I was actually hoping that Dan Rather would say something today, on this anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, but I went over to his substack column and he was speaking about guns and violence.

It used to be a thing, a cocktail party kind of a thing, that people would discuss “where were you the day Kennedy was assassinated?” Everybody remembered where they were. The game is not played so much anymore, because most of us who were around on that fateful day were kids when it happened. But I remember that people who were adults then played that game. It was a life altering experience, was the essence of the game. Whatever your perceptions the morning of November 22, 1963, they were altered when you went to bed that night — and many people cried themselves to sleep.

I was in the fifth grade and I well remember that my teacher, Mr. Barlow, told us before recess that the president had been shot and then we went out to recess to process that information. Come to find out later that the president was already dead, but that he and the other teachers had made a decision to do a one-two punch in order to lessen the trauma.

That could never happen in today’s era of cell phones and social media. But in that day and age, there were only TVs and radios and if there was a kid who had a transistor radio at school, it was not known to me.

It was a hellacious 25 minutes. A lot of kids cried. Other kids were scared, “What do we do now? What if he dies?” It was a new concept that somebody like The President could be made of flesh and blood and be here one minute and gone the next. We came back in from recess, where we were given the full truth and then the buses came and took us home early. I remember my father sobbing, because of course, as an Irishman, he took the murder of JFK very personally.

We watched all the footage that you have seen of that day. We watched the Zapruder film for the first time. Refresh your recollection. Here are images from that day.

You see the size of the headlines. I remember seeing both the headlines of the Rocky Mountain News (now defunct) and the Denver Post, shrieking in that size of type. I had never seen that size type in a newspaper before, nor have I seen it since.

November 22, 1963 was a Friday. America was glued to the television all that night and the entire weekend. We all saw, in real time, Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald on Sunday night.

This is history now. There are a few old timers, and I’m one of them, who can speak from first hand recollection and share the sequence of events as they happened in our lives. And I’m one of the few. Nobody else on this blog, I don’t think, has any first hand recollection because they were too young. Murfster and Denis were both five years old at the time and I believe Durrati was one or two years old. Michelle was in Australia, so who knows what she recalls?

As we age we see common experience age with us. There was a time I recall, as a child, when WWII was in everybody’s common experience. People talked about it. At least, the adults did and the kids knew it second hand, from their lips. It was real, it wasn’t some historical fact and it certainly was not the stuff of conspiracy theory, Holocaust denying, as it has become today.

Same with Korea, same with Vietnam. Elvis and Marilyn were real in the bygone world I’m speaking of. So was Jim Morrison. So were a lot of people who we now know only as icons.

The sixties were an amazing time. JFK’s murder was the first of three major political assassinations which would mark the decade. America changed. It changed throughout the decade of the sixties. I can personally attest to that. And that change started 59 years ago today. We were a much more innocent people then than we are now. Today, in 1963, was a major flashpoint and it marked a significant turning point in our culture.


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  1. I was 19 when it happened & yes I still remember the horror of something like that happening here in the USA. I was in a class with other young women & we were all crying. He was our handsome wonderful president that was dearly loved. The shock was very traumatic. But then came 1968 & we knew our country had forever changed.

  2. Murf and I were actually six – plenty old enough to have memories of that day I have plenty. The most striking that night when I went to bed, and for that matter since was the demeanor of my First Grade teacher. As I thought about it that night, she’d been the ONLY adult I saw either at school (it of course let out early) and that included my piece of shit asshole racist grandfather. He was pure Klan and Kennedy being Catholic meant JFK wasn’t even a human fucking being! Yet even HE was devastated at the thought that an American President, even one he hated could be gunned down like that!

    Miss King however was quite matter-of-fact about the whole thing. An announcement came over the intercom for teachers to come to the office and she did after admonishing us she’d be right back so behave. Given my experience with her prior to that I sure as hell did! She came back and in a conversational “just so you know” that the President had been shot. Most of us boys at least had gotten to tag along hunting and were already being schooled in gun safety and how deadly a gun could be. So it “registered.” But I’ll never forget her matter-of-fact tone. It wasn’t long I think before another announcement came over the intercom and she came back and again calmly told us the President had been shot in the back of the head, and she even pointed to the back of her own to make her point! There was of course a third announcement and when she came back she calmly said the President was dead and school would be letting out soon.

