Legislative Actions that were necessary — Public Accomodations, Affirmative Action, Voting Rights, what became OEO, and much else were the concrete measures of progress on that agenda. And as someone who pretty much concluded during the weekend of JFK’s funeral that one way or another it was some part of the American Right — the John Birchers, the supporters of Jim Crow and all — who were probably behind the Assassination, — and that the way forward had to include defeating them, and their agenda as punishment for however they were implicated. And I still feel that way. Individually they may not have pulled triggers, but collectively they assent to those who do.

    • behindthefall says:

      I don’t know who you are, of course, but I am very, very glad that you are out there, and that you have been out there. You put the flesh on my skeletal sense that we were lied to then and have been lied to ever since.

      And you are of course right about the recording system: it was cut on a Dictaphone, and it had slipped my mind that they used to call the “thing” a Dictabelt.

  33. JohnLopresti says:

    There were a lot of good signs in that year. A veritable breath of fresh air. Appalachia was opening its musical archive. Dylan was Freewheelin. Kennedy had let guys prosecute the secret war in Laos grudgingly, lacking any way yet to supply a full army in Indochine, but the dissertation was almost complete, and the Philippines figured largely in the supply route. The Missle of Pigs, then a retrospective nonevent, had fossilized as less of a menace than a chance for US knight to capture CCCP queen. Real chalk blackboards were returning to the jungle and acrylic based synthetic tinted markers set to whiteboard were becoming the mode du jour. Pillbox chapeaux were giving way to freer rein. Ted Sorensen was at meditation, needfully, and appropriately, the exercise in dumfounded speech a colophon to a meteoric career. Mcnamara had yet to endure the corrosive politics of central time hegemonism. Buddy Holly had flown into a cloud but left a legacy in the British rock scene. Eric Clapton joined a popular music ensemble known as The Yardbirds October 1963, and played in November with them including collaboration with harmonica specialist Sonny Boy Williamson. Youth then knew the repressed 50s were gone, and surf was rollin this way. LBJ invited a folk group known as New Christie Minstrels to play at the White House. Congo was wrapping up its internecine strife in 1963-1964. Page turn.

  34. bobschacht says:

    Well, this will date me, because I was a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. When I heard about it, I was on my way between classes, and visually I can remember the place on campus where I was. That was the year that I thought I wanted to major in political science.

    Kennedy made me intensely political, but in a disorganized kind of way. There was no Democracy for America, no Progressive Democrats of America. There was SNCC, but I didn’t know anyone in it, and I don’t know if they had a chapter at the U of Wisc. And there was a radical student group, the name of which I don’t remember off the top of my head– I didn’t know anyone in it, and it seemed too “radical” for me at the time.

    Bob in HI

  35. moeman says:

    On that day I turned 2.

    In my early teens JFK became a hero (through a similarly idolized politician in Pierre Elliot Trudeau).

    In 1996 I won a JFK ‘value to the organization’ award at Apple. I cherish it.

    To this day JFK remains for me a beacon of youth, hope, energy, peace and possibility.

    To a similar degree Bill Clinton gave me the same feeling.

    Obama is doing the same.

  36. falloch says:

    Second grade in Catholic school in Westchester county, NY. We’d all just come in from the playground when Sister Loretta the principle announced over the PA system that JFK had been shot. We all had to kneel at our desks and pray for the president, and I remember the nun who was our teacher was crying. It was the first time I’d ever seen a grown-up cry, and I saw plenty more grown-ups cry in the next few days.

  37. falloch says:

    PS For any of you who may have been involved over the years with War Resisters League in New York, Karl Bissinger, long-term staff member and cheerful soul, has died of a stroke 19 November aged 94. Info to be put on to WRL website soon.

  38. nahant says:

    Thanks bmaz for the wonderful and thuoghtful post. I vividly remember where I was, when this tragic occurred. I was going to school late and was on a bus and at one of the stops the people were saying that Kennedy was shot, they had no further facts just that he had been shot down in Dallas. when I got to my high school the whole place was somber as by then everyone knew that Kennedy had died.
    I took it to heart as not only did I share a birthday with him. I had watched JFK and his brothers in the Saint Patty’s day parades and we were all very proud of him and his family. They were heroes to everyone in South Boston and the state/country as a whole.
    The episode of his murder and subsequent funeral is forever burned into my mind. I will never forget those events and I think every student should watch the films of that time in their American History class to see just how the nation reacted in grief and how we pulled together nad comforted each other.
    The difference in our government is in stark difference to today where the Bush Administration has used 911 as a weapon and a tool to install fear into the nation and never once asked us to help in our times of trouble except to spend spend spend. They have kept up the fear mongering ever since and just like the chicken saying the sky is falling we have become numb to the fear. I wonder what would happen if there is a real emergency how we will react???
    all this will take time for the Obama administration to slowly repair. Lets hope they can get the job done once they take the reins of power!

    I will never forget that day 45 years ago when I lost such a hero to me.

  39. nahant says:

    Wouldn’t you know it the Military Channel has the Defcon2 Cuban Missile Crisis on! I guess it is their way of telling one of the stories of how JFK handled the crisis, unlike this lame duck administration who have fumbled everything they have touched!!

  40. californiarealitycheck says:

    i was in a military school mess hall in mo at the time. our brave airborne ranger commandant by the name of timberlake said he was ready to go if the ruskys were involved. lots of suspicion and anger.

  41. KayInMaine says:

    I was born in 1968, so I don’t have a story to tell, though….my grandmother who died at the age of 93 a couple months after 9/11/01 still loved her president, JFK, after all those years.

  42. marshen says:

    Good story bmaz, but I find it hard to believe a first grader would remember the day Kennedy did, where they sat in first grade class, what it looked like, and all that. You must have hell of a memory. I was in fifth grade and don’t have near a complete recollection, but what I do remember it happened the way you described it. My Dad was in active military, and I don’t remember anybody talking about going to war at the time. I’m sure he was on “alert” as it was the cold war, and he was always going on alert. I do remember the nuclear attack drills all through grade school, since it was on a military base, they were always very serious and dramatic. I remember the funeral on TV more than anything. I also remember the LP record we had called “The Kennedy Family,” It was a speaking record where the President would talk about himself and make funny jokes and then introduce Mrs. Kennedy, and she would talk about the children and what it was like to live in the White House, then each of the children talked and said Hi. We never played the record again after the assassination.

      • marshen says:

        Very good, dakine01, yep that was the recording. I think just about everybody had one back then.

        I am always amazed on FDL when age of the commenters comes up and find how much older everyone is than you might expect on a “Progressive” political blog. This is very cool.

    • bmaz says:

      Well, see may comment @53, my memory isn’t all that perfect it turns out. You know, I couldn’t describe it well in written words, but I can almost feel the sense of sitting outside under the tree; still, to this day. I wish I could remember that conversation better.

      I do remember the record you mention. We had that too. We also had some kind of a box set of records, from after he was killed, that had all his speeches on them. Had a companion booklet in with it. Might have been one of those Capitol Records deals; not sure. Was awesome though. I remember taking them out and listening to them all again after RFK was gunned down. Thanks for reminding me of that. Wish I still had those records….

      • marshen says:

        When something like the Kennedy assassination happens in our lives when we are really young I think we probably really remember important snippets of what happened at the time, and later as our lives go on, we fill in the details we don’t remember from conversations we heard from our elders and what we have read since it happened. It is such an important historical event we lived through that we need to have a complete memory of it to tell it later on in life at the moments of remembrance like the anniversaries of these events. We need to preserve a whole memory we can store away in our minds, not something that leaves questions unanswered, leaving the memory unsettled in our heads.

  43. bmaz says:

    You know, as I read through the wonderful comments and stories, I realize that I could not have been informed over the loudspeaker that he had been assassinated, rather like you all, that he had been shot. My memories strike me that it was clear that he was gone, although that could not have been official yet.

    Crikey I am getting old….

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      You could have been informed via the intercom. I was…just as my class was informed when it was our turn to go to the office for the polio sugar cubes.

  44. Margot says:

    I was in 5th grade in DC, where my dad worked for a senator, but for some reason there was no school that day. My mother was sewing and I turned the TV channel. We heard the news and then the phone started ringing. My mother was crying. I didn’t know what to do.
    It was almost unbelievable. So many rumors swirled around. My mother said she heard LBJ had had a heart attack, but it turned out not to be true.
    I remembered that Caroline was just a few years younger than I was.
    People lined up for 3 days for many blocks around our neighborhood, all day and night, to go see the president lying in state. It was all we talked about at school and we wrote papers on it.

  45. wmd1961 says:

    The Kennedy inauguration speech recalled something I’ve had kicking around my mind a few days – does Obama do a call to national service on MLK day, even though it is prior to his inauguration by a couple of days?

    I was 2 years old in Bethesda Maryland. No clear memories of it beyond my family feeling grief at the nation’s loss.

  46. SouthernDragon says:

    I was spray painting the forward pump room of USS MORTON (DD 948) and didn’t know about it until lunch time. In 7 days I would be 19.

    On that chilly day in January 1961 I was at the bottom of the stairs on the left in the video above. I was 17.

  47. IsabelT says:

    We lived in Chevy Chase (MD). My dad was at HEW in the Kennedy Administration. I was 5, and in the waiting room at the dentist. My unfortunate brother was in the chair having work done, and when the news came over the radio, the poor man’s hand slipped (only a little). My brother got a bit of a gouge in the process. As the youngest kid, I was the only one not deemed old enough to attend the funeral procession, but clearly remember watching on TV. Scary times, even for a little kid.

    When I brought my daughter and a bunch of her friends to an Obama rally in Manchester NH this fall, I found myself reflexively worrying that they’d be present for another sad moment in history. The history of those assassinations is written deep into our consciousness, for those of us who lived through all the years of all that public killing.

