Kimmitt Genealogical Research

23 November 2015

Where Were You the Day JFK Was Shot?

"JFK limousine" by Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News - JFK-Motorcadee.gif, Penn Jones Photographs. Baylor University Collections of Political Materials. Waco, Texas.. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons

It's strange to think that when John FitzGerald Kennedy (no relation) died I was only eight years old. I didn't yet have a strong grasp on what that meant. I had experienced the death of my beloved Grandmother a year earlier and had taken that very hard, so I knew what a death of a loved one entailed.  I remember sobbing inconsolably in bed, and my brother yelling at me, "Stop bawling, Junior! Ma! Make her shut up!" This, of course, made me sob all the louder in my loneliness. I wondered why everyone else wasn't taking it all that hard, but of course their grief was tempered by the fact that she had been very ill in a nursing home and they had known it was coming. And they weren't eight.

On November 22, 1963, I was in third grade. Our classroom rarely was interrupted, but that day there was a knock on the door. When the teacher opened we saw two young teachers crying. They rushed into the room and whispered the horrible news.

Mrs. Murphy's 3rd Grade Class, South River School, Marshfield, Massachusetts, November 1963.

When they left she told us the sad news: President Kennedy had been shot and was seriously wounded. Shortly afterwards the principal came over the intercom saying that we should pray for the president and would be sent home early. In the face of this earth-shattering development (early release) it was hard not to get happy, but we knew it was the wrong response even at that age. The bus ride home was strangely somber. It's strange, but my memories are that it was before lunch. Yet looking at the time of the shooting, I see it must have been after: he was shot about 12:30pm Dallas time (2:30 Massachusetts time), so the release wasn't actually all that early. By the time we got off the bus that Friday, the president had been declared dead.

I knew the president was important because we had talked about him in class. In the same lessons where they taught us about George Washington, they'd wrap up by talking about President Kennedy. My favorite day of school ever was was February 20, 1962, when they wheeled in a giant TV on a cart so we could watch John Glenn be the first American to orbit the earth.  I knew that came at President Kennedy's direction.

By Cecil Stoughton, White House [Public
domain], via Wikimedia Commons
What I remember learning from this was that adults could care about people they had never met: people on TV, politicians, strangers. I remember the universal shock, the constant news commentary, Walter Cronkite's quivering lip even. People were glued to their TVs, an unusual situation, at least at my house.

When Ruby shot Oswald my mother witnessed it on live TV. I came in from playing outside and she was more agitated than I ever remember her being. I still didn't understand the importance, but I felt it. To this day I retain few details. I wonder how much my mind may may have filled in with things I've learned since it happened, too. Still, these are my memories of the day the President was assassinated.

2 comments:

Cathy Murray said...

I'm a few years older than you but I remember that day so well too. Very interesting to read your memories of the day.

Lew Holt said...

I was a teaching principal, half day secretary, I answered the phone in my classroom. It was the night janitor's wife telling me that President Kennedy had been shot. I turned on a radio -- knowing that I could not go with my emotions to every classroom, I held the radio in front of the intercom so everybody heard it at the same time. I don't know how wise that was but it worked. The cafeteria was the quietest I have ever experienced in 31 years.