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Charlotte region remembers JFK assassination

People from around the Charlotte region recall what they were doing on Nov. 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was assassinated and the days that followed. The following are unedited submissions from readers:

Cecila Hooks, Midland

“Fifty years ago I was at the beauty parlor getting a perm. When it came over the TV the room filled with dead silence as the news sank into all of us. We could not utter a word. It was unbelief. I was expecting my son in December and still to this day I think about that awful day near my son’s birthday. Several years ago we had the opportunity to go to Dallas, Texas and walk the grounds of Dealey Plaza go into the book depository and it was an experience I will never forget. What I remember most is how small the grounds were and going into the place where Oswald shot was very eerie. I can say that 50 years later it is as real to me as the day it happened. What a tragedy for the Kennedy family as well for all of us.”

Jay O’Connor, Matthews

“On Nov. 22, 1963 I was a senior at Garfield High School in Akron, Ohio, waiting for my eighth grade period journalism class to begin. Suddenly a classmate ran into the room saying that Kennedy had been shot, which of course shocked everyone. In a matter of minutes the principal came on the PA system confirming this information, after which he turned on the radio for all of us to hear what was being broadcast live over the radio. In those days there were no television sets in classrooms. The room grew deadly silent as everyone listened for details....Then we heard the words which everyone was dreading to hear: ‘Ladies and gentlemen: the President of the United States is dead.’ Up to now many of us had been praying, through the atmosphere was almost like a bad dream; I mean, did we just hear what we heard? Pretty soon many students were crying and we went into the hallway, there was an eerie silence, except for the sobbing of many kids. We walked to our lockers, almost zombie-like, in total shock that our president had been assassinated. Since cellphones did not exist in those days there was no way to call our families to talk to them, though we all wanted to. Our youthful innocence had been shattered. The tragic events of that day scarred us forever as a day of great sadness and hopelessness in that there was nothing anyone could do to make it better.”

Frank Lea, Laurinburg

“I was a junior in a military school when someone interrupted our English class to tell us about President Kennedy’s assassination. What I will always remember most about the event came days later. I was in the breakfast room eating when Mama said for me to hurry to the television in the den. She said they were moving Oswald and someone would kill him. I did and Ruby did. My mother seemed to sense what those in Dallas did not.”

David Carillo, Wadesboro

“I was a freshman at Torrington High in Torrington, Conn. It was during science class that the principal came on the loud speaker and announced that our President Kennedy was shot. While we waited the principal then put the radio announcer on the speaker who stated they were not sure if he was still alive. After the announcement we were dismissed for the day. The hardest part after the announcement was having to deliver papers to my customers since I was then a paperboy for the Torrington Register. It was very hard since the headline was the assassination of our beloved president. I had a hard time keeping my emotions under control during these deliveries and facing others. Since I was raised in an Italian atmosphere, most of the older generation were already dressed in black immediately after the announcement. Throughout the town different generations were distraught over the death of our president whom everyone loved.”

David Wallace, Oakboro

“The day President Kennedy died was just another dull, drab day for me at my Grammar School-Methodist College in Belfast, Ireland. We had completed another ordinary day at school and I do not remember anything specific or special about the day. I came home after school was let out at 3:40 p.m. GMT, when it was already getting dark. I proceeded to do some home work and after dinner that evening, we routinely watched the BBC. One of our favorite shows was “Dr. Kildare,’ which started at 8 p.m. GMT...As I recollect “Dr. Kildare” was interrupted at about 10 minutes before the usual end of the show, just when it was getting to the good part of the show, with a news bulletin about the fact that President Kennedy had been shot, but at the time we still had no word about his fate. The memory of what we were doing and the interruption of “Dr. Kildare” was etched into my mind. It wasn’t till a little later that the news filtered through that he had died. I will always remember that moment as it had a very chilling impact on the impressionable kid I was at that time. I was concerned as to how western relationships with the USSR would develop with the politically volatile Premier Khrushchev.”

Stephen Szadek, Waxhaw

“Half a world and 12 time zones away, it was early in the morning of Nov. 23 that I learned of President Kennedy’s assassination. I was a 22-year-old agricultural volunteer with International Voluntary Services, stationed in Bao Loc, Vietnam. I had gone out early to buy eggs at a local poultry farm and Ba Ga (Mrs. Chicken) told me in Vietnamese that my president had been shot. I rushed home and tuned into Radio Australia. Though the broadcast faded in and out, and echoed, I learned that President Kennedy had died. At the time, I wondered if Russia or Cuba had been behind the act and this was the beginning of something bigger, easy to image if you are so far from home and there is guerrilla warfare going on in your ‘neighborhood.’ A few days later, IVS headquarters in Saigon told us that this was an isolated incident and to continue activities. Each year, on the anniversary of the assassination, I remember Ba Ga and the eerie sounds of the Radio Australia broadcast.”

Don Matthews, Cornelius

“I was a 20-year-old soldier with the Army Security Agency, stationed at Homestead Air Force Base, Florida. On Nov. 23, 1963, we were on break from our shift duty as communications intercept operators. Cuba was a live military intelligence mission, given that there were Soviet ICBM missiles manned by Soviet personnel located on the island. They were aimed at the U.S. and capable of reaching Washington, D.C. We were in a heated volleyball match when the CQ (charge of quarters) ran out to tell us that our Commander in Chief, President Kennedy, had been shot. We were in shock; we ran to the the rec room and turned on the radio to get details. All we heard was solemn music, with periodic interruptions by an announcer who would state; The President of the United States is dead.’ We listened for at least a couple of hours; you could hear a pin drop in the room. We had no idea what to think other than that we would be going to war very soon, as it was obvious to us that it had to be related to the Cuban situation. Of course, that assumption was later dismissed based on the information available to the authorities at the time. It was a character building experience that I remember as if it were yesterday.”

Joanne Sigmon, Sherrills Ford

“On Nov. 22, 1963 I was in eighth grade in the Newton Conover school system and was in Mr. Starnes’ class at the time of the announcement of President Kennedy’s assassination. I had earlier written my class paper on President Kennedy because as a Catholic I was especially excited that he had been elected as the first Catholic President of our country. I had also previously written a letter to President Kennedy and had received a letter back from him which I kept in my class paper since then. I remember the four days so vividly now as ‘if it was yesterday’ and watching the minute-by-minute constant coverage on TV. In past years, I have visited President Kennedy’s grave site in Arlington Cemetery and when we later resided in Dallas, Texas for eight years in the late 70s/early 80s, we had driven by the site of the assassination many times. And I also worked at Parkland Hospital while with a nursing agency upon first moving to Texas.”

Albert Krantz, Charlotte

“At the time of President Kennedy’s assassination I was in a car driving from Huntington, West Virginia to Cincinnati where we (my wife, Barbara and our three oldest children) lived at the time. At that time I worked for Burroughs Corporation. A co-worker and I had driven from Cincinnati to Huntington in his car, which did not have a working radio. We did a presentation in Huntington, then returned to Cincinnati. Since the car had no radio, we heard no news. When my co-worker dropped me off at our house in the early evening I walked in the front door and was met by my wife with tears streaming down her face. She appeared OK, and the three children were all OK, so I could not imagine what had happened. Through her sobs, Barbara told me of the president’s assassination. John, our four-year-old, said “We will get you another president, Mommy.’ So, from then on, we, with most of the rest of the Americans, were glued to our TV.”