    My daughter is doing Sondheim’s Assassins right this weekend at school. While it’s an excellent production, I confess I flinch and I also think the choice is in pretty poor taste right about now. Tough sledding, and it really brings back some awful and visceral memories.

  48. foothillsmike says:

    I was a senior in Brooklyn Tech HS in Mr Lincoln’s Industrial Processes class when the announcement came over the PA. It was a numbing experience.
    School was let out early. The trip home was in normal days a lengthy ordeal. Subway ride to a major exchange, then another train to the end of the line and then a bus ride. Normally kids socializing, many people reading. This trip everyone was trancelike staring but not seeing.

  49. Beerfart Liberal says:

    Oh shit. I completely forgot today was the day. 45 YEARS???!!!!! I don’t remember. I was a little kid doing little kid stuff. I just didn’t understand the comotion and how the grownups were acting. Then I found out the President had been shot. And died. It sounds strange. But at that age, I knew violence from cartoons and movies. It never occurred to me that this was that uncommon of an event. Can you beleive that? i remember beinbg able to watch nothing but coverage of the event and wasn’t too happy about that. I remember the funeral procession and I especially remember that horse with no rider. I was raised in a Catholic family, Looking back, so looking back, the shock was probably even more profound for them.

  50. eCAHNomics says:

    I was a sophomore at Wellesley, in the organic chemistry lab. I did not find out until I got back to the dorm. It rendered me speechless. I react to such events by crawling into my skin in my private space until I have processed it enough to return to civilization. That was dinner in the dorm dining room that night (no other alternatives for food in those days). Still I sat silent at the table while others talked about it.

    In retrospect, I wish I’d had the luxury of time to learn more about him and keep track of what followed. It did not make me more political. I was a chemistry major & barely keeping my nose above water. I ploughed on with my life, and only after retirement did I get interested in things political.

    I do remember the contrast that bmaz points out between adults handling that tragedy in an upright responsible manner versus the petulant fearmongering W after 9/11.

    • californiarealitycheck says:

      camelot is gone forever. it was a special time. my hope is for bama to be up for the challenge now. it is a much more complicated world. don’t believe he can equal that speech.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        Woke up in the middle of the night last night & flipped through channels, finally settling on PBS program on Jackie. The photos of her & the kids after the assassination are truly heart wrenching.

        • ratfood says:

          Jackie was a remarkable lady. Intelligent, well-educated, and evidently tough as nails. She was looking directly at the already wounded JFK, her face just inches away at the fateful moment. I hope she was able to block it from of her memory and didn’t have to keep reliving it for the rest of her life.

        • californiarealitycheck says:

          as i was still at school my access to the media was limited. i do remember her blood smeared dress on airforce one when johnson was sworn in and i took quite a pile of demerits when i watched the funeral in the rec room. had to do a lot of court (marching)time. good fer my character, imo.

            • californiarealitycheck says:

              it’s the military, my dear. there are always consequences for not being where one is supposed to be. as i recall the room was empty except fer me and the tv. out of 900 i was the only one who saw it like you do.

  51. ratfood says:

    I was a little less than two and half years old and have no recollection of that day. About thirty years ago I read an essay by someone who also got the news while attending grade school. In contrast to this post by bmaz, this person had grown up in the South and described the mood at the time as “celebratory.” JFK’s perceived support of the civil rights movement had not endeared him to the their parents and naturally the kids espoused the opinions that they heard at home.

    • bmaz says:

      My maternal grandparents lived in Southwestern Kentucky, Murray, and we went back there for a month every summer. In fact I was there (still awake in the middle of the early morning and watching the coverage. I had a Kennedy jones) when RFK was shot. I bet there was that sentiment in the deep south; although it seems so unimaginable to a boy from Arizona. We just did not have any of that hatred that I ever particularly saw.

      • ratfood says:

        I think that is why that essay has always stayed with me. No matter how passionately I have disliked a politician, I might wish that they leave public service but NEVER that they should come to physical harm.

    • fahrender says:

      it bothers me that people generalize about the attitudes of southerners over Kennedy’s assassination. Tennessee may not be considered the Deep South but i witnessed no rejoicing there nor did i read about it in the papers or see anything about it on television. i’m not sure there is documentation of how widespread this attitude was but the general response was of sadness and shock in all parts of the country.

      • californiarealitycheck says:

        my only exposure to someting like that was from dallas oil kids. in my school the parents hated jfk. too many oil taxes? don’t know.

      • foothillsmike says:

        I have not heard about the attitudes in the South at that time but judging by what is going on today would bring some meaning to the term about apples falling from trees.

        • fahrender says:

          at the time of Kennedy’s election the South was still voting Democratic. i don’t have the statistics handy but i’m pretty sure he won Tennessee and possibly some other southern states. the big shift came with LBJ. Texas was a special case as Kennedy had beaten out Johnson for the nomination in ‘60. Kennedy had fairly conservative instincts (back when conservative meant something essentially different than it does today). Had he finished out his term of office (with a second term) chances are that he would not have been in the position of signing the omnibus civil rights legislation that Johnson did. or so i conject.
          the thing that i hope people here will try to keep in mind is that though the South is a bastion of neoconism and religious fundamentalism there is a substantial minority of people there who are neither neocons or fundies. the Republicans, beginning with Nixon really worked the Southern Strategy but there are cracks in that strategy now and inroads can be made. Howard Dean rightly pushed the 50 State Strategy. we need to have follow through. look for the good in the South and build on it.

          • ratfood says:

            As I commented to one of Eli’s recent posts, if during the next few years (and after) the Obama presidency is viewed favorably, it will be easy for the Democratic Party to expand it’s influence in ALL parts of the country. In any event, I hope Dean’s successor continues the 50-state strategy.

      • ratfood says:

        I’m certain the reaction of people wasn’t unanimous in any part of the country. I am also aware that the South sometimes receives unfair criticism. Unfair because (a) every state and/or region contains many good and tolerant people and (b) no state or region is exempt from ignorance and bigotry.

  52. SouthernDragon says:

    I guess I should expand my earlier comment.

    In the shock that followed they forgot I was down in the pump room so when I came up for chow the crew had been knocked off for the day and all but the duty section had already left the ship. After lunch it was back to painting. After finishing I went into San Diego, changed into civvies at the Seven Seas Locker Club and went into the lounge and watched TV with everybody else. Normally loud and boisterous all the sailors were quiet, just watching the tube. Ships didn’t have TV in those days.

  53. AdAstra says:

    Seventh grade art class on third floor of John Marshall Junior High in Wichita, Kansas. The sun still streamed in the windows through the newly bare branches of the high trees surrounding the school. Our pretty, young teacher was in tears and left to go seek comfort in the hall from other teachers. The silence deepened and deepened.

    All my life, I’ve heard how those of us who were “baby boomers” had it all, were spoiled, self-centered. We were spared the Depression and fathers gone to war. Yet, some of us grew up relatively poor (but neat and clean and fed out of our own gardens). Some of my coming of age memories were of watching the civil rights marches on tv, the assassinations, being in the school building as it was attacked by a mob after the King assassination. Then the Vietnam fiasco. How could that not affect our world view?

    It reminds me of what my daughter said in retrospect about 9/11. (She was 17 at the time of the attack`.) She said,”I’m not naive. I know that people have suffered from terror attacks all around the world. Why would the US immune? What scared me was the response of the “adults” in the US. Go shop? Attack Iraq? I realized that the adults in charge weren’t wise, and that was scarier than the attack itself.”

    For some of pre-teens and teens during the time of the assassinations, that knowledge came at an especially early time, countering the impression of “Donna Reed Show,” “Father Knows Best,” and yes, even Walter Cronkite.

  54. CarolynU says:

    I was a few years younger than you Bmaz – four years old and at home with my mother. The TV must have been on in the den after lunch, because the news broke in and I remember my mother’s shock. I remember seeing Walter Kronkite weeping and that was extremely unsettling. My mother called my father and wept over the phone. My brothers and sisters came home from school early and everyone was shaken up, disbelieving.

    At four I was particularly interested in the President’s funeral – the black horses, the backwards stirrups and boots. Because I share a name with Caroline Kennedy, I felt connected to her and her brother and watched them at the funeral procession. I remember John-john saluting his father’s coffin.

    Any reminder of that time strikes me viscerally – immediately filling me with grief and dread. To be told at four that the President was dead was like being told God was dead. Horrifying, unimaginable. And the reactions of adults scary. I couldn’t make any sense of it, but it left a deep impression on me.

      • eCAHNomics says:

        I’ll never forget the first time I had a research assistant who had been born after the Kennedy assassination. It was around 1987. And to add to the shock, his father was younger than I was.

        • californiarealitycheck says:

          it was around this time that i started to be interested in politics. my family lived in arlington, va. gov’t jobs. couldn’t figure out why people would want to kill over political beliefs. as i said texas cadets were ready to party. bizzare.

    • Moon says:

      The fact that you weren’t born yet when President Kennedy died and some of the rest of us were well on our way towards adulthood, shows what a large and great “neighborhood” Firedoglake has become.

    • Sara says:

      “Am I the only one that wasn’t born yet?”

      You may well be — but to actually have memory of JFK and the Assassination, you probably need to be fifty, or nearly fifty.

      I don’t know, but I may be the only one here who can remember the death of Franklin Roosevelt. I was nearly finished with 2nd grade. In April of 1945 we were very used to breaking news on the Radio, as Germany was being quickly overrun, and they announced all the cities taken, and sometimes the Army Unit responsible. We kept the radio on full time listening for word of our next door neighbor, who was First Division, 16th Infantry, 2nd Battalion, who was on a little trip from a beach in Normandy to the border of Czechoslovakia. We had a Newspaper pull-out map of Germany by the kitchen radio, and as towns were named, and associated with outfits, we circled them, and noted the outfit — as everyone knew someone in one or another Army outfit.

