Where were you? Community remembers JFK assassination

Nov. 22, 2013 @ 07:49 AM

Editor's Note: These individuals shared their thoughts on the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John K. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, Nov. 22, 1963  — a dark day in the history of the United States.

Alfred Johnson:  I was 11 years old and in my fifth grade class when the school intercom announced and I quote, "May I have your attention please, may I have your attention please. President Kennedy has been shot.  A deafening silence ascended upon the class and the whole student body at Dunbar Elementary School.  Dunbar which was located in Forest City (Grahamtown community) was an African American school. During the change of class you could hear a pin fall. There was not any conversation among students.  An occasional cough or sneeze is all that was heard. Seems like moments later..."President Kennedy has been pronounced dead."  Many African Americans believe and still do that President Kennedy was a martyr for the Civil Rights movement.

Jerry Shonefelt: I was 17 at the time and was in Mrs. Womack's fourth period study hall at R-S Central that fateful Friday afternoon.  We were up to our usual shenanigans when Mr. Dobbins came over the intercom and announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. Being 17 and not really into current events, we went about our normal activities until Mr. Dobbins announced later that the President had been killed. That's when it started to sink in that our leader was gone. I can't remember if school was dismissed for the rest of the day or not. That evening when I got home from school CBS and Walter Cronkite were televising the events. It seems the entire family was glued to that old RCA the rest of the evening and weekend watching the story as it unraveled and more details were broadcast; especially late Friday's scenes of VP Lyndon Johnson being sworn in as President aboard Air Force 1. I remember being at home on Sunday watching on live TV Jack Ruby shooting Oswald and JFK's funeral the next day. The entire nation and world was stunned by those events and even now, the haunting stories continue to unveil. Will it ever end?I doubt it.

Marion Michalove: The day started out so normal. I took one of my children to a birthday party, came home and turned on the TV. Then the world seemed to spin around on hearing Walter Cronkite announce the shooting and then the death of the President. I didn't know what to do. It was as if a haze had fallen over the world. I also happened to have the TV on when Jack Ruby shot Oswald. Those were moments one would never forget. Being born in Dallas, this horrible event had even more significance to me. 

Brad Greenway: On the day President Kennedy was assassinated I was a sixth grade student at Stearns Elementary School in Columbus. Ms. Velma Swain was our teacher. Following lunch, several students were standing at the blackboard working math problems. Suddenly the radio came on over the school’s intercom system announcing that the President had been shot and had been taken to the hospital. Shortly afterwards we heard that President Kennedy had passed away. I can remember the feeling of disbelief and sorrow that fell over the classroom. Somewhat prophetically, Ms. Swain remarked that we would all likely remember for the rest of our lives where we were and what we were doing when we first learned of the President’s assassination.

Elsie Allen: I was in Hawaii. I was born and raised in Hawaii and we had gone back there to visit. It was awful, unforgiveable what happened to him.

Kaye Lathan: I was at the hospital (Medical University of Charleston, S.C. Nursing School) and I was going to my dorm. As I was heading to my room, the lounge was full of people. Everybody was crying. They had the television on and lounge was full of people, everybody was crying. 

Mary Jaeger-Gale: I'll never forget it. I was in the ninth grade at Adrian Catholic Central High School in southern Michigan. All of the high school students were in an assembly in the gym that afternoon. Our priest interrupted the program and announced that the President had been shot and killed. Everyone was in shock. We were devastated. School was dismissed so we could go home to be with our families. My parents, siblings, a couple of friends and I were all in tears as we watched the news on TV.

Barbara Meliski: I was in the 11th grade (high school) in Civics class in Orlando, Fla. I remember everyone was shocked and wanting to know what was happening. I remember that day like it was yesterday.  

Dr. Nancy Womack: I was a teacher at R-S Central that year and was in study hall when the news came over the intercom from the principal. Some of my female students cried, but one boy laughed and made the comment that he was glad the President had been shot. I jumped on him like you wouldn't believe about respect and honor. As recently as a few years ago, one of the girls from that class told me she would never forget not only the announcement but also the way I dealt with the disrespectful student.

