Where were you and what were you doing when JFK was shot?
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To get this back to books, I recently read The Children by David Halberstam and was reminded that--despite the childhood image I had that Kennedy was the perfect president--he was truly a political animal. I think I am ready now to read things that look at that short presidency more critically than I was raised to do. Suggestions?
>I think the Seymour Hersh book about Camelot might shake you up a bit. It's important to note that news coverage was very different during the early 60s than it is now.
So I went out to the garage where my husband was working & told him & we went back into the house & turned on the TV. We watched ABC programming for the rest of the day & night. I was breast-feeding Kathy who was born Sept. 27. Jacki & I had been expecting together. It was so sad when they lost their baby.
The girls ran up from the bus stop & burst in the door. "President Kennedy was shot!" they cried. "Sister was crying & we said a Rosary."
I had hid the doll clothes I was sewing, but I still have the little dress I was working on when the news came on the radio.
Well I am not 50, but I remember vividly the events.
We were living in Ankara, Turkey and the killing actually took place on the 23rd there (late, late night on 22nd). We had gone to bed. I guess they called my parents from the Embassy in the middle of the night, but I never heard the call.
Anyway the 23rd is my birthday and there was a party scheduled for me and all the kids my age in the building. I had been so good to make sure the party wouldn't get cancelled.
That morning (23rd) my Irish, Catholic mother, came in for the morning routine to get my clothes out and open the curtains (they had a drawstring). I think I was just turning 4. She grabbed hold of the fabric and ripped them open. She always insisted I use the string, and she had always used it herself. I had never seen her so mad.
Of course I assumed it was because of me, and was terrified. Later I found out it was because of the President. We had the party anyway, since the parents decided that it didn't mean anything to the kids.
Spooky. It still gives me the chills.
I said, "Why are you crying? I thought you hated him?" And she said, "Just because we don't like someone's politics does not mean we want them dead."
I was five years old. I didn't really understand death at that point, having never known anyone at all who had died.
I think that was the first sobering moment in my childhood. I began to realize that death was a serious thing to adults, and might even happen to me someday.
Yes, news coverage was so different then--the whole idea of it was relatively new. Certainly it was the first time that the world watched the shooting of a world leader. and then, remember not too long thereafter we watched on television as Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.
And, Lois, again--we are the same age and I lived in the city. We were in and out of our friends' houses all of the time, and walked several blocks to school and stores. Did you grow up in a city or in "the country"? I am wondering if we had so much freedom because everything was so close and the neighbors kept an eye on everyone else's kids.
We didn't have TV. It was available, but only on for a few hours each day, was in Turkish, and was just the 'official' Government news. So we didn't even bother with a TV. They also didn't travel well from country to country due to the electrical issues.
I never saw any of the TV or newspaper stuff until later when we came home.
We had more freedom then, because there hadn't been 40 years of selling/peddling fear for fun, profit and manipulation. Bowling for Columbine takes a very good look at it.
This was the beginning of the end of my childhood innocence. After Oswald, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, my world changed, believing that assassination was a part of life. It was not the safe haven I had thought.
A seven-year-old should be able to be idealistic for a few more years.
At home, my sister and I sat for hours glued to the tv. I most remember the riderless horse. It chills me even now.
Weeks later in gym class we were learning to jump the pommel horse. Judy H said she'd just pretend it was, well, JFK's casket. She fell over the horse and broke her arm.
I also remember some very popular comedy albums imitating JFK's press conferences etc. We never heard them again.
Our Thanksgiving turkey was always nicknamed "Oswald the Turkey." We tried calling it Oscar but it never took.
Oh, what melancholy.
We were in the lunchroom when the principal came in and said "Boys and girls, the president is very sick, we must all pray for him." We all got quiet. A while later, he came into the lunchroom again and said "Boys and girls, President Kennedy has died, go to your classrooms and gather your things, school will be closed for the rest of the day."
