Assassination of President John F. Kennedy

Kennedy Assassination Memory from Oklahoma

I had just arrived home from my half day of kindergarten and was walking up my Grandmother’s long driveway when a car with our neighbor Jean Davee at the wheel raced by.  Jean brought the car to a screeching halt near the stand-alone garage back behind the house.  My grandmother was in the kitchen and came running out the back door when she heard the sound of car brakes.

Jean jumped out of the car crying uncontrollably, and shouted: “They have killed the President!”   Almost fifty years later, I can still vividly remember that events of that day; first being startled by the car racing by, then Jean’s proclamation of the President’s death, running to my grandmother’s living room and turning on the black and white console television for more news, my brother and cousins getting home early from school, my parents and other adults being somber.  Although I may not have fully grasped the magnitude of the event at the time, the reaction of the adults and dramatic way we heard the news made it a day that stands out like few others from my childhood.

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Kennedy Assassination Memory from New York

I  had stayed home from school the day President Kennedy was assassinated because I had tonsillitis.  I was ten years old.   My mother was in the kitchen and I was curled up on the living room sofa, reading, when my younger sister unexpectedly burst through the front door shouting that President Kennedy had been assassinated, and everyone had been sent home from school.

My mother did not believe her, but my sister insisted that she was telling the truth.  She said: “I saw Mr. Henry (our school custodian) lowering the flag in front of the school building to half staff, and he was crying.  Some of the teachers were crying too.”

We attended the same elementary school, she was three grades behind me.  The idea of Mr. Henry crying was so shocking that I knew my sister had to be telling the truth.  Mr. Henry stood at the front door of our school and greeted each of us by name as we arrived in the morning, and was there at the door to say goodbye to us every afternoon as we left.  He seemed huge to us, although he was probably around six feet tall.  He was always there to deal with our spills and accidents, or emergencies like plumbing leaks, stray dogs wandering the hallways, or the snake that had once crawled out of the woods onto the school playground during recess.  His calm presence at the school door and in the hallways always made us feel safe.   I knew something terrible enough to make Mr. Henry cry must truly be a disaster.

My mother was still questioning my sister and threatening to call the school, but I went to the kitchen window.  If you opened the window and looked off to the side, in the distance you could just barely see the flagpole that stood in the center of the town traffic circle beside the war memorial.  The police raised the flag each morning, and took it down at sunset.  Sure enough, the flag was flying at half staff.

I was too young to understand the full importance of what had happened that day.  My parents didn’t discuss it much in our hearing, and they didn’t talk to us about it at all.  I remember hours of talking on the TV and radio, the cadence of drums and the prancing black horse with the empty saddle following the flag-draped coffin as the President was carried to Arlington National Cemetery, but it was not real to me.  The President was a voice on the radio, a figure on the television.   In my child’s world, my only frame of reference for that event was that it was important enough and sad enough to have made our beloved Mr. Henry cry.

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Jane T. from Westchester County, NY writes:

I can’t believe that it’s been 50 years since President Kennedy was murdered.  I was only 11 years old, but my memory of it is frozen as if in glass.  I remember what I was wearing that day, where I was sitting in the classroom, what our teacher was wearing, everything.  We were in the middle of a reading lesson and my best friend was reading out loud to the class when there was a knock at the door.  The assistant principal came in and whispered something to the teacher.  She cried out; “Oh no!”  and looked very upset.

The Assistant Principal then turned to us and announced that President Kennedy had been shot, and that we would be sent home as soon as buses could be brought.  We went to the auditorium and Walter Cronkite was on TV.  Some of the teachers were crying.

I especially remember the silence of that day and the days that followed. The auditorium was perfectly quiet except for the sound of the TV.  The bus was quiet on the ride home.  The streets were deserted and quiet.  there was no traffic, no car horns.  The days after 9/11 reminded me of that time.  The same eerie silence and sense of deep sorrow.

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