November 1963, the holidays were coming up were going to be terrible, my grandpa has passed away in October of 1963 and we were not looking forward to them.
I was a junior in high school in Iowa. At that time there were a lot of “Kennedy” jokes going around, I was working in the high school office. I went in to the registrar (Ioa McGivern) and she asked me if I heard about the president. I said no thinking it would be a joke. She said, “he’s been shot in Dallas.” I said, “that’s not funny.” She replied, “I am not kidding.”
I walked to another part of the office and everyone was around the radio. I stood there for a few minutes and left to pick up the absent slips from the other rooms. I got to my history teacher’s room and went in (no one had heard about the shooting yet just the office). I said, “you should go to the office now.” He asked why? I said, “Kennedy’s been shot in Dallas” and he said “is he dead?” “I don’t know.” My teacher had the bluest eyes and they just stared at me. He left.
We all ended up at the office. I wanted some adult to say it will be OK. But instead one of the other teachers said, “this is it, Russia is behind it and we will be invaded”. I was scared to death. I am a child of the cold war. We grew up having air raid drills and diving under our desks in case of a atom bomb attack, so this was possible.
Then the school put the radio on the intercom and every one knew what happened. When I got home the TV was on and we watched it. In those days the TV signed on at 7am and off at 12am. But for 4 or 5 days the TV was on 24 hours a day. The reporters keep repeating the same news. I didn’t want to watch but yet I knew I should, so I did.
Mrs. Kennedy in her pink suit with all the blood stains and her reaching over the back of the car in Dallas. The funeral and Black Jack the riderless horse with the boots turned back wards in the stirrups. And of course the children. John saluting his father as the casket moved passed. The policeman who was shot going after Oswald in the movie theater in Dallas and Maria Oswald and her children .
It was after Thanksgiving and on a Sunday I think I went with my uncle to look at a boat and the salesman said Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald in the police station. We could not believe it. Why ? How could he get that close? A lot of questions that to this day I don’t think have never been answered.
The news said about President Kennedy and how it was a “thousand days of Camelot” and it was. They were so handsome and pretty and young beautiful children. The White House was alive. A large family, children in and out a pony on the White House lawn and a new baby on the way. But little Patrick was born to early and didn’t live. Of course we didn’t know about all the women JFK had and how bad it was. But JFK made Russia blink during the October missile crises . JFK was a hero I thought.
Candace, Fort Lauderdale FL
I was 13 years old. It was Friday afternoon and my thoughts were probably on the weekend. A scratchy noise came over the P.A. system and then what sounded like a radio broadcast. They never did that before.
The announcer was saying that President Kennedy had been shot but there was a garbled and breathless quality to it so it didn’t seem real.
My teacher, whose name I think was Ruby Irwin, teary, ran out of the room. We wouldn’t see her again until Tuesday. She left us there to figure it out by ourselves. Eventually school was let out early.
When I got home the TV was on, as it would be through Monday. We watched hours of nothing as they had very little news and fewer pictures. Mostly interviews and old Kennedy pics. Still I sat there and watched. I had admired Kennedy and knew parts of his Inaugural Address by heart. I was very sad.
When we did see Jackie and the kids, I cried. They broke my heart. I thought she was the most elegant, most composed woman I had ever seen.
On Sunday I was watching by myself when Ruby shot Oswald. I thought I must have misunderstood and screamed for my mother, “OSWALD’S BEEN SHOT.” My mother came into the room halfway into a reassuring denial when she realized it was true. She sat down dumbfounded. Speechless now.
After the four days we were exhausted. Too much shock and sorrow. And we were changed in a lot of ways we didn’t yet understand.
Denny, Hollywood CA
I was on the set of the TV show, “Rifleman.” The set got very chaotic. People going to each other with questions in their eyes. Disbelief…then the energy sapping truth. Chaos turned to a slowing down till all were stopped. Most of us walked away. We didn’t walk to any place — we just wanted to be alone in our grief. Seconds before the set of “The Rifleman” had been like any other TV set. People doing their jobs, an occasional burst of laughter, movement everywhere. Chuck Conners left.
“That’s a wrap.” No more work today. JFK was dead..
It’s still vivid in my memory. A memory that is hazy on almost every subject. But not that one.
Joyce, Philadelphia PA
I was working downtown in Philly, at Dun & Bradstreet, 15th. & Market St. at 3 Penn Center. The windows in my office faced Market Street and all of us heard a lot of noise outside and we all thought there had been a traffic accident. We opened the windows and then we heard the horrible news. First we all looked at each other not believing what we heard, then it sank in and we all started to cry. For those who are too young to remember, ask someone in your family and I’m sure they will be able to tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing.