I remember walking home with my friends, and was shocked to see my dad's car in front of the house in the middle of the day, he always came home in the evening. I walked in to see my parents sitting in front of the TV, and I announced to them "President Kennedy died!" We sat and watched for the rest of the day. I remember feeling so sad for Caroline for losing her dad.
My parents were Kennedy supporters in a neighbourhood of Republicans. I remember getting into a fight with a girl over the 1960 elections because her parents were for Nixon, and mine were for Kennedy. She pushed me, and I pushed her back, and she fell and hit her head on the driveway, and so *I* got in trouble.
LisaCurcio, two books about his Presidency I found interesting and full of insight (and delightfully devoid of the salaciousness of recent JFK books) are:
JFK and LBJ by Tom Wicker
The Promise and the Performance by Lewis J. Paper
They're both out of print but probably available on half.com for 75 cents apiece.
They sent us home early that day. As I explained in a different thread a week or so ago, I cried hard from the first moment I heard. I had a hard time walking home, and I had a little sister to take care of. The crossing guard tried to calm me down. She was very nice, but it was an impossible undertaking for her.
We made it home, called mom and put on the tv.
I think it hit me as hard as it did ( very hard ) because my dad had run away from home only a few months prior. It was a very difficult time. We had no money, mom went to work and I had to work too, at school. That was I earned our free lunches. I had to babysit and cook dinner every night. I felt very ... frightened by the whole thing.
I loved the president like everyone else. I read very well very early, and had read about him of course, newspapers and so on. Heard about him on the news.We talked about him in school. I felt as if we were no longer safe and never would be again.
I have a cartoon I cut from a newspaper in Boston years ago.
Two guys on a bench I think. It is the caption that is so memorable.
November 22, 1963 ...the last day I was young
Oh and it was my mom and dads wedding anniversary, the first one with no dad. JFK was born on May 29, my birthday. I knew that...
First, my birthday and his were the same which I thought was really cool.
Second, as a Catholic and JFK being the first Catholic President, we heard alot in the 4th grade about how people worried when he was elected that the Pope was going to take over. Friday afternoons were our weekly trip to the school library and I was in the library picking out books that I wanted to read when we were told over the intercom that he had been killed. We were sent home immediately and since I lived only two blocks from school, I got home very quickly. I sat in front of the TV all afternoon.
Last, My father worked at the TV station and he didn't come home for 2 days because of all the extra work that the coverage caused. (we lived in Baltimore and a lot of the workers were sent to Washington to help with the coverage.)
It's surprising the little things you remember when you sit down to reminisce.
My mom taught in a one-room school in another school district. (My school had six grades in three rooms.) In later years, she told me it never occurred to close the school after one of the neighbors came over and told her the President had been killed. Instead, they got out the World Book and looked up assination and presidents and talked about what happened all together.
I've thought about that, too. I remember having not much of a reaction at all when President Reagan was shot. However, I have had the distinct thought recently that if President Obama was shot, the national reaction might be much like when Kennedy was killed.
Reagan, I agree. I was on the phone with my best friend, watching, discussing all the coverage. She died suddenly and unexpectedly 2 days later~which was two months after losing my grandmother. I was very close to both of them, and emotionally destroyed for a long time after that. Reagan wasn't even a blip on my radar.
As for Bush, since I spent 8 years hoping for a fortunate strike of lightening or falling piano...
Obama has given me, as well as so many other Hope again.. may all the gods and goddesses protect him from harm.
You weren't really hoping something would happen to W? Remember who was next in line!
I think there would be a similar reaction if, heaven forbid, something were to happen to Obama. Perhaps it is partly because JFK and Obama represented a significant change and hope for the future that had been lacking.
The principal came on over the PA system to say the President had been shot, and we should all pray for his recovery. Later I found out he was already dead. I think that's when I lost my Catholic faith, thinking about how pointless the prayers had been.