      I was sitting at the kitchen table peeling potatoes, (just learning the skill) when they broke in and my mom grabbed the map so as to take down numbers of units — but it wasn’t about units, it was a spare announcement about FDR’s death. My mom just broke down completely, First she sat on the floor, then she buried her head in her arms at the table. Then the radio went to funeral music — I suppose to figure out what else to say and present — and then for the rest of the evening it was FDR commentary mixed in with considerable news about overrunning Germany. We lived in an industrial city where everything was dedicated to war work, and about an hour or so into it all the Union President and someone from the Rubber Factories came on and said there would be no day off because the President died — Everyone should report for their shift, there was still a war to win.

      That was what was so different with JFK’s Assassination in 1963, everyone took four days off and watched the Funeral on TV, and shared in the grief, but with FDR’s death it was just take a few minutes and lower the flag, and get back to tire building. (In my Dad’s case, auditing the accounts of the Rubber Companies for the War Department.) The Rubber Workers Union had a memorial service for FDR on a baseball field near the Goodyear, but they did it in shifts, three identical services, after shift change. Those services were mobbed — not a dry eye on the field. Those Union Workers knew just exactly what they owed to FDR — and the Wagner Labor Act. And yes, my Mom and I took the bus down to one of the Union Memorials. And while there were various church services when JFK died, I remember virtually nothing like those simple civic memorials that were just mobbed with grief stricken sweaty workers and citizens. By 1963, TV had atomized us — we stayed home and grieved with the tube.

      Anyhow — I remember both FDR and JFK.

    • pdaly says:

      When I was in first grade, I recall gathering in front of the black & white TV set with my class to watch the Apollo 17 mission. (We also correctly picked Nixon in the straw poll for the November election-even in liberal Massachusetts).

      I remember watching the three parachutes deploy as the astronauts touched down to earth in the ocean. By that time moon landings, once one of Pres. Kennedy’s forward looking goals, were routine and had run their course. No moon landings have occurred since Apollo 17, so my generation grew up knowing moon landings are possible and are surprised not by that feat but by the fact that moon landings have ceased.

      It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, however, that I fully realized Kennedy’s assassination was not always a foregone conclusion. It occurred while I was attending a college Catholic Student spaghetti dinner. Hanging on the wall next to me were framed photos of past student presidents of the Catholic Student Association. Just as I was thinking to myself, “the photo of that kid looks like JFK,” I read the name under the photo: “John Kennedy.”

      Wow! I had not known Kennedy was once the Catholic Student Association President. Now it made sense.
      First Catholic US President. He used to be a college student, and then someone shot him.

      It wasn’t until I saw Kennedy was once a kid like me that I fully saw his life before Dallas and experienced the shock of his unnatural death. His young photo was proof to me that he was once a living, breathing human being whose future was not yet known.

  55. Peeledonion says:

    7th grade. I was home recovering from surgery two days before. I was bored out of my skull and playing with my parents tape recorder, just recording stuff off the radio. As I was recording something off of KABC the first bulletins came on. For some reason, I was so shocked I just let the tape roll. And when the tape rolled out I grabbed another roll and then another, getting the first couple of hours of shock, bulletins and numbness the country was suddenly plunged into.

    From that moment on, I realized that capturing things for posterity would be important. And from that moment on I started my archive. In the ensuing 45 years I have kept the recorder rolling – going from reel to cassette to DAT to CD. Grabbing the past and keeping up with the present.

    Sometimes tragedy can be a catalyst for the bigger picture in life. It’s also a way of never forgetting where you came from.

  56. fahrender says:

    i was standing on the auditorium stage at Springfield High School (Tennessee). Johnny Washburn, a skinny trombone player with glasses and braces came in from the lunch room to tell me. we played the Bach little g minor prelude and fugue that afternoon. i went home and held my two month old son. i knew the world had changed, i just didn’t know how much.

    • eCAHNomics says:

      Very nice response by you and your friend.

      I have a Q, though. How did he play the trompone while wearing braces, the 1963 variety? As I recall them, they would have cut up the inside of his lips.

      • fahrender says:

        he wasn’t my friend, he was my student! kids were determined to play instruments. as i remember, he was able to cover the braces with a kind of wax, and trombone mouthpieces are sometimes big enough that they aren’t quite the problem as a trumpet mouthpiece would be.

        • eCAHNomics says:

          Yes, I realized it was a student-teacher relation when I reread your comment after I typed mine. Sorry for the orignial inaccuracy. Your answer is interesting. I never heard of anything like that. Learn something new every day! Thanks.

  57. hackworth says:

    I was three years old. I remember my mother telling me what had happened. She was upset – emotional and a bit irrational. She was crying. It is one of my earliest memories. I remember the little boy and comparing myself to him.

  58. Moon says:

    I was in Mr. Fishleders 10th grade, 4th period biology class at West Phoenix High School, Phoenix, Az, when the news that the President had been shot came over the school intercom. I too was watching television when Oswald was shot.

    • bmaz says:

      Hey!!! I knew West well. Went to see Hub Cap and the Wheels there in the auditorium a few years after the assassination. Wow. Glad to see you here.

      • Moon says:

        Glad to hear from someone who has heard of Hub Cap. “Work, Work a dirty word…..” Number one hit in Phoenix. Mike Condello was good friend. We miss him alot. I guess Pat McMann and Wallace (Bill Thompson) are still around.

  59. Elliott says:

    wow, what a wonderful and inspirational post, bmaz,
    and you sure elicited a tearful lot of memories, thank goodness for the tension break of mommybrain’s

    Mrs Vest (whom we unaccountably called Vester Vanschnincklebutt)

    this one is bookmarked, a real keeper through and through. Thank you, sir.

  60. ratfood says:

    I was just reading about John Connally. In addition to other offices held, he was Treasury Secretary under Nixon from February 11, 1971 until June 12, 1972 but didn’t change his party affiliation to Republican until 1973… Interesting.

  61. RiderOnTheStorm says:

    I was also in a first grade class, in a Catholic school in Missouri. Someone came to the door of the classroom and beckoned the teacher to step into the hall; when she returned, she very quietly told us to get up and follow her to the gym. When everyone from all the classes had assembled, the principal announced the news to us — I don’t think the teachers had been told until that moment, as several of them gasped or burst into tears.

    We were sent back to our classrooms to gather up our belongings, and then dismissed for the day. As I walked home, I remember seeing students from the nearby public school on their way as well — odd, because usually our differing schedules meant we’d be home before they were dismissed. All of the loud talking and teasing and running that was normally part of the afternoon’s mental release from the schoolday was absent — what talking there was, was subdued. Everyone just mechanically took their steps homeward, not sure what was going to happen once they got there.

    The endless commentary on TV — I think we had Cronkite on — is a blur to me now. But I remember that my dad got home from work at his regular time, and we ate dinner, then sat down to watch. And I remember that at one point, later in the evening, I saw my dad with tears silently running down his face. I’d never seen him do that before, nor did I see him do that again until 40 years later when my mom died.

    I started reading the newspaper every day after that — had dabbled with it before, but this was the catalyst for making it a habit. As the years went by, I began to pay more and more attention to news, to politics, to economics, to civil rights, as it dawned on me that I was connected to all these events.

    Whenever I think about this, I wonder how our lives would be different today if he’d lived. It seems, in some ways, so odd that one person can stand at the pivot point of a country (and perhaps to some extent, the world) and that their single life can matter so much to so many.

    I’ve been waiting a lifetime for another person capable of defining the moment to come along. Perhaps one has — I hope so, as I worked hard to help get him to a position where he could. Now we shall see.

  62. wiggen says:

    I was home sick from (of) 7th grade in the L.A. area that day. I remember Hollywood Squares was on the tube when they broke in to say shots rang out, and the president’s limo was racing to Parkland Memorial Hospital. I wasn’t sure if I should wake up my brother who was sleeping after working the graveyard shift the night before. Eventually when it was announced JFK had died, I decided my brother should know.

    I remember watching Lee Harvey Oswald get shot, live.

    I remember seeing the pictures of LBJ’s swearing in on Air Force One. Judge Sarah Hughes administered the oath and Jackie Kennedy was at the new President’s side.

    I remember all TV stations (L.A. had 7 channels back then) were devoted non-stop to coverage until after the funeral. We tried to go to a movie on Sunday night, I remember, but the drive-in theater was completely sold out.

    I remember the stigma attached to Dallas, Texas after that. For years, in my mind, every time I heard the city of Dallas mentioned, my thoughts turned to November 22, 1963. It was the same for every person I knew.

    • bmaz says:

      Yeah. Dallas. As I said earlier, we used to go back to Kentucky every summer when I was a kid to visit my grandparents. Would Always fly American Airlines out of Phoenix; always had to stop and change planes (or at least stop anyway; usually had to change as I recall) in Dallas. Love Field. Always creeped me out and I would start thinking about it as the pilot would announce our pending arrival and I would look aout the window and see that lake….

  63. shell says:

    I was in 5th grade, I guess. Anyway, I was 10 years old. The two things I remember most was sitting at home, for hours, watching the TV the whole weekend. It was a Friday. (And these were the days when the TV went off at midnight — but not then — it was on 24 hours straight. And we only had 3 channels — and all had the same thing on.) Then watching Lee Harvey Oswald being arrested, and then killed, too. What a horrid weekend.

    The second thing I remember was someone in my class, saying the next day, “My mother said this is no big deal — she voted for Nixon anyway.” I recall the whole class gasping at once. It was shocking.

    It took a LONG time to get back to normal.

  64. tinyteacher says:

    I was a freshman in college, just returning home for the Thanksgiving holiday. When I was told the President had been shot, I thought it was the beginning of a tasteless joke. Alas, it was the end of my childhood. I realized that the world could be a cold and callous place and I no longer felt that there was security in the world.