Tom Reilly, Mooresville

“As a 12-year-old boy growing up in western Pa., July 1960 was all about baseball and summer vacation. I did not want to get on a hot bus for the 30 minute ride to Indiana to listen to a political speech. But the crowd was huge and very enthusiastic over the message given by a man named John F. Kennedy. Not knowing a Republican from a Democrat, nevertheless, i was overwhelmed by this man’s charm and charisma. When I heard JFK on his first day in office five months later say “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” I was sold. This man was now my role model. Nov. 22, 1963 found my brother and I kicking a football in our back yard. It was a very warm and sunny day. At mid-afternoon, mom interrupted our game to relate of a terrible shooting in Dallas, Texas. Walter Cronkite did the best he could ad-libbing to viewers with the primitive news feedback he was getting bit by bit. Finally, it was over. Often I reflect back to those two days. I would give anything to be back in Pennsylvania listening to that bright, young man.”

Bill Oelkers, Hickory

“President Kennedy had been inaugurated in January, 1961 and in June of that year I began my career as an auditor with the U.S. General Accounting Office in Washington, D.C. I was working on an audit at a federal agency just off Pennsylvania Avenue in the early afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963 when word came from the hallway that the president had been shot. This was way before cell phones, computers, Tweets, etc. No radios were permitted at work, so there was a real lack of good information. Reluctantly, one of our bosses gave us permission to walk across the street to a parking lot where several of us had parked so that we could listen on the car radio for further news.

“Once it was confirmed that the president was dead, I recall several rumors began to spread about whether this might be some sort of attack on the country and this was fueled by sirens of police and emergency vehicles racing up and down Pennsylvania Avenue heading both toward the White House and the Capitol building. After an hour or so, word came that we should go home, but the traffic was very heavy with so many leaving at once. I was a witness to history over the next few days. I stood in a long, long line at the Capitol for many hours only to be told that where we were standing we would not make it to the rotunda before it would be closed to visitors. I stood on the side of Pennsylvania Avenue on the day of the funeral and took many pictures of the procession. Many young people like me who came to Washington in the early 60s were uplifted by President Kennedy’s call to see ‘what we could do for our country.’ Some 50 years later, Washington seems to have forgotten those words.”

Kathy Fain, Charlotte

“I lived on Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod during John Kennedy’s time in the White House. I felt very connected to the president and his family because Air Force One landed on our base every time they visited the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port. My parents and sisters and I would drive to the airfield and wait to see the family arrive. During one of those times, President Kennedy shook my grandmother’s hand during her visit from Georgia. She was beyond thrilled, even for a Southerner. When Jackie Kennedy miscarried Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, she was hospitalized in the base hospital at Otis. We drove over to see her exit the hospital. John John and Caroline were running around outside the hospital, waiting for their mom to appear. Jackie looked beautiful when she came out to the car. I felt so sad for their loss. I received the news of Kennedy’s assassination at school in seventh grade. Many began to cry, and it was probably the darkest day in my life thus far. None of us could understand why anyone would want to kill President Kennedy.”

Terri Lauer, Mooresville

“I vividly remember the events of Nov. 22, 1963 and don’t imagine I’ll forget them as long as my mind functions normally. I was 10 years old that day. I had finally hit double digits. So it was a special day for me for several reasons; I was celebrating my birthday and had already gotten special presents from my family before going to school. It was a Friday and we were having outdoor relays at school that afternoon, so extra time out of class! Wow, it couldn’t be better. I even won a relay (which was very unusual for me). The prize was a box of Crackerjacks, which is a pretty big deal to a 10-year-old in 1963. The town was Statesville, N.C. and the school was Ebenezer Elementary. We kids on the playground were a little confused when the bell to come indoors range earlier than we expected it, but our fifth grade teacher, Pansy Holcomb, told us we had to go to our classroom and be quiet. A few minutes after we had settled in, our school principal, Irma Holcomb, came to our classroom to make an announcement. We later learned she had gone to each room to make the same announcement. She told us our President had been shot, that we were being dismissed from school early and that we should go home and watch the events on television and continue watching over the next several days. At that moment, the fact that it was my birthday was erased from my mind. I did exactly as the principal asked. I was riveted to the coverage on TV the entire weekend and through the funeral service on Monday, as school was called off that day. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot on live TV. For me personally, any remaining innocence of childhood I had on the day I turned 10 was quickly and irrevocably shattered.”

Larry Hamrick Jr., Kings Mountain

“I was a seven-year-old second grader in High Point the day Kennedy was assassinated. I remember that we were dismissed from school early but, as I recall, we did not get a reason. It was either on my walk home or at home that I was finally told what happened that day. Not too many years ago, my father and mother presented me with the note I had written on that day that probably expressed the sentiment of many of us elementary school kids.”

The note reads: “Goodby Pres. Kennedy, by Larry Jr., November 22, 1963 505 N. Rotary Dr., High Point, N.C.

Tom Higgins, Mooresville

“On Nov. 22, 1963 I was en route from Burnsville to Durham via Winston-Salem. At the time I was editor/publisher of my hometown weekly newspaper, The Yancey Record, and had been assigned by The Asheville Citizen to cover the Duke-North Carolina football game as a correspondent. I was two months away from joining the sports staff at The Charlotte Observer. My wife and 3-year-old son were along, and we planned to spend two nights at her parents’ home in Winston-Salem before I continued on to the game on Saturday. We stopped in Hickory to pick up sandwiches for lunch. I went into a small restaurant alongside U.S. 70 for burgers. A group of perhaps eight people were gathered around a radio, listening intently.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

A waitress laughingly replied, “Somebody shot Kennedy!”

Angered, I walked out, vowing never to return. There was no radio in my car, so we looked at the faces of other motorists we passed, trying to get a hint of what they might be hearing. In Mocksville, I stopped at a corner service station to ask the news. The operator, a giant of a man of about 6-8, was leaning against a gas pump bawling. That told us…The president had been assassinated in Dallas. We continued on to my in-laws’ home and sat in dismay, glued before the TV. No one except my son hardly slept for the next 52 hours as bulletin-after-bulletin flashed from Dallas and Washington. The Duke-UNC football game was postponed, same as all others and most activities that fateful weekend. It was the worst of times.”

Patrick Tiernan, Shelby

“It was a typical November day for a Richmond, Indiana country-farm boy. Basketball is king in Indiana and we had a big game later that afternoon with nearby Hagerstown. While in the classroom after lunch, the Principal came over the loud speaker and said, “The game with Hagerstown this afternoon has been canceled. Mr. Kennedy has been shot.” That is all he said. My first thought, in the initial seconds, was that Mr. Kennedy must have been the coach of Hagerstown, and he had been shot while hunting since rabbit season was in full swing. I was perplexed, but figured he would get better. The lady teacher then said, “Yes, President Kennedy had been shot, and we should all pray for him. When you get home you should talk to your parents about it.” That was it. Nothing more. Class proceeded as normal. I thought who in the world would shoot the president and why. Was he OK –

“I assumed so. It made no sense. My thoughts went back to January 20, 1961, when President Kennedy was inaugurated. I was there. 10 years old, but I vividly remember how freezing cold it was sitting on the wooden bleachers stomping my feet in the snow and cold trying to keep warm. It was not fun. I do recall looking at the podium and hearing President Kennedy speak and Robert Frost give his great poem. My Mom was an English teacher and hearing Robert Frost was all she talked about. My Dad was a History, PE teacher, and coach so he thought it was important to go to the inauguration. Being Catholic, as was our new President, all the better.