Barbara Freeman: I was in my ninth grade PE class at Chase High School when we heard that the president had been shot. A short time later the horrifying news of his death came over the intercom. Everyone was quiet as sadness engulfed us; we were all silent and still as tears streaked our faces. No matter the political persuasion, we were one in our grief. That was before the 24-hour news cycle, but the story was all over TV. Americans just couldn't tear themselves away from the many facets of this national tragedy. The loss of this young, popular president was painful and personal. We hurt for the loss of our President and what could have been, for his beautiful wife Jackie and their now fatherless little children. I believe school was out on the day of his funeral; I remember watching Jackie in a black veil as she and her children followed the caisson through the streets in DC. It was a scene etched in my mind.The death of JFK affected Americans of all ages.

R.A. "Chip" McIntosh: I wasn't born until the following year. I do remember my parents speaking with much reverence about the event. My father who was also a Navy vet had great respect for him as both a president and a naval officer. One of his favorite movies was PT-109. He could nearly recite every line. Growing up I learned to respect the sacrifice that those veterans made for our country and how it shaped Kennedy's presidency. He was strong in the face of opposition yet human as he shared his family with America. I wish he could have lived to lead our country for a second term.

Larry Brown: I was in seventh grade and had just turned 12 years old so, I was hardly a keen observer of the social and political climate. More than anything, I recall a numbness on the part of those older than me and better able to appreciate the significance of what happened that day. The Nuns (I went to Catholic school in Detroit) were composed but, thinking back, were probably more in shock than anything. Kennedy, being Irish, a Catholic and a Democrat, was a big deal with my family and the families of my classmates. We were blue collar people; my Dad had a service station. My mother and sister saved everything printed on the assassination and funeral. Father Chas. Coughlin (our fire breathing pastor) practically canonized Kennedy in his sermon the following Sunday.

Frankie McWhorter: I was a college freshman (just about to turn 19 years of age) at Georgia State College (now University) in the library studying when we received the message. I can remember hearing the announcement on the TV located in the library. The news left everyone numb. I remember watching the entire replay of the shooting and then the shooting of Oswald on TV and then watching the entire funeral procession.

Sally Lesher: I was in the eighth grade at school. My teacher ran out of the room after another teacher came in and whispered to her. She came in a few minutes later with a TV, one of those on a cart with wheels. We watched TV the rest of the day and were out of school for the rest of the week. I was watching  TV the moment that Oswald was shot and saw that happen. One of those times you always remember.

Bob Keith: I had recently graduated from college and in my first job with Aetna up in Hartford, Conn. I was returning to my departmant walking down one of the long hallways when someone shouted out that "Kennedy has been shot". Disbelief was my first and lingering reaction. The rest of the day was a blur as rumors and news filled the air. 

Ginger Dancy: I was in Algebra class at Galax High School and word got around very slowly that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas; we all thought it was a horrible rumor. It was a class or two later that day when we learned he had been assassinated. I remember my emotions running the gambit from shock to disbelief to sadness like I had never experienced before.  I was affixed to the TV at home when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, and remember calling for my family to come from the dinner table to see what had just happened. Life as I knew it was never quite the same after President Kennedy died.

Danielle Withrow: I was a 15 year old living in New Zealand where my father was a commander in the US Navy working with Operation Deepfreeze – America’s presence in Antarctica. I was a big fan of Jack and Jackie and had their official portrait framed and hanging in my room. Living overseas and far away from American soil when this happened, I felt a surreal sense of intense homesickness even though I was quite content and loved living in New Zealand. In 1963 there was  only one TV channel – the BBC which did not start broadcasting until 5 p.m. every day, so we only heard bits and pieces as the news broke. I remembered wondering how daily activities could still go on as they were. As kind and understanding as New Zealanders were in expressing their sympathy – the country did not stand still in shock and disbelief as America did. It intensified my feeling of what it was to be an American and 7,000 miles away from home.

Helen White: I was in Mrs. Mahaffee's sophomore French class at Chase High School. I remember how quiet and solemn everything was once the announcement was made and also how upset my mom was when I got home. She saved every article about this.