    I remember crying for most of the following days as we watched TV. I remember Walter Cronkite. It’s a shame that there are no more newspeople of his integrity and character on TV. It’s also a shame that TV news has become so politicized.

    I think the death of JFK and the subsequent deaths of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy changed profoundly the way I saw the world. I lost much of my faith in the sanity of the world.

    The election of Barack Obama has restored some of my faith in the world. Perhaps we CAN be a shining example to the rest of the world. I feel a little seed of hope, long buried, trying to reach for the sun. I’ll try tending it and encouraging it to grow. Maybe there are other tiny seeds out there also trying to grow. Perhaps, all of us together can actually change the world in a positive manner. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful tribute to JFK?

  65. MartyDidier says:

    Gee has it been that long?

    I was in High School Science class when the shocking announcement came in about his assassination. To me he was special and it was a great loss.

    What was even more shocking to me personally was while being in a family for more than 26 years when my brother-in-law told me that their criminal group was responsible for his assassination. Frankly, I didn’t know enough depth about his assassination to determine how I felt. There were other statements made about other things equally as shocking too. Sometime later when more declarations were made with the family’s involvement, more puzzle pieces started to coming together. Not long afterwards I finally had enough time to research deeper meaning from all these strange statements and that’s when history became a favorite subject.

    There is something on the horizon that guarantees to change forever how we all look at our past. For those involved in something “they know what I’m talking about”, the best choice is to get out now or else!

    Marty Didier
    Northbrook, IL

    • RevBev says:

      Are you saying that your Bro-in-law claims to have identified the group responsible? What has been the follow up, details, etc? If that’s true, Im sure the FBI would have wanted to talk to some of those folks. Or is it more wild conspiracy stuff?

      • Sara says:

        “Are you saying that your Bro-in-law claims to have identified the group responsible? What has been the follow up, details, etc? If that’s true, Im sure the FBI would have wanted to talk to some of those folks. Or is it more wild conspiracy stuff?”

        Rev Bev and Marty Didier…

        There is a very good new book on the Kennedy Assassination that came out this year by a fairly well known Historian — teaches at the Naval War College, (and author of “American Tragedy: Kennedy, Johnson and the origins of the War in Vietnam.”) So I would recommend to both of you, “The Road To Dallas: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy” by David Kaiser, published by Bellknap and Harvard University Press. It is just available since last summer in hardback, but I assume it will eventually get a paperback repub.

        Kaiser has worked on this thing for 20 years, revising each time a new trache of papers have been released from the National Archives or the various departments and agencies that had things tucked away. His is not a vast conspiracy theory — but instead a study of the three way relationship among the Cuban anti-Castro World, the Mob or Mafia, and pieces of CIA or CIA related circles in the Rabid Right. Because Kaiser is a professional historian he is not about pointing to a hit man, or making argument for a particular technical theory — he is about getting into the net of relationships from whence the assassination came. As he puts it in the conclusion; “The murder of John F. Kennedy emerged from two overlapping zones of illegality: American Organized Crime, which was defending itself against Robert F. Kennedy’s relentless attack, and the US Government sponsored or tolerated anti-Castro Movements.” What the Road to Dallas does, is simply and finally organize all the paper in the National Archives and elsewhere in such a way that we can understand both zones of illegality — and where Lee Harvey Oswald fit into it.

        And since Kaiser has been using FOIA requests for FBI records for years, and has interviewed many FBI agents — yea, they know pretty much what he knows and writes about throughout the book. So does CIA, as he has drawn from them for many years, beginning with his work on American Tragedy. Beyond the above quote, I cannot summarize — one must slowly read Kaiser’s development of the historical evidence, his evaluation of the work others have done on the subject over the years, and just appreciate how historians do this sort of thing — it is a little less of a pointed claim about a single bit of evidence, much more about an approach to resolving a very complex riddle. And yes, Oswald was the shooter, and Oswald has a long relationship with the New Orleans Mob through his uncle, something that was not developed at all by the Warren Commission, largely because Hoover didn’t believe there was all that much to stories of a mob at the time, and thus he kept what he might have known in FBI files. But Bill Clinton appointed a Federal Judge, Jack Tunheim, to make sure all the files were released to the Archives, and available to researchers, and Kaiser’s book (and I am sure there will be others) is the result.


        • RevBev says:

          Thank you for the suggestions. Reading all these memories reminds me of how long I read the books/articles about the assassination/Camelot, etc. White, Sorenson, Manchester….I really think I was driven to read in the pursuit that there could be a different ending. The world shifted in an instant.

        • MartyDidier says:

          Sara November 22nd, 2008 at 3:06 pm & RevBev @ 166…

          Sara, thanks for the added information. I always appreciate any input.

          RevBev, thanks for you comment. I’m not an authority on JFK’s assassination. However what I do know is what the family explained to the family members while I was with them for more than 26 years. No doubt anyone married in a close nit family for a long time would learn more than they wished to learn about their lives. In this case, it turned out to be something that continues to give me many “Oh My God” days.

          My continued reference to being in this family may make many wonder, but as time ticks by what they are, is steadily surfacing in the news. The unfortunate part is as being CIA Assets, they are protected. There’s evidence showing the results of this protection in the news only if you know what to look for. One area is most obvious but still most aren’t able to understand. Unfortunately most don’t have a clue but they are starting to catch on. Along with this are blocks being used to halt anyone from researching anything deeply. On this note, I’ve been posting parts of my story for a long time, some has been scrubbed out and some remain. The news now is starting to sound in concert with what I’ve been saying so eventually everything is going to click.

          I can understand the concern for those run of the mill conspiracy stories but sadly this isn’t the case for me. And again, to even discuss this would be another long post and one I’m not willing to engage in at this time. So everyone is spared the pain.

          What the family told me about JFK was explained in my post in brief. They also told me that one of the main reasons for his assassination was because he was working towards getting rid of the Federal Reserve. Shortly after his assassination, the Bill he wrote was thrown out. Plus with what I know, there are other larger explanations to explain what is happening. I would expect more of this to surface in the news in the near future. Expect changes towards the truth with what has been understood to be our history, but this will take time.

          Marty Didier
          Northbrook, IL

          • Sara says:

            “I can understand the concern for those run of the mill conspiracy stories but sadly this isn’t the case for me. And again, to even discuss this would be another long post and one I’m not willing to engage in at this time. So everyone is spared the pain.

            What the family told me about JFK was explained in my post in brief. They also told me that one of the main reasons for his assassination was because he was working towards getting rid of the Federal Reserve. Shortly after his assassination, the Bill he wrote was thrown out. Plus with what I know, there are other larger explanations to explain what is happening. I would expect more of this to surface in the news in the near future. Expect changes towards the truth with what has been understood to be our history, but this will take time.”

            Marty Didier
            Northbrook, IL

            Marty — it is really important to distinguish “good” history from conspiracy theory — understand where they overlap a bit, and where they are very different. In the case of David Kaiser’s recent book, “The Road to Dallas” what he has done is simply apply the methods of Historical research to the topic — use the contemporaneous and in a limited way, subsequent documentary evidence, piece it together as one would a jig-saw puzzle, examine very closely the fit between pieces, and tell the story that seems to contain all the reliable documentary evidence, and discount the pieces that don’t fit.

            With regard to the Kennedy Assassination, we absolutely have to do this, because over the years a great deal of dissinformation has been pushed into the case — not only by people protecting themselves, but by many who wanted to make money off the carcuss. We also have many well meaning people who pushed versions of the story, but made serious errors. In no way am I saying Kaiser is the last word on this — hardly, it is simply he is really the first true classic historian to spend more than 20 years on the subject, with the same methods he used to discover the flaws in the early Vietnam Policy — and before that, with studies of the diplomacy of King Phillip II of Spain.

            So what did I learn from his book. First of all, the involvement of the mob in aspects of Cuban Policy was not Kennedy’s responsibility at all — it was Eisenhower’s, and the networks that existed in the late 50’s and early 60’s were created by OSS during World War II, networks of which Allen Dulles was very much aware. Dulles of course headed CIA in Eisenhower’s day — but in the first year of Kennedy’s Administration, and Dulles brought to the table long experience of working with the mob. He had used it in Italy during the period from the initial invasion in 1943 until the war’s end, It was an intelligence asset, it organized behind the lines efforts in Italy against the Germans, and above all, it was anti-Communist and could work in parallel with the Catholic Church. Dulles had just kept this network — this set of relations — alive in the post war era, after all he owed, and he continued to use it in the early days of the Cold War. All this information, in detail, is in now open CIA and OSS documents. You can read not only this, but all FBI investigative files on the key individuals, and yes, eventually court transcripts in trials of individuals — and if you work as a good historian, eventually you have a decent picture of who worked with whom in what line of ‘business’, what were the lines of loyality over time, What is the hierarchy? Kaiser pretty much establishes that during the Eisenhower Era, the mob could use Cuba as a place to do business, and authorities would look the other way, as a kind of reward for services rendered, while at the sametime new requests for services came from those in CIA, mostly old OSS types. Cuba was, of course something of a mess, and in addition to Castro, there were other reform and coup planning groups in the 50’s — and the mob infiltrated all of them, in both their own business interests and at the beheast of CIA. In fact Kaiser has tracked a number of arms deals that delivered US assets to Castro between 56 and 59 that were executed probably with CIA knowledge by those involved with mob business interests.