“I did not feel privileged or special by being at the inauguration, but it was pretty neat I thought, except for the cold. My uncle was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1958 (Vance Hartke - Indiana) and since he was married to my Dad’s sister, going to Washington always seemed special, though. We always got to go behind the scenes on a few little things. After the inauguration, my brother and I were told we were too young to go the Inaugural Ball that evening (I assumed then there was only one), so my Mom and Dad, and my two older sisters got all dressed up, tux and long dresses, and went out for evening. It was not easy to make the trek from Indiana to Washington. It was in the mountains near Wheeling, West Virginia, where the six of us in our family – parents plus four of us kids ranging from 8 to 14 years old, in a 1957 green 4-door Chevy, got stuck in the snow. Please note that interstates were by no means common back then! We had to get out and push the car to get up the two lane mountain road. I learned then to never stand directly behind a spinning wheel while pushing a car. You will get dirty! It was dark and time to find a place to stay. We stopped at a motel while my Dad went in to get a room. Out he came – very frustrated and said, “I am not going to pay $6 for us to get a room. That was way too much. We are going on.” On we went. November 22, 1963 is an easy day to remember since it is the same date as one of my sister’s birthday. When our youngest daughter, Elizabeth, had a middle school special project to do, she decided to do it on North Carolina’s Carl Sandburg. A trip to Flat Rock was in order. She and I trekked up the mountain, and she said her teacher told the class that Carl Sandburg was unique because he read a poem at President Kennedy’s inauguration. I told her when she gets back to school tell the teacher she was wrong. It was not Carl Sandburg, it was Robert Frost. I know, because I was there.”

Mary Allen, Charlotte

“I was six years old and at my grandfather’s home in Marion, SC. Even at this young age, I knew something terrible had happened. I remember my grandfather, my dad, and other family gathered around the old black and white television, and all of them were crying. I had never seen most of them cry before. I asked what happened, and was told our president had been shot and killed. I remember crying along with everyone else, not really understanding the gravity of the situation. I will never forget that day as long as I live.”

Connie Zdenek, Rock Hill

“My husband (who was studying at the University), two sons and I were in Madrid, Spain when President Kennedy died. We were eating breakfast in our apartment when the doorbell rang as it usually did when the milkman delivered our milk. Our elder son, Mark, age 4 at the time went to get the milk. It was this milkman who told him that the President was dead. When Mark reported the news to us I said “Oh, he has been drinking again” because there had been times he appeared to have been inebriated.

“But, later when my younger son, Gary, who was in a stroller, and I were doing the daily shopping, everyone we met in our neighborhood and all the shop keepers approached us to say how sorry they were to hear the news. The comments were heartfelt and touching.

“So this is why I will never forget. Just writing this brings on tears today – 50 years later.”

Pat Wimer, Charlotte

“When President Kennedy was assassinated my family and I were living in the bush in the Central African Republic as missionaries.

We had not heard but the dear ones in the village had heard and came to our place upset to tell us we no longer had a government in our country as our president had been killed. We explained to them that we still had our government. We then turned on the radio run by batteries to get the news. A very difficult day.”

Pat Jordan, Lenoir

“I was a 19 year old in college at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho (300 miles north of Boise). I had just left class and going to another. We were told in the previous class the president had been shot. I met a friend between classes and he said the president died and that LBJ had had a heart attack. I thought the world was coming to an end, even in little old Idaho. My next class the instructor confirmed that indeed JFK had died, but no one really could confirm about the health of LBJ. We were all stunned, shocked. What would the country do? And then I remember just hearing drums beating it seemed for days, but really we were all glued to the TV sets and watching the lying in state in the capital and the funeral.”

Betty Chalker, Mooresville

“I was living in Hyannis, Mass. With my husband and three small children. We were getting ready for an eight hour road trip to a small town near Rochester, NY for Thanksgiving with the family. When Walter Cronkite came on the TV with the news I was broken-hearted along with the nation. The Cape had gone through the campaign and election. He was so good for the young people and gave them so much encouragement. There is a memorial at Veterans Park where my children took swimming lessons. people started throwing money in the pool and the money is used to give sailing lessons to local children which I think it is appropriate.”

Lynn Markley Gorski, Charlotte

“Nov. 22 1963, I was a junior attending Goldsboro High School in North Carolina. I was in Home Economics class. Our teacher Mrs. Self was leisurely pacing in front of the class as she delivered a lecture. The intercom came on about1:25. There was an announcement that President Kennedy had been shot almost an hour earlier. No one moved. We just sat there in disbelief. Mrs. Self stood still and tears started to slide down her cheeks. No one spoke. No one moved. No one looked at another student. About 10 minutes later, the intercom came back on and there was an announcement that President Kennedy was dead. For the first time in my life I felt vulnerable. If President Kennedy could be assassinated, nothing was impossible. For the first time I feared that there were monsters among us – even in America.”

Albert Johnson, Mount Gilead

“The assassination of President Kennedy was one of the pivotal moments in my life and for my generation. I was a 20 year old junior at Duke, horsing around in my fraternity TV room when the announcements started coming in. Soon the horseplay turned to shocked, solemn attention to every word. I remember much of the early information even now. I remember the capture of Oswald, and much of the unfolding drama. I remember my shock when it was announced a few hours after the assassination that Oswald was the sole shooter, and that no further investigation was necessary because there was no conspiracy. This was simply too quick to jump to such a monumental conclusion. My doubts linger to this day. Even though I was not especially fond of Kennedy, he was my President.

“My grief was so great that I longed to be with my family, and my brother and I came home to Mount Gilead for what we thought would be the weekend. When I returned from church that Sunday and learned of the Oswald murder, I knew that there was a larger picture to behold. My brother and I returned to campus because we believed that more information would be available there than in our hometown. When I arrived at the fraternity house, several friends convinced me to go with them to Washington and get a closer view of the emerging events. We arrived late at night, and learned that the line to view the casket was 34 blocks long. We decided to find a place along the curb on Pennsylvania Avenue for a close up view of the funeral procession. We arrived there about 3:00 am and positioned ourselves in front of Blair House, diagonally across from the White House. By morning, the crowd began to arrive and excitement was in the air. As the procession began to form, Harry Truman emerged from Blair House and worked his way past me to his limousine five feet from me, where he joined Dwight Eisenhower and Herbert Hoover. At this spine-tingling moment, I stood less than ten feet from three presidents at the same time, and could hear them greet each other. When the procession began to move from the White House, it passed a few feet in front of me and my friends, so close that we could hear the footsteps at times. There was of course the caisson carrying the casket of the President, but there was Jackie Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Ted Kennedy all so close. There was President Johnson, the Cabinet, Charles DeGaulle, the Soviet Ambassador, the sitting monarchs from Greece and Belgium and many more of the most powerful and well known people in the world. There were the combined emotions of grief and fascination that tore the body and mind in many directions, as history was happening around us each moment. It was an event that I will always remember, proud that we had the courage to get close and almost be a part of this scene, but always remorseful that such a tragedy struck my leader and the institutions that make me proud to be an American. Whenever any tid-bit of information is available about the event, I snap to attention and grasp for every detail. I became a skeptic on my on, and am glad that in time others emerged with similar questions. I fully believe that something more dreadful than a lone, crazed gunman was at work that day. I hope that concrete answers are revealed and proved in my lifetime.”

