JFK: My Memories of His Assassination on this Day in 1963 (video)

JFK: My Memories of His Assassination on this Day in 1963 (video)

JFK: My Memories of His Assassination on this Day in 1963 (video)

It seems as if every generation born in the twentieth century was witness to a tragedy which marked it as its most significant occurrence.

For my parents it was December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Later generations would perhaps mark the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Certainly the events of 9/11/2001 were the defining moments for millenials.

For those of us born in the beginning and middle of the 20-year Baby Boomer era it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on this day in 1963 in Dallas. Ask any of us, and we will be able to tell you where we were and what we were doing on that day.

I was eight years old, attending my tiny parochial school in my small Indiana hometown. It was lunchtime, when we always had lunch at our desks since we didn’t have a lunchroom. The principal herded all the students, from 1st through 8th grade, into the chapel/gym and announced these very words: “The President has been shot.”

JFK

I don’t remember the group’s reaction, although I remember a fellow classmate clutching his chest acting like he was shot a là the old TV westerns we watched in those days.

We then returned to our classroom, which had the only TV in the building. The older students joined us and lined the walls of our classroom, where we all watched as the death of the President was announced.

My parents experienced a unique circumstance at the time of the assassination. My father worked for Illinois Bell Telephone in the Gary, Indiana, office, and would call my mother each day at noon. At the time of the assassination they were conversing when my mother heard the radio announce the shooting. She said, “Harold, Kennedy’s been shot,” whereupon he told her he had to hang up. The relays used for telephone service back then — which created a constant cacophony during normal days — were instantly overloaded. Their system had shut down. My dad and other workers couldn’t sustain service.

I don’t recall much about the intervening days between that Friday and the day of the funeral, the following Monday. I do remember schools being closed on Monday, and I remember watching the funeral on the tiny black-and-white screen of our TV console. I will always remember the sound of the drum cadence, and especially the fractious prancing of Black Jack, the riderless horse who wore a saddle with boots symbolically reversed in the stirrups.

In later weeks I assembled a scrap book about the assassination that consisted of photos and articles from Life and Look weekly magazines, both now defunct. My parents purchased for me a copy of Four Dark Days in Historywhich I stuck inside the scrapbook. They’re all probably stowed somewhere in my parents’ home, although I have no idea where.

Fifty-two years later, most of the major figures of those days are now gone. Kennedy’s widow Jacqueline has passed on, along with their son John F. Kennedy, Jr. JFK’s brothers, Senators Ted and Robert Kennedy have also passed on, Robert having also been felled by an assassin’s bullet five years later. Only daughter Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg remains.

Such was the day in which a President was murdered, and a little girl in a parochial school was witness to a day which she and others of her era will remember for the remainder of their lives.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

1 Comment
  • ccchristie464 says:

    Kim, this recounting of that date, November 22, 1963, really rang true. I was 9 years old and attending a parochial school as well. We lived in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. My older sister and I happened to be off school that day with bad colds, but my aunt called my mom and told her, and then everyone started calling everyone else. The biggest deal was that my best friend called me and said I missed a crazy day at school where the nuns and the teachers were all crying in front of the class. I, too, have the distinct recollection of the riderless horse with the reversed boots … my mother (now 101!) kept pointing that out to me, my sister, and my two younger brothers throughout the funeral procession. I think I remember that image of the horse more than John-John’s salute to his father. I also remember the picture of Caroline and her mother kneeling at the casket, and it looked like Caroline put her hand under the flag covering it. Thanks for these recollections. This year (2018) Thanksgiving Day fell on November 22. It just seemed odd. As you so rightly point out, for Boomers, that remains a very dark day in history.

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