John Condrey: I was in elementary school and we were having a spelling bee when the announcement came over the intercom. We immediately went back to our classroom and listened to the news over the intercom. A few days later I remember watching TV and seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.  Then the scenes from the funeral, many of which are still played on TV every year at the anniversary of JFK’s death, are still very memorable.  Many of those scenes are still very vivid in my mind.

Melody Urban: When I found out President Kennedy was assassinated I was walking down the hall to seventh grade music class at Oakfield-Alabama Central School, in Oakfield, N.Y. Everyone was crying and could not believe the horrific news we were hearing. School was dismissed early and we were sent home. The whole day became about this tragic event. There was a moment of silent prayer at the school for our president and our country, as initially we were not informed of President Kennedy's death, but rather that he had been shot.

Dennis Matheny:  I was in school at Forest City Elementary and was only  seven at the time. I still can remember it and all the days that followed.  Caisson carrying the flag draped casket, the lone horse being lead down the street, Walter Cronkite telling that the President was dead ( his emotions ). I was a seven-year old kid, terrified to death what it meant and what might happen next.  

John B. Logan: I can barely remember the Kennedy assassination.I new something bad had happened. The networks had full coverage on it for about four days. I can remember asking my Mother, where was the shot in his neck, she said that was him on film from an earlier speech.  My parents were Santa Claus-buying when they saw the broadcast of Kennedy in a Sears store. The 60’s turn out to be a trying decade. America got through it.

Susie Hamrick Jones: I remember very clearly. I was in the 6th grade at Ellenboro, and my mother, Mary Hamrick, was my teacher. We were in the middle of our lessons, and another teacher came to the door and told us what had happened. Everyone was totally stunned. I recall that shortly afterwards, the principal, Mr. Mike Davis, had the entire school gather in the auditorium. My next memory is of watching Walter Cronkite for hours on end. It was as if time stopped.

Brenda Watson: I will tell you that I was only eight when the President was shot and I lived in Lake Worth, Fla. I had stopped at my grandmother's house on the way home from school that day and I was standing in her carport when my friend who lived across the street from us came running up the driveway screaming that President Kennedy had been shot.It still gives me goosebumps to think about that moment.  Our family was glued to the TV for days and I vividly remember Jackie and the children during the funeral procession and I was fascinated by her black hat and veil. The Kennedys were very much part of our lives in the area of Florida I grew up in, as our town was across the Intercoastal from Palm Beach and my great grandfather was the architect for the Kennedy's winter home in Palm Beach. To this day, my girlfriend, who gave us the horrible news, still keeps in touch as she lives in Avery County.

Nell Bovender: I was in Mrs. Parker's fifth grade class at South Smithfield Elementary School. All I knew was something happened to the president and it made the teachers cry.  Who knew what the word assassinate meant? It wasn't until I got on the school bus to go home that I heard the high schoolers say he was shot and was dead. It was such a sad time. 

Hazel Haynes: I was in college. I had just returned home from class. I closed the door with one hand and turned on the TV with the other hand as that was the first thing you did in those years because television was usually our only entertainment. At that moment the program was interrupted with the news that President Kennedy had been shot. Being that young, you don’t think about death so I was just shocked and remember hoping he was not hurt badly. I did not even consider the fact that he could die. Then the awful news came that the President was dead. I watched TV all weekend. I was watching when they were moving Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby shot him. I will always remember Walter Cronkite when John-John saluted the casket. He had to remove his glasses and wipe away the tears.

Ronda Gantt: I was in the second grade walking to the cafeteria with my class when adults started whispering and crying. I knew something terrible had happened. 

Jim Edwards: I was a student at Cool Springs Middle School.  Our class was returning from recess and heard the announcement from a car radio that was playing in the parking area.I do recall that it was big news, but I think that seeing the effect of the news on teachers and other adults made me realize even then that the President’s death was a watershed event.Kennedy was of our parents’ generation, a war vet who was part of America’s new generation of leaders, and there was an expectation that great things were happening in the nation.And in retrospect, I think the loss of that hope and optimism turned many of the “Greatest Generation” into the “Silent Majority” within less than a decade and the assassination.