Bill Mills, Monroe

“I was an 18 year old freshman trying to get back across the campus of Clemson College(soon to be University) having just taken a math test. I noticed people crowding around cars and listening to the radio with much concern. I was informed that the President had been shot,was being treated at Parkland Memorial, and priests had administered last rites to him. Unbelievable feelings of despair and grief. I was coming home to Monroe, N.C. for the weekend, my ride was waiting, and we proceeded north on newly completed I-85.We got to Charlotte by 5:30 p.m. and I’ll never forget the newspaper boys standing on the medians of Wilkerson and Independence boulevards. with special editions of the Charlotte papers. That weekend, and the next week’s Thanksgiving holiday, were very solemn and unforgettable.”

Timothy Walsh, Waxhaw

“While on a training exercise in the Marines at Camp Lejeune, N.C. in the woods. We heard of the shooting and most assumed it had to be by an enemy agent of the U.S. We returned to the barracks and were immediately on high alert. My personal thoughts included having to go to combat as it took awhile for the air to clear.”

Carol Schmidt, Concord

“On the day of JFK’s assassination we were living in San Francisco. My husband was in Boston on business. We lived on Sacramento Street, across from the Grace Cathedral. I had finished cleaning the house and was just getting out of the shower when I heard the bells of the Cathedral ringing a very somber tone. It was about 11:00 AM on the west coast. I knew something awful had happened, but until I turned on the radio, I had no idea how awful it was. My husband called me soon after I had heard the bells ringing. It was such a relief to talk to him; I felt like a family member had died. I felt so alone and utterly shocked. I had a hard time believing what had just happened to our president, whom we all loved so very much. The rest of the day was so solemn. Watching the news during the funeral and seeing so many of the news men in tears as the flag covered casket went down Constitution Avenue, was a sight I have never forgotten. Then watching Jackie Kennedy go up to the casket and kiss it. As a couple, they had finally found some happiness in their lives together, only to have it stripped from them so quickly.”

Larry Gregory, Mooresville

“I was 12 years old and in the 7th grade at Monticello School in Statesville,N.C. An announcement came over the room speakers that Kennedy had been shot. At 2:00 p.m. EST it was reported Kennedy was dead. We all cried including our teacher Mr. Meadows. I watched all the events on TV that weekend and saw the shooting of Oswald. Seeing that made me think it was a conspiracy and I still think that to this day.”

Theresa Dvorak, 73, Charlotte

“As I returned to work in Manhattan, after lunch, everyone was gathered in the Vice President’s office in front of his TV. The shocking news of the shooting of the President of the United States was alarming. We all huddled speechless and then those words were said, “John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, is dead.” All I could remember was we all started crying and were hugging one another for comfort. It is a day I will never forget as long as I live.”

Larry Hewitt, Charlotte

“In November of 1963 I was a sophomore at Wake Forest College. I had returned from the NC State-Wake football game (in Raleigh on Saturday) on the Sunday following the assassination. About 9:00 p.m. on that Sunday I and seven other fraternity brothers decided to road trip to Washington for the funeral of President Kennedy. We left that night in two cars and got to Washington in the early morning of Monday. The funeral precession was to begin about 11 a.m. as I recall. Somehow, I don’t remember how I did it, but I stood on the curb directly in front of the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue as the funeral procession came from the White House. I was not more than 75 feet from the entire Kennedy family and world leaders as they came onto Pennsylvania Avenue and made the left turn to go down the street to the cathedral. I recall distinctly seeing Haile Selassie of Ethiopia and Charles DeGaulle. of France. Other world leaders were also in the procession. After the procession moved on I and my fraternity brothers made the return trip to Winston-Salem that Monday. I will never forget that trip and profound sense of sadness in seeing the Kennedy family in the funeral procession.”

Sue Rector

“My late husband, David, and I were newlyweds, just married on August 31, 1963. I was working at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, and had been sent that week to a training course given at the Pentagon. It was the last day of the course, we were in a classroom with no windows in the bowels of the building. At about 2:00 p.m. M someone came in and told us that the President had been shot in Dallas. We thought that he was still alive. The course wrapped up very quickly and we were dismissed. I hitched a ride with a classmate to downtown Washington and was dropped off on Constitution Avenue. I made my way walking over to 7th and Independence to meet my husband who was working in one of the temporary buildings that had been constructed on the Mall during WWII.

“As I walked, there were already tabloid newspapers out with headlines that the President had been shot, but with no other details. As David and I drove home to our apartment in Chevy Chase, Md., we heard confirmation that the President was dead over the radio. We were shocked and could not believe that such as thing could happen to this charismatic leader, a young man and the first Catholic President. David was in the DC National Guard, and he was called up to active duty for a couple of days during the funeral events in Washington. I believe he was stationed along Constitution Avenue and witnessed the funeral procession passing by. The Federal government was closed on the day of the funeral. Our sense of disbelief continued through the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. It was amazing to live in Washington during this time, and I have always felt lucky to have been there. Every year on the Anniversary of President Kennedy’ death, I reflect on that time and mourn all over again.”

Margaret Bigger

“While my husband, Randy, was in UVA Law School, I served as Continuity Director of Charlottesville’s WINA radio station. About midday on November 22,1963, suddenly a radio drama was interrupted by an announcement: “Shots have been fired during the president’s motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Men were seen running up a grassy knoll. More later. We now return you to your regular broadcast.” A station employee, Bob Grant immediately switched off the drama and began playing somber music. At the time, some of us, including our boss, became aggravated, but when word came that the President was being rushed to the hospital, the boss commended Bob. Almost immediately after Kennedy’s death was declared, my phone began ringing constantly: advertisers wanted to move their commercials from that day to the next. No way could I go home at 5 p.m. Finally, Randy came to help. Most people assumed the funeral would be Sunday, so they wanted to move their ads to Monday. That day’s schedule filled quickly. Meanwhile, some advertisers changed their minds, deciding that I should help them word a sympathy announcement instead for Saturday and Sunday. Guess what? Officials declared that Monday would be the day of mourning. Everything had to be changed AGAIN! At about 8 p.m., Randy and I left the station, knowing I would have to work Saturday, too.”

Randy Bigger

“Soon after the terrible news broke, I wheeled into the UVA Law School parking lot and yelled to my fellow classmates, “The President has been shot!” We stood listening to the radio for a short while, and then one law student announced, “Those conservatives in Dallas did it!” But cooler heads prevailed, and we agreed to wait until the facts were known. Meanwhile, classes were canceled. Later, I went to WINA radio station and tried to help my wife by answering a flood of telephone calls. Some callers were hostile: “I’m so glad he got it!” “I’m glad he’s dead!” “It’s a Jewish plot to take over the country.” Yet, most of the callers expressed shock or fear - or especially words of comfort and condolence for the Kennedy family.”