We all lost a great man, a wonderful president that day. From that day on I believe the world went crazy and it has never really been the same since. Of course losing Bobby Kennedy and Martin L. King approx 3 or 4 years later, the same way we lost JFK, a bullet. Losing those 3 wonderful brave men who really wanted to help our country never got the chance.
All I can say is, “Rest In Peace and God Be With You” ….Amen!
Mar, Cleveland OH
I have often said that America lost her innocence on that fateful day. It is so hard to explain to people who didn’t experience it the impact and importance AB had to us. It is even more difficult to express the shock and hopelessness we all felt when JFK was assassinated. Since that time, there seems to have been a concerted effort (most notably by the media) to make us immune and accepting of such events.
I remember when my daughter was in grade school, she came home and told me they had an extra credit question to name the daughter of the man they were honoring that day (the anniversary of the assassination). She told me she didn’t even know who they were honoring. I couldn’t believe they hadn’t taught about this horrible moment in history.
I was working at a neighborhood jewelry store in Cleveland, Ohio when I heard the news. The radio was playing softly and I was absorbed in paper work when the owner’s aunt said “They just said the president was shot in Dallas.” I just got up, walked out of the store and went home in a daze. I spent the whole day glued to the TV crying. Then on Sunday, my dad was in front of the TV and called “Honey, they are transferring Oswald now — come see.” And we got to witness his murder live. It was all a nightmare from which we couldn’t wake. Whether you liked JFK or not, he was vibrant and optimistic and a moving speech maker. His personal weaknesses had nothing to do with his ability to lead and I wish the powers that be didn’t feel it necessary to tarnish his image.
Truthfully I must be the only “dork” on earth that does not remember where I was or what I was doing…its just a blank..I do remember everybody being in complete shock..my father LOVED JFK..hey the first Irish Catholic to ever be elected into office!
I know that everything shut down…all TV programming was pre-empted until after the funeral. My husband (boyfriend then) was leaving on Saturday the 24th of November for basic training, and I remember us watching the coverage right up until he left. As if the shock of the assassination wasn’t enough for America to try and absorb, that Sunday as the world watched Lee Harvey Oswald being transferred, he was shot right before our eyes on national TV!
The funeral of JFK I will never forget..I still see it in my mind as if it were yesterday..the viewing at the Rotunda…beautiful young Jackie and Caroline going up together to the coffin…Jackie flanked by the entire immediate family walking to the church…the horse with the boots turned backwards..and then..John-Johns infamous salute to his father…I cried my eyes out then and still choke up now reflecting back on all of it.
America certainly was changed forever on that day…then began the never ending inquiry into the assassination that to this day is still being investigated..I didn’t believe then that Oswald acted alone and I don’t believe it now..but that’s another story. I was 17 years old when this happened, but I and all of America really grew up quickly that day…gone was the innocence and the faith we once had in our fellow man…I think we all became a lot more suspicious of our surroundings and lost the faith we had in a country that so protected us from Nuclear attacks and war but failed to protect our President…pretty scary.
Judy, Miami Beach FL
In Nov. 1963 I was a bit past 16 1/2 years old. I was in 10th grade algebra class (Miami Beach, Florida) when the principal came on the loud speaker to tell us the president was shot. I went to P.E. next, sitting in the women’s locker room talking about the president when again the principal came on to tell us he was dead. Students and teachers began crying holding each other, saying over and over “I cannot believe he is dead. ” My best friend found me in the parking lot as I was leaving school. She fell into my arms wailing. I was in shock and had not cried. I went home and stayed glued to the TV for days. The reality of this event finally hit me when I saw Jack Ruby kill Oswald. I was sitting under my hair dryer ( the professional kind “beauty parlors” had) (a 16th birth day present from my parents) so I could not hear what was going on however, when I saw him kill Oswald I jumped up hitting my head (which was set with those jumbo rollers and orange juice cans) and started screaming. My mother ran in and I cried while she held me. I believe his death signaled the changes that followed. We were no longer innocent. The fifties had officially ended. We moved into turbulent years. More assassinations, a war that separated us from our parents and their love of God and country, “sex, drugs and rock and roll”, and as one song writer put it “we became a generation lost in space”.
I was is History class on that fateful day. I remember my teacher was wearing black, and there was around twenty students that all blended together. That was a start of what seemed the longest week in history. There wasn’t a soul on the streets. Everyone was in their homes with the television on non-stop. I can still remember each event that took place as if it happened yesterday. That tragic week, starting with the killing of President Kennedy, and ending with the killing of Oswald.