            OK — then between 56 and 60 you have both Kennedy Brothers, John in the Senate, and Robert as Counsel or Chief Counsel to Senate investigations of the mob, laying the groundwork for a major DoJ investigation of US based mob business activity, something that only grew in intensity after Robert became Attorney General. In essence you have a Kennedy Administration that inherits a CIA that does business with the mob, and a Kennedy Administration that sets up the Justice Department to crusade for a take-down of the mob. And many of DoJ’s targets are one in the same with the CIA’s contacts. (We want you to use your assets to take out Castro, but in the meantime we plan to indict you on charges that can send you up for life to the Big House.) As Kaiser puts document after document on the table telling this story, you begin to gradually realize this is not really a conspiracy of any sort of classical nature (people planning and then taking action to further the plan) — it is incoherent policy.

            Of course in all this there is the small conspiracy, who gives an order to take JFK down, who may have known a piece of the plan, passed along an approval, — but that is all small potatoes to knowing why.

            • MartyDidier says:

              Sa[email protected], again thanks for the reply….

              I’m running out of time today and will try to reply tomorrow. What I have to tell you will be considered important for many reasons….

              Marty Didier
              Northbrook, IL

  66. shell says:

    One more thing — the sound. From the next Monday. The funeral procession. Those drums. I can still hear them. Hard to believe, quiet at a “parade” in D.C. But it’s true. You SAW hundreds of thousands of people, watching, but didn’t hear a sound — except for that cadence.

    If I hear that sound — even to this day — it makes me think of that.

  67. Knut says:

    This is a long thread. I was 23 and working at the Peace Corps in Washington. We were a small office running the PCV’s all over the world, one of the President’s favorite babites. Sargent Shriver welcomed me on board, though Bill Moyers was effectively running the place at that time. I was desk officer for East Africa. The day Kennedy was killed I was heading out with another person to do some recruiting at the University of Texas in Austin. On Saturday we were to be taken to Lyndon Johnson’s ranch to spend the night with the presidential party. I had just called my taxi for the airport when the news came in. I was living just east of the Capitol on South Carolina SE with a high school friend who was working his way through GW as an elevator operator in the Senate building. We could see the lines for Kennedy’s bier from the front window. They stretched all the way back to the river, where RFK stadium now stands. Sad days.

    • Mauimom says:

      I was living just east of the Capitol on South Carolina SE with a high school friend

      A few years later [1969-1972], I lived @ 1005 S. Carolina SE.

  68. Patricia says:

    I was a senior in Harrison, AR, and had just gotten home to my boarding house and settled in front of the TV. The Presidential motorcade was the only thing on and it all rolled out in real time. I was by myself and could not believe what I was seeing. I called my Mother long distance in Washington state in the middle of the day. (way too expensive for us at that time) I was crying and she did her best to calm me while trying to find out what had happened. She had not heard the news yet.
    It shook my world hard, and subsequent events did nothing to firm it up.
    As so many have commented, one very seldom forgets these earthshakers.

  69. Linkmeister says:

    I wrote about that day a while back:

    40 years ago today I was a 13-year old 8th grader at Edgar Allen Poe Intermediate in Alexandria, Va. It was an ordinary school day until about 2:20 in the afternoon, when we were changing classrooms, and suddenly a rumor was flying that the President had been shot. That was confirmed about 10 minutes later, and we were sent home early. I got home to find my mother in shock (Dad was in Antarctica), and we spent the remainder of the weekend, as did so many other Americans, glued to the TV screen. We were in disbelief, of course; “this doesn’t happen in America,” we thought. Of course, it had happened before, as we all quickly learned. That weekend I learned more about McKinley, Garfield, Harrison and other Presidential deaths in office than I’d ever learned before. I was fortunate enough to wangle a ride to Arlington Cemetery on that Monday, the 25th, where I stood about 500-1000 yards from the gravesite, along with many many other people. Neither Mom nor I have any memory of who I got a ride with, why she felt it was OK for me to go, or any other details. I just remember standing there among all those people, trying to make sense of it.

    It still doesn’t make a lot of sense, all these years later.

  70. shell says:

    I agree with foothillsmike. It is true that no part of the country is “perfect” — there are good and bad everywhere. BUT certain areas are very different.

    You can’t say you are the BEST at one thing, then claim the rest of the country is wrong to call you out on bigotry.

  71. Marion in Savannah says:

    Coming here late. I came back from lunch, as an Executive Page at the Federal Reserve Bank in NYC, when John the security guard told us the President had been shot. We told him it wasn’t a funny joke… I was the Page for Pres. Alfred Hayes, and remember being sobered by the sight of two military officers in full regalia coming down the long hall to his office. It turned out they were old friends of his who just happened to be in town that day, but it did give me a turn…

  72. kala says:

    i had barely begun my morning in Mrs Yamamoto’s 1st grade class at Aliamanu Elementary School, near Pearl Harbor. Mom walked up to the school to get both my older brother and i as the administration closed our school for the day. i remember we went home and mom had the tv on constantly for the next several days trying to learn everything possible. we felt so far away, yet never once immune or isolated from the horrific sense of grief. at the time, my dad worked at PACOM and i remember he wasn’t allowed to come home for a while.

  73. foothillsmike says:

    We have very recently seen a situation refered to as the Geena (sp) 5. Would this have happened the way it did in other areas? I realize that there are incidents all over but the acceptance of the community is what I am awkwardly refering to.

  74. LabDancer says:

    Mine’s an almost identical story to that of Teddy Partridge.

    We were all military and defense brats, a lot of bright ones, back at our desks from lunch break, wondering why our teacher was so long.

    I was looking out the left side windows at the air raid siren tower, wondering why it hadn’t gone off like always, as it had every school day for the last four years, in the daily reminder of our need to be on constant alert to peril – so I missed her entering the room. When I turned back she was standing in front of her desk, which she never did, and closer to us as a group than her custom, tears and mascara streaming down her cheeks, struggling to hold herself together and get some words out. Some children through the room started joining her in crying before any of us heard what was going on, it was so plainly catastrophic. All she got out was: “The President… Presid… President Kenney was shot … please …please go home now.”

    A number of the children lept up ran out wailing, though I’m sure many were reacting less to the news than the emotion; I think it must have struck some as the ‘moment’ we were all of us always and continually being warned of through the Cold War, and none the less so since the Cuban Missile Crisis. I just sat there, maybe not wanting to get caught up in the crush at the door, maybe to grab onto the moment, but I think more because I was trying to get a fix on what had just happened.

    I’m not sure for how long that was, but by the time I got up and out of the building, there were no kids to be seen in the yard, which was very odd, or any boys on the ball field, which I’d just never seen, except in some the very worse weather, and the air was still and not cold at all. Cars with parents were screaming up and the parents yelling out, maybe to me, some of them to me for sure: Where’s Greg? Have you seen Russell; is he still inside? Dianne? Dianne? It’s Dad!

    My choice of first words wasn’t helpful: They’re gone… I mean, the teacher said everyone go home, so they went home.

    When I got home, there was no one there; just a note from my mother to my father, letting him know she’d taken all my younger siblings with her over to her friends house a few blocks away and to wait there for me and join them. I went right to our new TV, moved the rabbit ears around to get Mr Cronkhite to settle down, and except for sleeping during the hours when there was nothing on but the test pattern, I didn’t sat stop watching until it was time to leave for school the next Monday morning.

    I don’t remember my father coming in; I’m sure when he did he heard from my voice I wasn’t going to budge from that TV; years later he confirmed as much. When my mother returned with the other kids in tow, my parents talked in another room and out of that none of the other kids were let into the TV room for their cartoon and puppet shows, and I was left right where I was, listening and re-listening to the reports and updates and re-hashes from Mr Cronkhite and his reporters, with my father sometimes sitting behind me as the TV day ended and the test pattern came on, my mother bringing me cereal and juice, milk and sandwiches.

    When the uniformed police and detectives finally brought Lee Harvey Oswald into the press melee, I was ready, holding my breathing, waiting for one of Mr Cronkhite’s reporters to ask him what happened, if he did it, and why, and for him to deny, or explain, or confess – – I was totally prepared for self-serving lies, craziness, even a false confession, it didn’t matter; just let’s hear him talk and we can find out and make sense of all this.

    When the short fat figure with the fedora who turned out to be Jack Ruby muscled through the crowd and shot him, I immediately felt – sick. This is cheating! I’ve never forgiven Ruby for that. He took away my right to find out what happened, if Oswald really did it, how, why. I’m not into the conspiracy theories; I just wanted all the facts and I wanted the statement of every one involved, every eye-witness. I stopped reading kids books, and stopped going to Sunday School, and set about to read everything I could get my hands on, on anything and everything to do with current affairs, here and everywhere. I have no doubt from that moment on it was inevitable I’d go to law school; it surely would help get out the facts.

    bmaz – You know what I particularly like about your choice of youtube link? It has a number of other videos: a compendium of JFK press conferences, those gems of poise, sophistication and expertly timed understated, wildly appropriate humor; yes, MLK’s “I have a dream”, but also his “I’m not worried” speech before he was murdered. And there’s a long video of Obama in MLK’s church on January 20, 2008 – a greatly satisfying ending, for being a perfect fit back in time, not just to MLK, but JFK, via Teddy at the DNC this year:

    “And the dream will never die”.

    Eyes wide open at 12, for days, and no tears at all, lest they get in the way of my readiness to act – and now 45 years later, they’re full of tears, and I’m finding myself struggling to get the words out.


  75. fahrender says:

    the South had all of those years of legal slavery, was defeated in the Civil War and then all of the years of Jim Crow (with the tacit approval of the Federal Government), the KKK, and terrorizing African Americans. Fifty years ago when i was in college schools and churches were dynamited, black students were holding sit-ins at Kresses’ lunch counters in Nashville. Legislation can do only so much. Changing a culture is a long, slow process. When the Republican Party is providing propaganda and Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly are rallying the bigots, bigotry will continue to enjoy it’s endorsement. Like some here have said, it’s best to keep in mind that racism and narrow mindedness needs to be confronted every where.

    • foothillsmike says:

      You are right that progress has been made and hopefully with an Obama presidency there will be significant progress in the coming years.