We spent the next four days watching TV. I think it was the first time any of us experienced 24/7 news coverage. I remember seeing the lines of people waiting to pay their respects. What shocked me, was my Republican dad saying, "If we get in the car right now, we'd get there in time to be at the end of the line." We didn't, but it taught me a lesson about adult complexity.
I remember my grandmother saying, "This is what they do in Europe. This doesn't happen here."
Only weeks later, I discovered the Beatles, so the memory of the assassination always felt like the marker at the end of my childhood. Then when John Lennon was shot, it was the other bookend. His murder was the end of my youth.
My first recollection of the event was coming home on the bus from the 3rd grade (The Hills School, Dix Hills, NY). I remember the shocked looks on the Moms waiting on the bus stop as they picked up us kids. I also recall the Moms having somber conversation with the bus driver as we made our departure from the bus. My most intense memory though was watching the funeral on black and white TV and observing the tears flowing from my Grandfathers eyes. The first and only time I ever saw him cry.
I have to admit that I have no specific memory of the shooting. I do remember sticking pictures of suspected Russian missile silos in Cuba into my school scrapbook. Maybe this is why I read more science fiction than anything else now...
Younger people just don't know what they missed!
Funnily enough, it was the RFK assassination that deeply distressed my British immigrant banker Dad. Really shook him.
I also remember someone saying to our teacher, that one of the other students was crying. The teacher then went on to explain that that was okay.
A few years ago I went to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt's home in Warm Springs, Georgia. They had a book where people could write their memories of hearing of FDR's death. I read quite a few people's memories, and I remember two of them: there was someone who said it was the first time she had ever seen her father cry, and there was someone who came home from school and told his mother that FDR was dead - whereupon his mother spanked him for lying, because of course FDR couldn't be dead.
(edited to correct the spelling of Georgia)
We did not get to go home early, as so many others seem to have done.
Does anyone here watch AMC-TV's Mad Men? I love the nostalgia of it -- and the complexity that I was clueless about as a child -- and think Season 3 will surely deal with the assassination or its aftermath. Season 2 was set in 1962 and focused on youth. The producer says S3 will be about change -- and likely, since the series is about the advertising industry, the coming-of-age of TV.
sounds interesting ~
I do remember remember eventually not liking Johnson, but that was most likely due to things I heard discussed around me. I am sure it was a few more years before I could form an opinion of that sort on my own.
I also remember wondering why Mrs Kennedy didn't change out of the bloodied clothes she was wearing...
Mad Men is terrific! Set in a 1960s Madison Avenue (New York) advertising firm, it looks at the period’s work and society (including gender, politics, culture, music, fashion, décor). Season 1 is out on DVD; reruns of Season 2 (darker, in my opinion) are currently airing on Sunday nights at midnight ET. Season 3 premieres in August.
I thought I'd posted in this thread but see I haven't. Stupid Swiss cheese memory.
I was in gym class when the assassination was announced over the PA system. I think we were sent home early but I'm not sure. What I remember best were the days and weeks following. My mother collected the newspapers and some books with a lot of pictures of the funeral and of course of Jackie and the kids.
The other thing I remember vividly was being told I shouldn't celebrate my 8th birthday because of what had happened. Mine is on the 25th, the same day as John Jr's, and my mother mentioned that he wasn't going to be able to enjoy his birthday that year. I didn't really understand why that meant I couldn't have mine, though! It's not like our birthdays were a huge deal, just cake and ice cream and a few gifts.
I'd been sent to the principal's office & was strolling defiantly down the hall with my (get this) transistor radio up against my ear, listening to music on WLS and trying to pretend I wasn't scared about what would happen to me when my parents got hold of me, when the music was interrupted by a news flash that the President had been shot. I ran the rest of the way to the office and told the woman behind the counter about it, and she turned on the radio and everyone stood around listening to the news. I don't know about the others in the office there with me, but I remember being in total shock and praying incoherently, and crying.