    She wasn’t unemotional or in shock, just her normal (unless she was pissed) self and it was only when we spilled into the hallways and I saw other teachers, the Principal and older student and how upset others were (adults openly crying) that it hit me my own teacher had no fucks to give about the situation. My (older) sisters attended the same grade school and we walked the few blocks up to where mom worked. She sent us to “Granny’s” house – apparently she’d spoken on the phone with Granny and was assured Grandpa would be talking shit about JFK getting what he deserved or some such hatred.

    But only ONE adult I encountered that awful day wasn’t upset. And yes, we watched the same stuff on TV you did and I remember a lot of it. I wasn’t nearly old enough to fully understand it but as with the year before during the Cuban Missile Crisis the mood, the fear and worry were palatable.

  3. I was 12 years old that day. I was at school when the Head Master (English school) came and took me out of the classroom and said “come with me.” I thought I was doomed to punishment for some crime I did not commit. However, he took me outside the school and there was a U.S. Marine Guard who told me to get in the car and we drove off, not knowing what was going on. I asked him what was happening and he told me I would be informed once we got to the American Embassy in Mexico City. My father, the U.S. Consul General, was waiting for me and told me what had happened. We were ushered into a large communications room where several TVs had feeds from the U.S. broadcasters. There were people crying, some just stunned and silent. We watched for hours and I will never forget that day and the days to come. We watched LBJ being sworn in as President and then everyone knew that JFK was probably dead. End of my story.

  4. I’m reading this late, but still had to comment. I was a month away from being 25 years old that day (Yes, really!) and with my fellow graduate students in our study room. One guy walked in from the Math Dept. office, where he had been when the news came down. He was crying. At that time, the president had not yet died, but we got that news shortly afterwards. I was a fairly new “convert” to loving Kennedy, after being brought up in a Republican “nest,” and had already decided to vote for him in the next election.

    Everyone I knew was pretty devastated that this kind of thing could happen in OUR United States. I didn’t have a TV, so had to get my news from those who did. The picture of those days is still very vivid in my mind.

  5. I was 18, a sophomore in college, but home that day, alone, silk screening my Christmas cards. We had no TV. I got the news on the radio. So I remember how devastated I was, but not anyne else’s reaction. Somehow the cards got finished but I don’t remember how.

  6. I was 14, in music class. We all.went to.the chapel. I had just turned 14 on 11/19. I clearly remember that day. I also remember the murder of Malcolm X and of RFK. I recall the death of Marilyn Monroe and the MLK March on Washington. I was in college from 67-71. My school!was in D.C. so.I often ran into the anti-war protests every time I went downtown to the bookstore which was right at the staging area. And the protest marches,,where Ingot screamed at,,called a dirty hippy ( in a nice skirt and top, with neat hair,,about as far from.hippy as itbgotr),_and told I hated my country. I was working in D.C. when Nixon resigned. I watched Watergate on TV.

    and in 1988, after widowhood, I married my sailor and became a navy wife. I fit in about as well as you can imagine as a very well educated liberal, feminist, pagan E spouse. After the Cole and the embassy bombings, I had my car mirror searched whenever I went on the main base. My husband was in Desert Storm and went into Iraq in 1993with Marines. History wasn’t history. It was my life.

  7. I guess that I am an old man now but going back to that day still makes me cry as I have been doing from reading these memories. 600 mass murders so far this year…..

  8. You mentioned “Michelle” was in Australia at that time and you do not know what she remembers. Let me say that as a 19 year old at that time in 63 it was huge in Australia and it sits very clearly in my mind today. 😰

  9. I was 5 and went to half day kindergarten in the morning.
    My ritual was walk home, have lunch, and watch Bozo’s Circus.
    I remember being annoyed that it was not on and I went to complain to my mom that it was not on because “somebody shot the president”.
    I don’t think she believed me at first.


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