  76. freepatriot says:

    I was 13 months old, so I got no memories of that day. but I suspect that it had a direct affect on my life. I spent my formative years around liberals and college students and professors (basically a pack of hippies and liberal elitists) my parents were not hippies, but the people they socialized with had children who were

    the older people I was surrounded by were more concerned with the deaths of Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendricks that they were about the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin L King jr

    Altamont and Woodstock are the first sentinel events in my life

    my first “where were you when” moment was ronnie raygun getting shot (unless the Colts – Cowboys Superbowl counts)

    and there are two whole generations after mine that got no clue about what we had no clue about …

    just thought we should keep that in mind

  77. PJEvans says:

    8th grade, home room. We were going to watch a film strip (or a movie) but the bulb was dead. Chip W went to the office for a new bulb, and came back and told us what he’d heard from a kid who’d been sent there for something-or-other. The kid’s rep was for lying, so we didn’t really believe it until the vice principal came in – during the film, so not much later – and the teacher said we’d already heard it.
    That was the quietest lunchtime cafeteria full of junior-high kids I’ve ever seen.

  78. james says:

    8th grade, Sr. Veronica’s class. I laughed a nervous laugh when the announcement was made and received a well placed slap in the back of the head.

    I’m one of those people who has read almost every book that has come out on this event, some of which have appreciated in value greatly since I bought them because this is a subject that, when the truth is too clearly spoken, the material becomes difficult to either find or afford.

    There are so many things that are always running through my mind when this subject comes up most of them centered on trying to nail down a proven link between the Bush family and this murder.

    There are two people who I’ve heard cannot remember where they were when this happened. One of them was E. Howard Hunt who claimed he was at home watching TV to which both his kids responded, Bullshit you weren’t even home for that whole week and George H. W. Bush who isn’t really sure where he was during the day except he was supposed to be at some sort of celebratory dinner at Nelson Bunker Hunt’s house that evening.

    I don’t care what anyone says, like Ted Kennedy alluded to a few years ago, this was a plot hatched in Texas, involving Texans in all aspects of the operation whether it was changing the motorcade route or pulling the motorcycle escort back from the side of the car or allowing the Secret Service to remove the body in violation of local laws.

    One thing that always stayed with me though is that the guy who was riding in the car with him, John Connally, later went on to work in a very big role in the Nixon administration. Guilt by association.

    Even Nixon knew who was responsible for this monstrous deed and he threatened to expose the whole thing if Helms didn’t lean on J. Edgar Hoover and get him to manipulate the Watergate investigation.

    Two ships used in the Bay of Pigs invasion were formerly owned by Bush Senior, the Zapata and the Barbara J. He was intimately tied to that fiasco but has been able to sanitize the records so there is no paper trail. He did, however, forget to scrub the files of his CIA recruiter and and handler, Thomas Devine, which show Bush being employed by the agency as early as 1953, the year before the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala.

    Kennedy’s dad was always referred to as a class traitor by Prescott Bush, the Nazi financier and participant in the 1933 plot to overthrow FDR.

    And finally, there’s the involvement of Bush pere with the Carlyle Group. The original name for the group of men who were tasked with the invasion of the Bay of Pigs was supposed to be the Carlyle Brigade in honor of Carlos Santana, the first member of the group who died in the cause of Cuban freedom. Instead it was named Brigade 2506.

    Bush family fingerprints are all over every single disaster suffered by this country since 1963 and this little shit will walk away unscathed from his assault on our values, our constitution, and our reputation in the world.

    There’s a special section of hell reserved for the entire Bush family.

  79. Philo says:

    Was sitting in my 4th grade class.
    The principal was on the intercom telling us what had happened.
    Told us to go home.
    I went home on my bike.
    Saw my neighbor, Dorcas Johnson, working in her garden.
    She asked my what I was doing home.
    Told her what happened. She didn’t believe me, but went inside.
    My dad was home sick from work that day.
    He already knew.
    Was watching TV alone on Sunday, two days later, and saw Oswald get shot by Ruby.
    First time someone shot and killed on live TV, I think.
    Told my parents. I don’t think they believed me at first.
    On Monday, back at school, we watched the funeral procession on TV in the school library.

    Indelible memories.

    Thanks, bmaz, for reminding us.

  80. Leen says:

    4th grade Holy Family Catholic School sitting at my desk when Sister MaryAnne announced what had happened. It seemed as if every kid in the classroom was balling their eyes out. I think they let us go home everyone in the grade school seemed hysterical.

    It was an endless flow of tears for weeks for John Kennedy, his family and our nation.

    What a period of tragedy. John Kennedy 63, Malcolm X/65, Martin Luther King/68, Bobby Kennedy/68. No one can tell me that there was not some folks really unhappy about the direction these folks were taking our country.

    Can never really figure out why there did not seem to be more of an in depth investigation into Jack Ruby? Remember how Oswald kept repeating he was a “patsy”?

  81. DeeLo says:

    Third grade. My teacher got a call from the office, and I was chosen to go to the office and pick up a message. My teacher pulled me aside and told me not to listen to rumors if I heard any any in the hall. When I returned, my teacher announced to the class that the President had been shot and killed. As we were on the east coast in NY school let out soon after and my mother picked me up. I had a dentist appointment that afternoon and said that I couldn’t possibly go considering the circumstances. My mother said that on the news they had asked everyone to continue their normal routines.

    That weekend, during the funeral, my father suffered a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. My last memory of him was sitting in a chair in the living room complaining that he couldn’t breathe. On TV was the casket being carried on a caisson, followed by the riderless horse, boots turned backward in the stirrups; I cannot see or even think of that image to this day without choking up.

    My father died in the hospital 5 days later, I never saw him alive again. The whole country, the whole world was in mourning… it seemed as if I had lost two fathers, it seemed as if the whole world was mourning my father.

  82. njr83 says:

    A calculus class at UCDavis, no official announcement but buzzed person to person
    Class was dismissed, everyone went for bikes and headed for a television set… dorms, bars, appartments
    I remember lots of tears.

    • jrberg says:

      So now we have Cal, Stanford, and UC Davis represented in this thread. My first perception of UC Davis during the 60’s was when they blocked the weapons train heading for Port Chicago. Memories, memories. For what it’s worth, I now work at UCD.

  83. Petro says:

    I too was in the first grade, got the loudspeaker announcement from our principal, and were sent home for the day. My Irish-Catholic mother was in tears, and I was hooked on – nay, transfixed by – current events, politics and policy from that day forward…

  84. rdwdkw says:

    Sixth grade, my twin brother came into my class and told my teacher that Kennedy had been shot and killed. The teacher gave him a hard time about it not knowing in fact it was true.What a sad day.

  85. Mauimom says:

    I was a sophomore at Stanford. It was “Big Game Week,” and the focus was on the bonfire to be held in a couple of days in anticipation of the game with Cal. [We’re certainly all showing our ages here, aren’t we?]

    I was at the Stanford post office getting my mail, and my sort-of-boyfriend came up and gave me the news. I remember getting into his 1960-era blue VW Bug in shock, going back to the dorm, and watching tv. Needless to say, the bonfire and the Big Game were canceled♠.

    I remember little else from that time, except disbelief. I do, however, remember where I was when I heard of Martin’s death [Houston TX visiting my parents’ home; Houston evidenced little sadness at the event] and Bobby Kennedy’s [in LA watching his primary election returns].

    So many sad things for those of us “of age” at that time to recall. Perhaps that’s why we’re as fierce as we are now, but also so easily disappointed.

    • bmaz says:

      Hey MM, there was another person up the thread somewhere (seems closer to the start), either grad student or prof, from Cal that also mentioned The Big Game. We have both sides represented here today. Cool!!

  86. opiejeanne1 says:

    I was in the 8th grade, Sierra Vista Jr High, Baldwin Park, CA, Mr Gutierrez’ classroom. My mother was in the hospital having a biopsy for breast cancer and I was really worried about it. Dad was with her. The news that JFK had been shot came over the intercom and we sat in stunned silence for a few minutes and then both boys and girls were weeping. I didn’t cry then, but did when I got home. The next day some of the kids confronted me about my lack of visible emotion (they knew I was from a Republican family and I was an obnoxious child, precocious, smug, smarter than everyone else, and a prissy Christian), but I had simply been stunned into silence that day. That night I kept praying that he really wasn’t dead.

    The funeral was especially hard to watch.

    Mom had us write condolence letters to Jacqueline Kennedy and her children a few days later.

    The world changed that day, and changed again soon after.

  87. MadameRick says:

    Senior HS English class with Maybelle Spencer. We had that same loudspeaker next to the large clock to which others of “a certain age” have referred. First the principal announced President Kennedy had been shot. He asked us to pray for our President which we did. We were stunned and shocked when minutes later when he came back on the speaker, voice breaking, and announced that President Kennedy was dead. I remember Mrs. Spencer told us to put our heads down on our desks…maybe she didn’t want us to see her cry? The bell rang shortly after and I went on to Chemistry class. Mr. Christianson told us that President Kennedy would want us to continue on with our experiments, and we got out our bunson burners, all of us thinking this was not the thing to do. Then the announcement came to go home. I remember watching the TV, Walter Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley…the sad picture of Jackie Kennedy in her bloodstained pink suit standing next to LBJ as he took the oath of office. The repeated footage of the assassination, and the mysterious Lee Harvey Oswald. I remember the funeral, little John-John and Caroline and how said it seemed for them and all of us. But I also vividly remember having an overnight at my friend Carolyn’s house, and watching on TV the next morning, live, the jail transfer of Oswald in which he was killed by Jack Ruby. At that moment I suspected for the first time that there was a lot more to this than we would ever know. And sadly, that ushered in 45 years of tragic events that gradually tore our country apart. Finally, hopefully, November 4, 2008 signals the first steps on the road back.