Don't remember much more about that day in detail, just that I veered from disbelief that it could have really happened and sadness about the President and most of all for his family and fear about what would happen next, except that I never did get in trouble for that cut class & was relieved to have gotten off without punishment, shallow little twit that I was back then.
I looked at the newspapers for a couple of days after that; it was the first time I'd looked much beyond the sports and comics. I was actually more upset when I found out that C.S. Lewis, who as author of the Chronicles of Narnia was at that time one of my favorites, had died on the same day as JFK.
I have more memory of Dr. King's and Bobby Kennedy's deaths, as I was in third grade by then. There were two moments of "knowing" with RFK -- first he was shot, and he died later, with some time to process and reflect and pray in between. It wasn't almost immediate, like JFK and Dr. King. So my memory is muddled as to when I learned he was shot, and when I learned he'd died, and when we were waiting for news in between, but I remember my third grade classroom, and going home for lunch and watching the news while I ate. That year, 1968, was a horrible year for our country. I still get sad when I think about how different things might have been if Bobby Kennedy had lived and become president, instead of Nixon with his "enemies lists" and shady conspiracies.
Dion's song "Abraham, Martin, and John" still makes me get teary if I'm in a certain mood.
Interesting comment about the cartoons being interrupted. I was 5 (almost 6) at the time and when the cartoons went out was when I realized that something really big and really serious had happened in the world. I have the same muddled memory, save for the cartoons.
It's interesting to see how events which trigger the "where were you ..." reaction are correlated with age. I think about age 12 or so is when they can become indelibly imprinted (for me, 1969, man landing on the moon, first time I can vividly remember where, when, and what I was doing).
MarianV, I remember my mother talking about Pearl Harbor - she said it was her birthday, and someone turned on a radio for background music, and they heard the news. They didn't really believe it at first - they'd heard the original War of the Worlds radio broadcast, too.
I asked my grandmother's older sister once what they'd thought when they heard about the Titanic sinking. She said that their reaction was more or less, "no, that's not right, that can't happen."
Which was pretty much what I thought when I was working away at my job with a graphics software company in January of 1986, and someone came in and said, "the space shuttle blew up!"
Back on topic: as others have remarked, I think hearing about JFK was the first of those moments I really noticed. Something - security? predictable-ness? - had gone out of the world.
I tried to convince him he was mistaken. He would have none of it. I went home to him.
You are right.... that was another of those minutes..
I was in the Navy and we were pulling in to San Diego, deep in the harbor. We were monitoring (as usual) the civilian chatter when all of a sudden we heard:
"The space shuttle just blew up."
Long silence, followed by an anonymous voice chiming in:
Lots more silence.
And the more I learned about why it happened -- and why it shouldn't have been allowed to happen -- the more upset I was. Challenger launch decision is on my "wishlist" to read someday. But I'll need to be in the right kind of mood to read it, or it will drive me absolutely crazy.
Columbia was awful, in part, because the folks at NASA obviously hadn't learned anything from Challenger and all the study of flawed decision making that had followed.
It's standard navigation practice to bring up and monitor the "CB" band used by boaters when you're coming into a large and busy harbor. We were 453 feet long and had to pay attention to all the speed boats and sailboats gadding about. The chatter would often tell us if there was a problem around the bend or if someone was disabled in the middle of the channel.Also, that's how the civilian craft would talk to us (e.g., "Hey, big Navy boat with a 46 on the side. I'm a gonna race y'all!").
You'd be surprised (maybe not) at how many drunk recreational boaters are in San Diego harbor on a sunny weekend.
And yes, it is scary how many drunk weekend warriors there are on the water in the Chicago area of Lake Michigan, too.
comena.. how were your parents affected, do you remember?
We didn't get to go home early, but it was the day before Thanksgiving, so I got to watch TV all weekend. And I was watching when Ruby shot Oswald.
