If you were born before November 22, 1963, you most certainly remember where you were, what you were thinking and wondering what the future might hold. Somewhere around 1 PM the news was breaking out across the nation and the world; President John F. Kennedy has been shot. What did this mean? Was it a communist plot or attack? Would we be at war with Russia soon? Were the Russians behind it? And the worst of all questions; Was Nuclear War imminent?
I was 12 years old and a seventh grader at St. Joseph's Catholic school in Chelsea. JFK was the first Roman Catholic elected to be President and in our little school, we took great pride in this fact. Many feared that if a Catholic were ever elected president, that the Pope would actually run the country, but that wasn't true. Lunch was over and our noon recess had come to an end. It was time for an afternoon of school. Sister Virginia closed the door to our three classes of sixth, seventh and eighth graders and it was time to open our books. Yep, all three grades in one room and one teacher, but there were no "shenanigans" as Sister Virginia was a strong disciplinarian and ran a tight ship, to say the least.
A few moments later a knock on the door startled everyone and a sixth grader was given permission to answer it. It was one of the student's mom, loudly calling for Sister Virginia, pulling her off to the side and whispering something. Soon a large gasp came from Sister as she exclaimed something like, "No No No, it can't be. It can't be." There was total silence now in the classroom as we knew something drastic had happened, but had no idea what. Sister Virginia was told to turn the black and white TV, used only for educational purposes on public television every now and then, and it was at this moment that she told us, "Children, please be quiet, President John F. Kennedy has been shot." It was at this time that the same words were coming out of the mouth of Walter Cronkite of CBS news on the television.
We were stunned! The girls started crying, especially a couple of them that had huge scrapbooks of Kennedy. Shortly thereafter, we were told that school would dismiss and for all of us to go home. By this time, other parents were pulling into the school parking lot, to either tell about the shooting or to get their kids. Everyone was in a panic. Everyone was scared. It was strange to see grown adults being in such a state of shock. I don't know what the other kids were thinking but it really frightened me. After all, the Cold War was in full swing. I don't remember too much about the Cuban Missile Crisis, other than it had been a tremendous showdown between Nikita Khrushchev and John Kennedy. And Kennedy had won the showdown. I remember my oldest brother, Tony A. Was stationed on one of the ships that would stop the Russian ships from getting to Cuba. It was an eerie feeling, especially for a 12 year old.
All in all, it was a frightening time for the world. And now a year later or so after the Cuban situation, John F. Kennedy has been shot. I ran home and found my mom already having the TV on, listening to the news. Our TV was never on during the daytime. It only came on at 5 PM for the evening news, the local news and then the evening programming of Gunsmoke, Father Knows Best, or something else. But here was Walter Cronkite once again on during the middle of the day.
Kennedy had been shot. We knew that now, but no one had any idea of the severity of this horrific incident. Was he just grazed? Maybe it was a mistake and it was only an attempt! Perhaps he's wounded but will recover. All speculation. And then came the announcement from a very grief-stricken Walter Cronkite who tearfully said something like this:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now receiving the news that President John F. Kennedy has died."
This Friday, November 22, we remember. The 50th anniversary of JFK's assassination. Our country was changed forever. So, where were you? And what were you thinking?
Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 319-327-4640. Be blest this week.