  88. TheraP says:


    I was in DC. Freshman in College. It was announced that he’d been shot during a noon assembly (for something else). Someone came around to each classroom in the afternoon to report on his death and the cancellation of classes. I was in philosophy class. A few of us took the bus downtown. There were policemen on every corner. People on the bus were completely silent. We walked over to the Capital Building. Around to the back. And stood there, looking across the Mall, till the sun went down.

    I think no one was able to study. That Sunday afternoon, determined to stand in line and pass before JFK’s coffin, I stood for hours in the cold November. As we were standing in line, someone with a portable TV went nuts! Ruby had just shot Oswald! We all gathered around that tiny TV watching it replay over and over. Then more waiting – for the historic chance to walk in slow silence before the casket.

    TV. TV. TV. Over and and over and over. I think we were stunned. We were kids really. The world had crashed. Or felt like it.

    Went back downtown for the funeral cortege. You couldn’t see as well as on TV – but we had to do it! I recall the drums. The horses. The slow procession. The sense of numbness and emptiness.

    It’s 45 years now. It’s like it was yesterday.

  89. Leen says:

    The other image that keeps popping up for me is when Jackie Kennedy was standing next to LBJ when he was sworn in after JFK’s assassination.
    She had that pink suit on stained with her husbands blood and such an absolute look of shock on her face.

    I now have an upset stomach thinking about that period of time…..-dies.html

  90. pdaly says:

    FYI: Journalist Theodore White interviewed Jackie Kennedy Onassis after the asassination of Pres. Kennedy. He agreed to keep the tapes of their conversation secret until the death of her suviving family.

    Curious to hear what Jacqueline had to say.

  91. pdaly says:

    You’re welcome. I just finished reading the article for the first time tonight. Hadn’t known until tonight White’s notes were already public domain! Thanks for the post to make me look.

  92. Russron says:

    We had just left Washington DC and were in a car on our way to Florida. Each year, we migrated like Ducks from the Adirondacks to Bradenton. As was our routine, we stopped that night at a Motel. The mood was dreary and my Grandparents who I was with, were Republicans–but they were also very upset. Usually, this form of travel meant swimming in a pool each night. But even at 5 years old, I knew better than to ask. The thing that stands out was the mood, as I’d never experienced anything like it. Years later, I went through that exact same feeling with RFK. In the case of MLK, it was different–because the adults treated it different. I remember asking why, but not getting a real answer.

  93. Quzi says:

    I was six, and in 1st grade when it happened. News came over the loud-speaker at our Catholic school that the President had been shot. Not too long after the announcement, the principal let those of us who had a parent at home to go home early.

    My mom was home with my baby brother, my grandparents had come over and everyone was crying. We spent the rest of the day glued to the tv watching either Cronkite or Brinkley updating the news. At six years-old, I knew everything about the day was profound and extraordinary — I knew our world as we knew it had changed forever just from watching the reactions of my family, my community and the news media.

    This was only the beginning of a string of events that would effect us all. I think I was even more affected by RFK and MLK’s assassinations because I was a little older and I began to see it as an end of an era of hope! And I began to believe that people who spoke truth did not always live in our country.

  94. kathyinstlouis1 says:

    I was teaching the third graders in a Catholic grade school the day that JFK was assassinated. I was a very young teacher. All the teachers ended up out in the hallway praying for the President. I can see that day as if it were yesterday. I also remember coming out of church on Sunday, after crying for two straight days, to hear the news that Lee Oswald had been shot in Dallas. I can’t say that I was sorry. Now I wish that they had guarded him better so that we actually knew for sure whether he acted alone or was encouraged to do this heinous act by others.

  95. pdaly says:

    Something to make Kennedy proud, and only tangentially related to today’s post: Harvard beats Yale 10-0.

  96. notasheep says:

    Freshman at Smith. Came out of science building and the campus bells were ringing. Walked toward an African student who was screaming and crying, “They shot Kennedy.”

  97. NMRon says:

    I was home sick from school that day. My new sis-in-law was visiting. Mom and Dad were at work. I was laying on the floor in the living room watching TV and sis was in the kitchen fixing something for lunch. And Walter Cronkite came on and said President Kennedy had been shot. Sis freaked out. She had been an adamant Kennedy supporter, something that took some guts ’cause of the crap she got from my rabid republican family. It was the first ‘breaking news’ type of event that I remember seeing.

    I can still see it in my mind’s eye. Astounding since I usually can’t remember what I had for breakfast.

  98. NMRon says:

    We were at my grandparent’s house two days latter. Watching the coverage of police transferring Oswald when he was shot. I can still hear my Grandad, Dad and brother saying, “holy shit” . . . talk about eyewitness news.

  99. UPPaul says:

    Oh man, 7th grade gym class, in a gloomy old indoor basketball court. The assistant principal came in and announced that Kennedy had been shot and badly injured. Nobody knew what to say or do. We went to our next class, Social Studies, and the AP came around again to say Kennedy was dead. I remember the teacher, a big husky guy who was a veteran of WW II, slumping down in his seat at the news. Some of the girls started crying.
    My family lived in a very liberal college town at the time, and some of us kids started talking about the Birchers or other right-wingers who must have done it. When the news broke about Oswald and his leftist history, we were shocked.

  100. celdd says:

    I was 13 at Torrance High School (think Buffy, Beverly Hills 90210 – the acutal school for the outdoor shots for those TV series plus many other movies etc.).

    I was a freshman, and the Home Ec club had a field trip to the Edison company. We were in an auditorium where they where explaining this marvelous new invention that could cook food extremely fast (a microwave),and were demonstrating how fast muffins could be cooked. We were totaly blown away by this new technology.

    A lady came out on the stage and somberly announced that the President had been shot. We went back to the busses and were taken back to school. There was an assembly on the steps next to the “Senior Square” where good words were said. Then we went home.

    To me, it was at least as equal to or more of an effect than seeing 9/11 events on TV.

  101. mark1147 says:

    I was in 11th grade and in the second year at a K-12 school (all white) in a rural Central Florida town of about 2500 people, having moved from a large city in upstate NY the year before. Our Spanish II teacher, whose accent en español was laden with a heavy So. Georgia drawl, was beckoned by the teacher in the room across the hall and after a few seconds returned to her desk looking drained of all color. With only 10 minutes left in the school day, she continued the lesson and told us nothing.

    At the buses the kids with transistor radios (or those lucky few with cars and radios) spread the word, and by that time it was clear that JFK had died … a few girls were in tears, most of the boys (my younger brother and I among them) were in shock or at least dumbfounded into silence.

    Our mother taught 5th grade at that school and carpooled with other teachers, so only once we all got home did we heard her experience — which she said til her last day was the most trying moment she ever had while in charge of a classroom (and she taught for almost 40 years). The lesson plan for 11/22 included a program on Educational TV at that hour, and the news bulletins about the president broke into the program — an unprecedented event, in her teaching experience. Immediately, half her class erupted into cheers and Rebel yells.

    We moved into the nearest sizable city the next summer.

    • merkwurdiglieber says:

      Many thanks for the link, many memories of that weekend are infused with
      the terrible majesty of this piece.

  102. NealDeesit says:

    I was a junior in Brother Damien’s civics class, St. Joseph’s HS, South Bend, IN. The announcement that the President had been shot came over the PA speaker, and classes were dismissed. Someone gave me a ride downtown where I waited in the gray drizzle for a bus home. When I saw a display window at Robertson’s department store with just a picture of JFK draped in black, I knew he was dead. A young man was selling copies of the South Bend Tribune with a big bold headline and a picture of JFK, the first time I’d ever seen newspapers sold like that, and I thought it was like the movies, but he wasn’t yelling “Extra! Extra!”

    When I was in high school, JFK once came to Indianapolis and, for reasons I don’t recall, my high school band was invited to play “Hail To The Chief” on his arrival. We practiced the song and, in our band uniforms, rode a bus 150 miles to play it at the airport. I took my mother’s Kodak box camera, and as JFK made his way past us shaking hands, I took an out-of-focus but still recognizable picture of him.

    Like so many others, I watched television non-stop for the next few days, fascinated, but also upset that there was nothing else on. When Jack Ruby shot Oswald, I began to think that the assassination was not as simple as it had been described. The following day was my 16th birthday.

      • masaccio says:

        I think this is a random encounter. NeelDeesit would have been a year behind me, and more than likely knew one of my brothers.

        • NealDeesit says:

          Masaccio, when you mentioned “Brother Reginald” at 27, I wondered if perhaps you were a St. Joe Indian, class of ‘64. I was so specific at 216 because I thought that you might respond.

          I don’t know if we knew each other or not in high school. I certainly don’t remember anyone named Masaccio, and my real name is not Neel Deesit. That’s an Anglicization of “nihil dicit,” Latin (thank you, Brother Paschal) for “he says nothing.” If you care to, drop me a note at [email protected].

  103. mgardener says:

    4th grade, Miss Hollister’s class. Catholic school. Our Principal, Sr. James Merriam, did not announce that President Kennedy had been shot at first, but she sent a not around to all the teachers.
    I remember Miss Hollister reading the note, trying not to cry.
    We were working on a collage and I was cutting out mac and cheese to put on it. Then the announcement came over the loud speaker. We were made to get on our knees to pray for President Kennedy and his family.

    Went home and my mother was crying. I thought the world was going to come to an end that day.

  104. TheraP says:

    O/T: Boy, the number of us at a Catholic school that day is just astounding! Does it say something about our education that we came to care about our fellow person? Was it because JFK was catholic too? Or does one just notice something like this due to one’s own background? Things like this fascinate me!

    • masaccio says:

      I noticed that too. The nuns I had talkd all the time about the fact that faith wouldn’t get you into heaven unless it was accompanied by works, meaning that you have to act in the world in the way your faith dictates. This is, as I understand it, contrary to the teaching of fundamentalist religion.