That was when I started to grasp that "history" was being made all the time. I was already a voracious reader, but after that weekend I started making a serious swathe through the history and biography sections of both the school library and the county library.
Then came 1968. I remember my sister reacting to something I said (interestingly, I don't remember what) that summer, "You're so cynical! How can you be so cynical when you're only 14?" I didn't answer her, as I thought I was just making a simple observation. It was years before I realized that my sister was a perpetual innocent. Sweet, and smart, but unable to process a lot of the world.
In retrospect, I think my childhood ended that weekend in 1963.
I was brushing snow off our tent (in June!) where we were camping in Yellowstone Park when I heard about RFK's assassination. I was in the lounge of my dorm at Hasting College, when MLK was assassinated.
I was in the library at school when the music teacher came in and told me about the Challenger explosion. As a child of the 50s, the space program was a source of dreams for me.
My husband and I heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center, while we were getting ready for school on September 11th. When we got to school, I set up a TV in the library so the students could watch this event. We all thought it was an accident, but I was adjusting the TV, when I heard my husband say, "My God, there's another airplane." That was when we knew it wasn't an accident.
The "joke" (if it even deserves the honor of that name) that was circulating was a reference to his reason for visiting Texas. It was lame, and in execrable taste. I had already heard it in two versions, the first given by my boss at work:
"Did you hear that the president is sick? " -- "No, whatʻs wrong with him?" -- "Something wrong with his kidneys: He canʻt pass GOLDwater."
I was teaching a chemistry class when the Biology teacher next door came in and told us about the Challenger - we were in shock and couldn't seem to function the rest of the day.
And I was a high school librarian on Sept 11, 2001 and we turned the TVs on after a teacher's husband called the school to tell us a plane had hit the WTC and then watched in horror with students waiting for class to start as the rest unfolded.
We had played a game of 20 Questions in a class about a month before. I suggested the person Lyndon B. Johnson; maybe two other students in the class knew who he was.
I noticed my mom looking very pale, and then she started crying, told me that "something terrible had happened." We didn't have the car radio on, and I didn't understand why she was so upset. A little bit later we met another lady in the parking lot, who told us what had happened.
It was LBJ - the Southerner - who had the courage to stand up to the racists in the deep south. It was LBJ who threw the weight of his forceful personality behind the Civil Rights Act. The bill that Kennedy sent to Congress was weak and wishy-washy. Emanuel Celler strengthened it, but it faced opposition from segregationists. When Johnson took over after JFK was assassinated, he argued forcefully for the bill and railroaded it past the segregationist opposition.
This may sound like a harsh statement, but if Kennedy had lived, American blacks would have waited a lot longer for their civil rights.
On 9/11 I was at home, still hadn't left for school yet. I can remember staying home from school (my highschool didn't hold classes that day). Every once in a while I'd switch the TV on and watch coverage, still not quite being able to wrap my head around what had happened.
I remember the shooting video of Oswald. Dad jumping up "Sonofa....someone just shot the b@$tard!
RFK- 3rd grade. I remember turning on the tv in the morning and seeing the news. I remeber my mom crying during the funeral when Andy Williams sang.
MLK- It was one of the fist times my mom let me stay home alone while she went grocery shopping wiht a friend. The news came on and I remember being frightened and wishing my mom would come home, though I knew thyere wasn't anything she could do about it.
Reagan Going up the escalator in a local mall. Not feeling too too sad but disappointed that someone would do this to him. Didn't and don't agree with his policies but no one should solve problems with gunshots.
Space Shuttle- Was teaching ay a day care school. We watched while the kids napped. We told the kids that their parents would be talking to them when they picked them up.
9/11- Friend from Poland (living with my family and I, working to earn college money) and I were getti8ng ready to go to the gym. We had seen the first plane crash reports on the morning news shows and thought it was serious but not terrorism. We were walking out the door and my Mom screamed, "Oh my God! Oh my God! There is another plane!!" We went to the gym. I remember that no one was working out. Everyone was standing by the bank of televisions watching. That was where I was when the towers fell. I remember the next night going to mass with my friend, Mom, and a cousin. The bishop said the mass. We sang "God Bless America" and everyone was crying.