So many questions, and no answers. Still till this day, I can’t help to wouder what President Kennedy would look like, Would he and his wife Jackie sit on a front porch, watching their children, grand-children, and maybe great grand-children, playing football on their front lawn. How his blue eyes, steep in emotion over the joy of such a moment. Jackies sublte smile with adoring admiration of what she has. If only we could turn back the pages of History, and see President and Mrs Kennedy make there journey through Texas, and end up back at the White House to continue his and her’s life as the First Family. If only. What makes me feel better is that I picture them in heaven, both talking about their lives as if nothing has happened. Jack bending over to pick up his precious namesake, and Caroline running to get her share of her father’s attention. Jackie would stand their, with her smart outfit on, and looking on with such content, If only. I cannot believe that forty years have past. I will watch the history channel all this week, with the Kennedy specials that they are airing. Maybe if I close my eyes long enough, Jack, Jackie, and the rest of their family will be on their front yard, doing what they want, and everyone watching with contentment. If only.
Mary Ann, Lancaster, NY
It started out as just another ordinary day. I needed a few items from the grocery store, so went to the local A&P in Lancaster, New York. As I was walking through the produce department, the P.A. System went on, and they started talking about President Kennedy getting shot. I was shocked. I complained to the produce person standing there, that such a terrible, ficticious, made up story should go out over the airwaves, and the author should not get away with it. He told me that it was not ficticious, it was indeed true, that President Kennedy had been shot in Texas, and was dead. Then I noticed the tears in his eyes. I just turned and walked out of the store, got into my car, and headed home. Along the way, I noticed people sitting in cars, standing on the street, and some in groups, crying. I cried too.
siva prasanna krishnan, unknown
i was thirteen years old then and holidaying with my parents in kerala india at that time. i remember it was about seven in the morning. i had just woken and the radio was on. the line that caught my heart was: we regret to announce the death of president John F Kennedy. to say that i was stunned is putting it very mildly. we were all numb and we did not have any english newspapers. the malayalam papers the next day did not carry much news. i longed to return to malaysia and to the straits times. i was always fascinated by the kennedys but day, born inside of me was this great intense feeling for Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy. three years later i wrote to her. i had no address and i just wrote, to Mrs John F Kennedy c/o the White House USA. weeks later a yellow envelope arrived at my doorstep and inside were three pictures: one of president Kennedy, one of Mrs Kennedy and one of the couple with their children. i have the pics with me still. she was more than a person, she was a dream, a touch of class
S. Poe, Greenback, TN
I was in seventh grade, waiting to go to band practice, the last class of the day. Everything stopped, no classes changed and we listened to reports played over the pa system. Everyone was in shock and we hardly talked at all, and then we whispered. That night my parents, sister and I had traveled to Arkansas to mine for agates. My mom was into collecting and polishing them. The trip had been planned weeks earlier and we went on. That Friday night, trying to get to sleep in an unfamiliar motel bed, I kept having visions of a rifle pointing at my head every time I closed my eyes. It was a miserable night. The next day we went to the agate grounds and I spent the day just roaming around picking up an agate here and there but mainly in my own little world, my mind fogged with thoughts of our dead President. Back at home on Sunday, we watched the coverage on the tv constantly. We were watching when Oswald got shot. I remember watching day and night until after the funeral, only going outside occasionally to kick a football around the yard or play fetch with my dog. But mostly I just remember being so very sad. I was greatly affected by that day and all these years later I still can recall that feeling exactly when I think about it. I still wonder what our country would have been if that had not happened. I have lived through RFK and MLK assassinations too. And all the others of the turbulent sixties. I have lived through 9/11 and many other traumatic events that have changed our country and the world and as horrific as those have been, I will never forget the day that a very young eleven year old watched with horror the murder of JFK and all the events that followed during those four terrible days. I was no doubt traumatized by that single event more than any other national tragedy that this country has endured. I felt a deep sense of personal loss……one that I still feel to this day
Contribute your memories.
Share what you recall of those four days in November of 1963. Where you were when you heard the news. How you spent the days. What your thoughts and feelings were back then.
Write as much or as little as you please. A paragraph or pages.
Use your real name or don’t. I do want the city and state you were in.
I cannot allow you to post directlly to the site as this is a serious subject and I don’t want any irreverence. Also, young people pass through this site and I need to keep it “kid safe.”
Please, share your thoughts for posterity.