      Of course, the nuns and brothers who were my teachers lived out their beliefs, and set a powerful example.

      • AZ Matt says:

        I had 6 years at St. Joseph’s Elementary School, mainly Irish Sisters. I think the Catholic upbringing is strong about serving others. I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in decades but the lessons seem to have stuck with me.

      • Leen says:

        You can say that again. 12 years of Catholic schools and Sisters of Notre Dame sure grew my conscience, along with a mother who set quite the humanitarian example. Seems to be lots of Catholics or recovering Catholics here at EW’s.

        Read through the stories that I had not read yesterday. Wow

    • AZ Matt says:

      When I served in the Peace Corps back in 1979, in Kenya, better than half of the group of 36 trainees was raised Catholic.

  105. dancinfool says:

    It was a Friday, of course. I was in microbiology lab (sophomore in college) when one of the professors ran in to tell my instructor (and us, of course) what had happened. When I went into the hallway, everyone was crying. They shut down the university later that day.

  106. 2strange says:

    My two brothers and I were the only students who supported Kennedy’s election in the Lutheran school we attended in Madison, Wisconsin. I took allot of harassment from students and teachers during the election, even got into a physical altercation with another girl in my class which led to a broken finger. (which remains distorted and swollen to this day) When the school secretary came into our eight grade class and announced his assassination, everyone was stunned. I broke down and cried, my fellow students were more subdued but were kind to me. That day, and King’s and Bobby’s assassination were radicalizing experiences that shaped my politics for ever.

  107. radiofreewill says:

    I was five, playing hooky from Del Ray Woods Kindergarten in Monterrey, CA, at my favorite Pool Hall. I had just walked in, and sidled up to the bar to order my regular B&T, giving Jimmy the signal to hold my calls, when I decided to check out the talent just beginning to stream-in – guys carrying break-down sticks in cases – on a cool and clammy Friday afternoon.

    Sweeping up my glass and jumping down, I grabbed a couple of ashtrays on the way over to my favorite pin-ball machine – Moon Shot! – the one with a perfect view of the tables. After placing the ashtrays under the two near legs of the machine, I dragged over a chair, and smoothly stepped-up on it while dropping some change in the slot. Then I checked-out the flippers (sometimes they would get weak if I had really thrashed the game the day before) as the machine came alive.

    Then I rocked-back with the shooter and put the ball in play – sliding that machine around on those ashtrays like I was steering a toboggan back home down the side yard slope – I could even reach down and lift-up the machine, ever so slightly with just the right motion, and save a draining.

    I remember it distinctly, I had a half-dozen free games piled-up when the School Truant Officer – all the kids called him Bugeyes – blasted into the joint, all animated like and telling everyone to ‘calm down.’

    I thought I was busted, and so did Jimmy, who had the presence of mind to start wheeling the table-clearing cart over towards me. People were swirling towards Bugeyes and I saw my chance – I bent down and soft walked behind the cart as Jimmy slowly rolled it towards the back door.

    I shoved a five at him, and slipped out into the rain on the way back to school. Later on, I heard about the tragedy, but it didn’t really register with me until many years later…

  108. MartyDidier says:

    Sara, thanks again for the effort made with explaining your point of view. It’s appreciated. After reading your post and considering what I know, it was realized that you actually asked more than a few questions. I guess this is the way it normally is when two people are on to different levels.

    I do agree with you that “we absolutely have to” get to the bottom of this and many other situations. The JFK assassination seems loaded with many more questions that I can count. Confusion tends to keep everyone from seeing reality. Only those with enough knowledge will be able to see through to understand. This typical “relationship” game is employed everywhere and we are given opportunities to hone our discernment skills even at home. But for most, they aren’t given the opportunity to learn and have to work through the jungle hoping to make sense out of nonsense especially when dealing with details.

    From the time spent in this family that I keep talking about, I will tell you that The Mob weren’t the major player although they appeared to be, in the Kennedy assassination. And they aren’t even in today’s world situation that is being played out. They are a player but not the main player. There are others with some being huge in comparison which by the way, is talked about all through history. What existed with the family while I was married and today has been around for eons. Some of our confusion unfortunately exists because of our lack of knowledge. This is in large part being done on purpose because those who know tend to cause trouble to those who have plans to that want to do something large.

    Along with this are those famous yet OLD “relationship” situations or better known as “problems”. Many experienced in the art of divorce know well as therapists tend to use their craft to dig out all of those OLD relationship problems that come along at the right time to break up relationships. In other words, OLD problems never go away although we tend to want to sweep them under a rug. Eventually they come back only than they are bigger and more threatening than before.

    Along this note is we only take action when something rises above our radar. Hence any group that works under our radar can respectably grow until they are above our radar. But as groups grow, they amass power and influence to change even our radar limits. Sometimes we need to go back to basic personal values and re-establish our boundaries. Hence, it’s wise to realize that there are activities that make us accept what we would normally feel as wrong as being right. Eventually too much of anything eventually brings attention to itself even if they work hard at trying to make themselves invisible. Only those with the highest level of greed having the most power will be able to do this. Guess who this is?

    Another glaring point you made was that our landscape is constantly changing. I couldn’t agree with you more and that only complicates someone from trying to make sense out of nonsense. And again, that’s where knowing history helps explain the reality.

    In regards to my post, surely many ask “who is this family he keeps talking about?” This family by the way seemed to fall into a situation after I married that links them directly with a part of the top of our OLD problems and highest power group as mentioned above. It may be helpful to view the World as being pushed around by “power groups”. Looking at this we need a list of which group is the most powerful followed by who is next. Identifying the “power groups” should help you understand what I’m posting. The family is linked in with a very high level of power.

    Regarding the MOB, I’ve personally been invited out for dinner with the family to MOB hosted dinners. It’s an experience to be out for dinner with such colorful personalities such as one who was well known as “The Hook”. He had a reputation for hanging his victims on meat hooks while torturing them to death. Needless to say, I was told after dinner who our host was and that was when I was also glad to be going safely home. There were other dinner with power groups involving families too and one is Rosemont Illinois. The family was invited out hoping they would do business with Rosemont. Although not as colorful as the MOB dinners, there were a similar cast of colorful ones there too.

    The family is linked with Abramoff going back to Gus Boulis’s Casino Boat business for starters. There to was a MOB link as they were approached to become investment partners in his New York Venture. Gus went to the five New York families hoping to gain their protection support with his Casino Boat business concept, but he was turned down. During that time (1996) through the MOB through the family’s connections with “Government People” they were given this option to consider. They really wanted to own part of his Florida Casino Boat business but were turned down by Gus. And by the way, I was asked by the family to visit Gus in Florida in early 1990. I was invited to fly to Florida and spend a week with Gus and their “Government people” often referred to as “The Guys”. Looking back, I feel happy I declined.

    The family and others linked with the family were tracking Gus for years. They believed he was a MONEY GOD and everything he touched turned to Gold. They were totally obsessed with him and needed to learn everything about him. Frankly they did everything possible to learn everything about him. This is again another story. Gus’s murder is at the beginning of the Abramoff story that continues to surface more news along with Indictments.

    A lesser known but needed to surface understanding of the family is linked with “Clyde O’Connor”. Searching on Clyde will surface a link to a fleet of more than 100 planes used for World Wide drug distribution and in partnership with the CIA in Rendition flights and more. There has been more than one investigation involving Clyde. One recent International report says his plane drug bust in Mexico involving his tail number was also identified in CIA Rendition flights. Please realize that the family often bragged about being a CIA Asset. When questioning my brother-in-law with why they aren’t worried about being prosecuted surfaces more of why no one in the US has been pursued. Yet the Mexican Government is aggressively prosecuting everyone there and the families of those being pursued are crying foul! I used to think what the family told me was pure fantasy but it turns out they were telling me the truth.

    Clyde is my ex-sister-in-law’s brother. Her husband is my wife’s oldest brother and Clyde’s money man behind their business venture in Florida. By the way, the setup of the Florida business venture may well have been assembled by Obama in Chicago. The way my brother-in-law explained his concern for being found out explained that someone with high special skills, like Obama’s had been involved at the law firm. The law firm by the way is the same law firm Obama worked at after graduating and the same law firm Rezko, invited Obama to join which Rezko wasn’t an owner. And please accept that my youngest son is involved with Rezko to my dismay.

    I’ve met the O’Connor family and found them to be a good Catholic family, so what happened? My brother-in-law and Clyde’s sister were married in St Joseph’s church in Wilmette Ill. It’s the same church my parents were married in and also the O’Connor’s family church.

    Back to JFK’s assassination…. The family talked about this and as mentioned in one of my posts, claimed that their group in Chicago assisted in his assassination. I’ve found references to some of the people involved coming from the Chicago area so this part checks out. However another comment made by J. Edgar Hoover seems to say a lot more that fits with what I know. I’ve spend a little time looking for it but wasn’t able to find it however if my memory serves me right, he stated that he had never seen anything as huge who had wanted Kennedy dead. What he was referring to was what the family is part of. This is why the family often bragged about this being “The World’s Largest Criminal System”. When I find his comment, I’ll post it.

    Sara, listing out the World’s Power Groups will explain who the family is part of.

    There’s actually a lot more but maybe another time…..

    Marty Didier
    Northbrook, IL

    • john in sacramento says:

      … A lesser known but needed to surface understanding of the family is linked with “Clyde O’Connor”. Searching on Clyde will surface a link to a fleet of more than 100 planes used for World Wide drug distribution and in partnership with the CIA in Rendition flights and more. There has been more than one investigation involving Clyde. One recent International report says his plane drug bust in Mexico involving his tail number was also identified in CIA Rendition flights. Please realize that the family often bragged about being a CIA Asset. …

      Is N987SA one of the planes?

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