Robert Doran, Davidson

“It was just like it happened yesterday but I was an 18 year old college freshman at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me. when the word was passed that President Kennedy had been shot. I was crossing the campus quad looking forward to Thanksgiving back home in Massachusetts. My first reaction was “It can’t be serious. How could a US President be shot? This is the USA”. And then my college buddies and I ran to a local TV and were glued to CBS and Walter Cronkite. A tragedy. After college, I joined the Marine Corps and fought in Vietnam. I grew up.”

Linda Cagley

“The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is the very first distinct memory that I have. I would have been 4 years old at the time. I knew something was wrong, really wrong, when my father who was a stock trader, came home during the day. I remember my father being at home and my parents watching TV during the day. Something was wrong. He was never home at this time, but the markets closed that day. They were sad. Something was really wrong. And I remember watching TV constantly for the next several days - which we never did. I didn’t understand why. I knew it was very, very sad, and later I understood why.”

Mark Erwin, Charlotte

“I was in the US Air Force and stationed in Christchurch, New Zealand on temporary duty for Operation Deep Freeze, the mission to resupply the US scientific mission on Antarctica. We received a transmission that President Kennedy had been shot. Our team was called together by the commander and we prayed for the Kennedy family and the safety of Americans everywhere. There was some thought that the death of the president could be part of a larger scale attack on our country. The next day we assembled in our dress uniforms and were taken to the Cathedral in the center of Christchurch for a memorial service. As we were marching in and a newspaper took several photos. The one they chose for the front page was of me. Also attached is the program from the service. I remember when I left for New Zealand much of the American public as well as the military forces were not too pleased with President Kennedy’s handling of the Bay of Pigs fiasco as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis. His popularity was at a low point. Interestingly, when I returned a few months later, it seemed that President Kennedy was revered by all. His status had been elevated to martyr and hero. I have often wondered what his legacy might have been had he served the remainder of his term. Many of his initiatives have been realized by others. I think he would have accomplished great things.”

Danny M. Whitlow, Charlotte

“On 11/22/63 I was a student in the 3rd grade at Carothers Elementary School in Fort Mill, SC. In our last period Class the principal called all the teachers to come to the office. She left and came back shortly. I still remember the blank look on her face and she seemed really distracted the rest of the day. She didn’t tell us anything. After school let out while waiting for the bus to go home, a loud mouth know it all girl kept hollering “President Kennedy has been assassinated, President Kennedy has been assassinated!” I didn’t know what assassinated meant, thought it was something good like getting a medal or some kind of award. One kid told me the president got a sword from the Queen. Did not get the whole spectrum of what happened until I got home and my Mother was watching TV with tears in her eyes. I then found out what the word assassinated meant. Our teacher told us later she was so shocked that she didn’t know what subject she was teaching before going to the office. She had to look at the book on her desk.”

Louise Lione, Charlotte

“Nov. 22, 1963. On a visit home from Italy, where I was living at the time, I was driving from Chicago to Cleveland that day. The road would be I-80 today. I don’t know what it was then. But it must have been something like the Pennsylvania Turnpike – the next leg of my trip -- because I remember similar roadside restaurants. There was no radio in the borrowed ’57 Chevy. I stopped for lunch at one of the roadside restaurants. I don’t remember the time. But I do remember the strange utter silence in a place that was fairly full. Discretion kept me from inquiring about what seemed such puzzling local behavior. I finished lunch and drove on. It was dark by the time I reached Cleveland, where I would spend the weekend with relatives. First, I stopped for gas and directions. The attendant greeted me with “I guess you know that Johnson is our new president.” Confused and feeling very foreign indeed, I impatiently asked, “Is this some kind of joke?” The bearer of shocking tidings excitedly filled me in. Sunday, still in my bathrobe, I was walking past the television, eyes on the screen, just as Oswald was shot. These remain as what I call kinetic memories. So forceful that, recalling them, I feel that I am physically back in that place and time.”

Rick Smith, Mooresville

“I was in high school, in Warwick, RI, when President Kennedy was assassinated. The school intercom directed all students to return to their home rooms immediately. After all students returned to their home rooms the school announced that President Kennedy had been shot while in a motorcade in Dallas, TX. All school buses were taking students home and school was canceled. Later, I was in the high school parking lot, standing next to the school bus listening to my transistor radio, when it was announced that President Kennedy was pronounced dead. While everyone remembers where they were when it was announced that President Kennedy was shot there is also another event that is also burned in my memory. It was Sunday and I walked to catch a ride with my team mate for our CYO basketball game. The TV was on and we watched the live broadcast of Lee Harvey Oswald being shot by Jack Ruby at the Dallas police station.”

John Cutchin, Newton

“I live in Denver, N.C., but my law practice is in Newton. At the time of Kennedy’s death, I lived in Sherrill’s Ford, N.C., in southeastern Catawba County, where my father was a family doctor. I was in the eighth grade at Sherrill’s Ford Elementary School, that grade being taught by Mr. Charles Estep, who was also the principal of the school. The classroom was right next to his office. I remember he did an announcement to the school that the president had been shot. Then he came into the classroom and called me and a close friend of mine, Clyde Sigmon, to his office. He said he was going back in to teach the class, but he wanted me and Clyde just to sit next to the radio in his office to keep up on the progress of the president, and let him know what happened to him. So, when the announcement came over the radio, we went and told him about the death. He then announced it to the entire school. I also remember we were to attend the Duke/Carolina game that Saturday, as Dad had season tickets, but it was postponed until the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I believe. I didn’t see Ruby kill Oswald as we attended church that morning when it happened. I remember being off from school when the funeral occurred and watching it on television, seeing Kennedy’s school salute. Sad times indeed. Hope it never happens again in my lifetime.”

Joan LaVoie Passine

“November 22, 1963, was my first day on the job as receptionist for a small classical radio station in Minneapolis, Minnesota -- KADM/KEVE (subsequently it became KQRS). Of course we had our station piped into the offices and I heard the announcer on duty report that an assassin’s bullet had hit President Kennedy. We subscribed to the AP and UPI wires, but we were also monitoring major radio networks. We knew by that monitoring that the President had died, but could not officially report it on our station because it had not yet come over the wires. Through tears, I was answering our listeners calls, telling them that as far as we knew the President was still alive even tho we knew otherwise. We were one of the few stations who had the type of somber music that was played throughout the weekend until the funeral. Very sad time. Additionally, my best friend gave birth to a baby boy that day.”

Bill Brannon, Davidson

“On November 23, 1963 I was at my desk serving the treasurer of a large corporation in Charlotte as accountant/assistant sitting outside his office next to his secretary. My phone rang and my wife called from our home in Davidson and advised me that President Kennedy had just been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. I immediately went into the treasurer’s office and advised him of this incident. The treasurer, who grew up in Texas, expressed regret of the shooting but left me with the impression of not being over-sympathetic. I still wonder if this was the feeling of the majority of Texans towards Kennedy and his kind.”

Debra Page, Norwood NC

“How vivid a recollection that day remains... I sat in a 2nd grade classroom when the principal came on the speaker system. It was obvious something had happened. As he spoke, relaying the news that our President had been shot and subsequently died, the room fell to pure silence. Tears welled up in my teachers’ eyes and students couldn’t say a word. We were sent home shortly.