On 9/11, for the first time in forever, I had not turned on the TV to hear the news while getting ready for work because I was late and had to get a move on or I'd have missed my train. I didn't learn that anything had happened until we were already halfway to downtown L.A., and no one on the train knew exactly what had happened. Someone said they'd heard NY and DC had been bombed, and there were bombers on the way to L.A. Everyone was afraid. When we got to Union Station, police were sending everyone back to the trains to return home. Downtown, they said, was shut down.
I got home in time to see the second tower fall. Then like ejj1955, I spent the rest of the day in front of the TV, crying. I don't think I stopped crying all day.
When I went to NYC in Feb. 2003, my sister took me to Ground Zero. We got lost and were wandering through a maze of alleys and side streets. Just before we rounded this one corner, we both looked at each other and gasped. There had been an actual physical sensation of having our breaths taken away, and both of us felt it. We went around the corner and there it was, about a half block away. I always thought it had been the residual emotion of the actual disaster, of all those whose lives had been taken from them so violently and unexpectedly, that was still there a year and a half later. I don't know, maybe we were overly impressionable, but we both felt it at the same time. Weird.
My Dad had a comedy/parody album called "the First Family" that I liked. After the assassination,I think it was destroyed.
I have no recollection of RFK or MLK, Jr.'s deaths.
The Challenger explosion occured when I was working on a ship. I brought the news to the bridge when I went on watch but no one believed me.
Since I live on the west coast, I awoke to the news of the World Trade Towers. The first tower was on fire. Monsieur just got out of the shower and I called to him to see the scene on TV. Just then the second tower was hit. Shock is a totally inadequate word for what I felt. I attended school in the Bronx and when I was a junior we were extremely fortunate to have our spring formal on the top floor. We were unfortunate in that it was cloudy that night and all we could see was the top of the clouds beneath us. It is a treasured memory.
Living in Massachusetts, Kennedy's death was even more emotional for its citizens; he was the home state "Golden Boy." Most emotional aspect of the funeral was observing John John salute his father.
the irony of this is the Lecture Series Committee (the LSC, MIT's movie-showing committee), had a note on their basement offices, "due to circumstances beyond our control, this evening's scheduled showing of The Manchurian Candidate has been cancelled."
-=*+* Marty M '66
I have vague memories of the Challenger disaster - since I didn't own a TV or read the newspaper or listen to the radio during that period of my life.
9/11 is of course much more recent. It occurred less than a month after my father's death. I had called my mother that day and she said rather vaguely that I'd better turn on the TV. I was shocked with what I saw. My daughter was a toddler at the time and I remember thinking that it would change the landscape of her life. I think it has.
Edited to add: After adding to this thread, I did ask my mom about it. She was a librarian at a high school library at the time, and the news came over the pa system.
Even if Oswald wasn't dead, it's very difficult to discover the real "why" behind any act. We're not always honest with ourselves about our motives, much less with anyone else.
I don't think we can ever really understand why anyone would do something we wouldn't do ourselves. And even if it is something we would do ourselves, we would be doing it for our own reasons, not for anyone else's.
But I do remember all the adult hub-bub and, the funeral "parade" -- on a grainy back & white TV set up in the living room.
We actually had a living room. We had just moved into a Victorian mansion because it was a cheap, "used" house in the "old" part of town. I recall that Mom (a Depression child) furnished it with antiques (marble top tables, Geo. Washington chairs, etc.) because that was "old" furniture available from rummage (not garage) sales for a couple bucks.
She had a swarm of kids (and a dog) and we trashed all of that that beautiful, beautiful stuff...
I remember our teacher coming into the room crying.
I am a oldie but a goodie. :)