“Both Dad and Mom met us at home, I had never seen my parents so upset. It seemed a combination of shear terror, unanswered questions and a very deep disappointment. We watched the news reports together and there was simply no way to console anyone. I recall Walter Cronkite chocking back tears as they replayed the original CBS announcement. My Father was always certain there was more to the story - he read everything he possibly could and until his dying day he knew there was a conspiracy, a plan - more than a single shot, and a loss too big for words at that simple time. The Zapruder film, he said, clearly showed this young President and John Connolly both being hit then a final blow which blew off the top of JFK’s head. Horrifying.’’

William E. Jackson Jr., Davidson

“As a grad student at Columbia University, I had campaigned for JFK--standing on a grocery crate--on upper Broadway in Manhattan in the fall of 1960. One of my professors, Richard Neustadt, the author of “Presidential Power: The Politics of Leadership” (1960)--a book John Kennedy had read before assuming office--convinced me that the best place to get a bird’s eye view of the entire Federal government was the Bureau of the Budget (now OMB) in the Executive Office of the President (EOP). It was located in the old State/War/Navy building across the narrow and short West Executive Ave. from the White House.

“Caught up in the mystique of “Camelot,” and alarmed over the nuclear war danger ever-present in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, I moved to Washington in the spring of 1963 to work in the international division of that powerful little bureau whose employees were known as “the President’s men.” After the Cuban missile crisis “near-run thing” of October 1962 and the Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963--JFK had spoken of a world in which we would be “neither red nor dead, but alive and free” (June 10, 1963)--and the belated showdown with George Wallace over the “moral” issue of desegregation, I had come to feel in “the last 100 days” that all things were nearly possible in the Kennedy presidency. Working on foreign military aid programs in the EOP--and in touch with the NSC staff and the Pentagon--I did not sense unavoidable inevitability over our deepening involvement in Vietnam. I knew that the President was capable of a detached view of history, and I took some comfort from the restraint he had demonstrated vis-a-vis the war hawks the previous October. My youthful ideals were still intact. I viewed the future from the top of the mountain, in terms of the good that imperial America could potentially do in the world. As a young man of 28, I would have said, then, that the Kennedy years gave me great hope for America’s future. And I never felt anything like it thereafter.

“ In a visceral sense, by nightfall on November 22, I felt that my youth had ended with the passing of JFK. John Kennedy’s was an unfinished life, and a presidency in transition, on that November day when AID administrator and later U-Cal Davis law professor, Floyd Feeney--a fellow Davidsonian--and I were summoned back from lunch to our offices in the early afternoon, and heard the final word. That evening, I stood on a balcony of what is now the Eisenhower Building and looked down on the chaotic scene as Lyndon Johnson returned from Dallas, and was whisked to his vice presidential office in the same building. Then I wandered up and down the jammed little avenue, observing the impact of the tragedy on the faces of JFK’s --now LBJ’s--top aides as they tried to function. (One was Henry Hall Wilson of Monroe, North Carolina.) Arriving Senators included Hubert Humphrey, in tears; and Bill Fulbright, projecting a steel-like image on TV cameras before the world. Thel mystery about the enigmatic young president was how far he had come when he died; and where he might have led us.”

Ed Czekaj, Indian Trail

“I was a senior (17 years old) in French class at West Orange Mountain high school in West Orange, NJ on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963 – that fateful day 50 years ago.

Everyone was shocked, stunned, and in disbelief. We all watched TV continuously all weekend through Oswald being shot and the Monday funeral. I had wanted to drive down to pay my respects but it really wasn’t practical. Next year 1 of my high school friends was attending GW University in DC so I was able to visit the grave and the eternal flame then.

This week I will fly my flag in the backyard at half staff from Friday through Monday and will incorporate our 35th President in my preparations for our 50th high school reunion next June.”

Sheila P. Burleson, Pineville

“In September 1960, I entered the 6th grade. I remember vividly on that first day of school our teacher told us the upcoming election (Nixon vs. Kennedy) would be the first to widely use television as a campaign tool. She told us that in this case she encouraged TV watching. She also advised us to read the newspapers and pay attention to the articles about Nixon and/or Kennedy. At first, I was like “What fun is THAT?” As I watched more and more “political” TV the differences between Nixon and Kennedy were evident. Not just their personalities but their visions for how to go forward in this country. It was also evident that Kennedy had a self-deprecating sense of humor that I loved. I’d watch press conferences and be thoughtful one minute and laughing the next. I was so smitten with Kennedy and his views on how to lead this country. The day before the Big Presidential Election, this wise and wonderful teacher had us hold a secret vote in class and of course Nixon won. I did not help him win at school - I was solidly JFK.. When JFK won, I was over the moon. I would run home from school in the 6th through the early 9th grades to see if Kennedy was giving a speech or better yet having a press conference. They were entertaining and informative at the same time. The night Kennedy talked to “his fellow Americans” about the standoff with Russia (a/k/a “The Cuban Missile Crisis” I was confident he would do the right thing and everything would be fine.

“November 22, 1963 was a beautiful day -(but then aren’t those days when the world collapses always gorgeous fall mornings?) When we first heard that JFK had been shot, I was in total disbelief and denial. No one in the small burg where I was born and lived had ever been shot. I told myself they just shot him in the leg. I kept thinking “Assassinations only happen in history books. Not in these times - not in the USA in 1963. (Little did I know.) When they came around and announced that he had died - died - our Civics teacher said “You better close your eyes and pray. Pray hard for this country and all that it is.” There were no atheists in our classroom that day. Everyone was crying. For the next 4 days or so, no one called their friends, no kids went out to play, everyone was glued to TV or radio. I watched on Sunday as Jack Ruby shot Oswald in the Dallas Police Station (and just how does a person manage to get killed in the Dallas Police Department.”

Through it all, Jackie was so valiant (as a magazine called her afterward). I know I was a nervous wreck. I could not stop crying. I watched those majestic guards flanking the casket as it lie in state in the Rotunda. I watched in part horror and part amazement as a wife and daughter kissed the casket of husband and father. I watched Jackie and all those foreign dignitaries march behind the caisson. I watched as the eternal flame was lit. I learned a whole new vocabulary that weekend - rotunda, lying in state, catafalque, caisson, rider less horse, To this day, if I hear the Naval Hymn “Eternal Father” I am brought to tears.

November 22, 1963 was one of the worst days in my life. The murder of Robert Kennedy comes a close second. By the time Robert Kennedy was killed, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King had been gunned down. I hate to say that by the time 9/11 got here my ability to be shocked beyond belief had been used up. I hate autumn. The closer Nov. 22 gets, the more depressed I get. I kept all those newspaper clippings about the assassination and gave them to a relative. When I tried to go back and look at them over the years, that same feeling of sheer horror came over me again. It is a sore that won’t heal. I was not even at the site - I think of people who watching the entire thing unfold as they waited to wave to a Prince and Princess.”

Bonnie Wallish, Charlotte

“I was president of the College Young Democrats at Hunter College, part of the City University in New York and had just arrived for my class on the American Presidency when a fellow student came by with the announcement that President Kennedy was shot. Our class was preparing for an exam the following week. We gathered in front of the chairman of political science’s office to listen to the news when we learned that he had died. I was in shock and it was surreal taking the subway home. The presidents of CYD at other colleges in the greater New York area spoke by telephone while we were glued to the television and we arranged buses to take students to Washington, D.C. to view the president’s casket in the Capitol. Our group observed the president’s casket passing by as it was taken to the Capitol. I was standing near the Capitol when I heard that Lee Harvey Oswald, Jr. had been shot. Several of us didn’t have time to get into the Capitol for the viewing and we went to the Lincoln Memorial to reflect on the incredible loss of a man who had inspired so many of us and the nation.

Chuck Porter

November 22, 1963 was my 13th birthday. I was absorbed by a subdued excitement that this was my day. I was in the 8th grade at Central Junior high in LaGrange, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. My classmates had embarrassed me with handwritten birthday cards surreptitiously scribed on notebook paper in the first class of the day, home room 8-1, and verbal ‘happy birthdays’ all morning. My father, an accomplished musician, had tickets for the whole family to the recent Rogers and Hammerstein musical currently playing at the Schubert Theater in Chicago. It was a fun day so far. And it ended in an instant. After lunch period, there was an announcement on the school intercom that President Kennedy had been shot and no further information was known. Classes would continue on a regular schedule for the afternoon. But no one was able to concentrate - only talk about what had happened and what was going to happen. Was the President dead ? Who would be the President ? We were studying the US Constitution but didn’t really know what it meant. It didn’t seem like a real document but rather another class to study and read about in history books.

“But my life changed forever on that day. It was no longer about me. I sat in front of the TV and watched intently the gray images for the next 4 days and absorbed every word spoken, every sight seen and every thought in my mind. I watched the murder of the murderer, Lee Oswald, live on TV while the rest of my family went to church. I think my father allowed me stay home because I was so interested and he also shared a birth date - his 20th - with history, December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor Day.

“In time I discovered the greatness of the US Constitution and realized that I had lived it that day, the most tragic in my lifetime. While others celebrate their birthdays with fun and friends - as I also do - there has always been a moment on each and every birthday for the last 50 years that I stop for a moment and reflect upon a young President ( and an even younger admiring teenager ) who gave me hope, motivated by his intellect and kept me humble by his self deprecating and endearing humor. On one recent birthday, I attended the bullfights in Mexico and saw “November 22” emblazoned on the marquis and stopped to mention JFK’s legacy to my wife while walking down the sidewalk. I have spent many late November weekends in airports around the country traveling to soccer games with my children and always take time, while waiting for the next plane, to mention JFK to my children, now grown.

“I have read hundreds of books written about the Kennedy s , their successes, failures, celebrations and other tragedies - occurring before and since that day - and gotten to know them, their many strengths, their many weaknesses and impact on our society and political scene. In the face of overwhelming advice to the contrary by his military and political advisers, one person and one person only - John Kennedy - taught us that nuclear war was not an option for a modern world. He also taught us to take our work seriously but do not take ourselves too seriously, a lesson many in Washington D.C. and elsewhere could use today. In this day and age, a particularly changed landscape to be sure, I still miss him and can only hypothesize how the world might be a better place had he lived.”

Wade H. McSwain, Jr, Albemarle

“I was a young junior army officer assigned to 7th Army in Mannheim, Germany in 1963. My wife and I were living in a German apartment in a suburb on November 22,1963, since we were not authorized military housing or even a telephone. On that fateful day sometime between 8-9 p.m. we had finished our evening meal when the door bell rang. Another American army officer and his wife came up and said that they had just heard on the car radio that President Kennedy had been shot and maybe VP Johnson also. We all immediately gathered around our little transistor radio that we had on the kitchen table but seldom used. The only station broadcasting in English was the Armed Forces Network with a lot of static. Around 10 p.m. we still did not know much, so we drove to battalion headquarters where many of our officers and men were already assembled. That is when we found out that President Kennedy had been assassinated and that there may be Russian involvement. Since I was a platoon leader I was told that we were going on full army-wide alert status and to go home, pack up and report back in full battle gear. When we reached the street our apartment was on we noticed candles were being lit in every German widow. It was at that moment that I realized how much the West Germans loved President Kennedy.”

Larry Segal

“That day still is entrenched in my brain as if it was yesterday. I was in the 4th Grade at Myers Park Elementary School. We were in class when over the loud speaker, it was announced, that President Kennedy had been shot and we all had to exit the school. Our class was on the basketball court when our teacher came up to us and told all of us that the President was dead. We all started crying and screaming. We did not know what was going on. All of a sudden, Billy C., the tallest kid in the school came up to me and told me to stop crying and he told me I was a cry baby and knocked me in the nose. That was the first time I had ever been popped in the nose, but it it worked..... I stopped crying, but I never will forget that day.”

Lucia Church, Charlotte

“I was in Verona, Italy, and I was getting married the next day. My house was full of flowers already, I remember, and the doorbell kept ringing as new delivery men brought more flowers and gifts. All the open gifts were displayed on top of the huge dining room table; the flowers were placed on the sideboards and in vases all around the room. There was a festive atmosphere as my parents and I, together with my five siblings, shifted through the many objects and recorded their donor’s name. My fiancee was an American soldier who had returned from California just a few days before just to marry me. For nine months he had been stationed in Hunters’ Liggett, a military reservation on the Santa Lucia Mountains of California. We had written to each other, back and forth, to keep our relationship alive after his last PCS (permanent change of orders). Finally we had decided to get married; we had finished the extensive paperwork, consulate visits, medical examinations and city hall visits that were prescribed for a US soldier who married a foreign national overseas. My father decided to turn on the television in the combination dining/living room.

“A newscast filled the air and attracted everybody’s attention: “Today in Dallas, Texas, the American President, John F. Kennedy, was shot by an unknown sniper. His conditions are said to be very serious…”. We got really scared. Were they terrorists who shot the President? Was there going to be another war? Was George going to leave right away for another war? Should we go through with the wedding the next day? Everybody knows the end of the story: Kennedy died; there was no war; George and Lucia got married on November 23, 1963 and in a few more days they will be celebrating their Golden Anniversary together with their three wonderful adult children.”

Henry A. Courtlandt, Monroe

“On November 22, 1963 I was 7 years old in All Hallows Catholic school in the Bronx, NY and had just gotten in trouble with the nuns who were my teachers for igniting a wooden match on the back of the chair in front of me. While waiting in the office for my corrective consequences, the headmaster, a old wily priest sat next to me with tears in his eyes and told me to say the “Our Father” with him. We did and he sent me back to the classroom. I didn’t realize until we didn’t have school the day of funeral the scope of what had happened. I always prayed for JFK and his family after that.”

Wanda Montano

I was an 11 year old, 6th grader at Paw Creek Elementary School in west Charlotte. Just as the school year began that August, one of our classmates, Ned McCall Jr. (and the son of our principal Ned Sr.) had died unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm. Back then, there was no grief counseling - we just dealt with it, mostly by pretending it never happened. Around 5 am that morning, our family’s phone rang to tell us my Dad’s favorite uncle had passed away during the night after a fairly short battle with cancer. Thankfully, Daddy had spent the previous evening with him. Death was definitely on my mind. As we were sitting in our classroom that afternoon, the PA system interrupted class for an announcement by the Principal to say that President Kennedy had been shot. An AM radio was placed by the PA system microphone and the radio coverage of the event was broadcast into every classroom. Our class sat in stunned and respectful silence as we listened to Walter Cronkite’s words coming across the radio through the PA speakers. Not a child moved or said a word. Even the class clowns who typically were in constant motion were frozen to their desks. This was not something that happened in America. The last hour of school that day was quiet, time spent on reading and reflection, and the walk home from school that day was hurried, as I wanted to get home to watch the coverage on television.”

Victor Bell

“I was a young naval aviator preparing to launch from the USS Forrestal of the coast of Norfolk. The captain of the ship announced over the speakers that the President had been shot. He placed the ship in Defon 2, the second highest readiness level before war. Then ordered all aircraft to be launch and we prepared for war.’’

Ginny Campany, Mooresville

“On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 I was 18 years old and working on Wall St., NYC for a major oil company when a manager came into the office saying “the president has been shot”. We listened to a portable radio and heard the news that he had died. Shortly after the office was closed and we all went home. I recall riding the NY subway and there was nothing but silence and sad faces. The entire weekend I (along with the rest of the country) were glued to the TV watching the news coverage and saw the live TV coverage of the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby. It was such a sad event watching the caissons and the riderless horse for the funeral and the Kennedy family walking behind the corpse. A memory that will never be forgotten.”

Peter Augusta, Charlotte

“I was returning from lunch and walking on Queens Blvd, in Queens,NY. A friend in a car was parked in front of our office. I stopped to say hello and he said “have you heard” listening to his radio. That’s when I heard the shocking news! The president had been killed.”

Beth Smith, Matthews

“I remember that day. I remember what I was wearing. I was 14, a high school freshman at George Washington High School in Danville, Virginia. (All the schools in Virginia are named for famous Virginians - our two junior highs were Woodrow Wilson and Robert E. Lee.) Our last class of the day was just starting. I had on a white blouse, royal blue skirt, my favorite, and my Weejuns. Some of the boys coming into class from P.E. were talking about the news they heard on a transistor radio. I overheard that President Kennedy had been shot. I did not believe it. Thirty minutes into the class - none of us were dwelling on the news - our beloved principal of many years, Mr. Christopher, came on the loud speaker and announced to the school of 2,000 students that yes, indeed, our president had been shot and was dead. From that point on...I was in front of the TV. Sunday morning after Sunday School and church, we went to my grandparents’ house for lunch. I raced upstairs to turn on the TV and was all alone to witness Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald. I do not remember what I was wearing that day.”

Stephen Austen, Monroe

“The events of Nov 22, 1963 are a part of the “DNA” of my growing up. I was in the 8 th grade, when the principal came into our classroom - he visited each class in person - and told us what happened. School was adjourned for the day leaving us with the Thanksgiving season overshadowed by the immediate events. This was in New Orleans and I soon sat in a ringside seat as the investigation by DA Jim Garrison unfurled. It was later the stuff of movies and the usual run of conspiracy theories. I was also in the Civil Air Patrol unit that Dave Ferrie and the young Lee Oswald had been in. With that came some unique perspectives in the aftermath. It added some context to the Garrison investigation.”

Scott R. Mathews, Matthews

“I was 9 years old and attending St. Bridget’s school in Richmond Virginia. I vividly remember “the nuns” speaking in hushed tones to one another that the President had been shot. This was about 1 pm, and the decision was made to have all students let out early that day. We had to “line up” for virtually everything, so a line was formed for “early release” that afternoon.”

Maggie Miller, Pineville

“I clearly remember the day as if it were yesterday. I lived in Kane, PA at the time, a sophomore in high school and I was sitting in shorthand class. The Principal voice suddenly came on the intercom announcing that our President, John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. We were told to go home. Our teacher was in tears and motioned us to leave the room. No one spoke. The school felt like a morgue with shock, sadness and fear present. I have never forgotten that day and it amazes me it was 50 years ago and I was 15 years old at the time. I will never forget that day.”

Clyde Luther

“I’ve always felt it ironic (at least) to remember that I was sitting in Miss Janie Wood’s United States History class at East Mecklenburg High School when our Principal, Mr. D.K Pittman, made the announcement over the PA system that President Kennedy had been shot. Mr. Pittman then had the live radio coverage broadcast over the system to the entire student body. It seems that day will be forever etched in my memory. And you know, I still do not understand why he was killed. I think that day began the terrible slide that put this once great nation, on the way to it’s current inhumane state. We became a society of murderers that day. We now attempt to kill or destroy anyone who doesn’t believe or behave the way we do and it all began with the Kennedy assassination. Each of us will do or say anything to get our own way.”

Curt P. Beeman, Concord

Enrolled at the University of Florida, Gainesville FL, at the time of the assassination

“I have many memories of events surrounding the assassination that I havepreviously shared in a similar venue on the 25th are still vivid and have been reinforced, but also, perhaps, manipulated and somewhat altered by numerous media accounts over the intervening years. The biggest problem confronting my recounting now, in 2013, is to be able to put them in the proper context of the time/era of our American history – “modern” communication capability, then, can be considered to be almost primitive, now.

“All of the TV coverage of the events available to me were in black and white, and were (compared to now) fuzzy, low-resolution images. Radio broadcasts were AM with attendant problems of weak, fading signals when more than 30-50 miles from the station, and that were lost altogether after sundown only to be replaced by other stations hundreds-to-a thousand miles away because of the signals bouncing off the ionosphere was returning to my dorm in the early afternoon on that Friday when I heard another student call out to a friend, “Did you hear? They shot Kennedy.” My first reaction was, “O.K. What’s the joke?”, but upon entering the dormitory lobby I overheard more comments and discussion that seemed to confirm the reality of the situation. I didn’t even bother to go to my room. Instead, I headed directly to the basement lounge area where the one and only TV in the dorm was located – the small room was packed with residents crowding around the 21” screen.

“We were watching the CBS coverage, with Walter Cronkite anchoring from New York City. There were no “live” feeds available, and all reports were fed to Walter by telephone and/or Teletype. One, lasting memory (reinforced by so many replays) is of Walter removing his glasses, glancing at a wall clock, and announcing the official statement of Kennedy’s death. My, personal reaction was thinking to myself, “Well, Kennedy, I didn’t agree with so many of your programs, policies, and actions, but I certainly wouldn’t have wished this to occur.

“The University of Florida was scheduled to play a football game with the University of Miami, in Miami, the next evening, and many students, myself included, were leaving Gainesville Friday evening to attend the game. We tried to follow the unfolding events surrounding the assassination by listening to the car radio while driving the roughly 350 miles between the two cities. The sense of drama was exaggerated by many factors of which two, in particular, were: reports were sporadic, coming from various locations in and around Dallas, as well as around the nation; the radio was AM, a mode characterized by relatively short-range coverage during the daytime hours, and very susceptible to static and noise in the evenings. In real time, we would hear the beginning of the latest report, only to miss its conclusion due to fading of the station. Soon, we would lose the station altogether, and it became a task of constant tuning of the radio dial to be able to hear “the latest”, but we did hear of the shooting of Officer Tippit, and the eventual apprehension of Oswald before arriving in Hollywood, Florida late Friday night. There was considerable confusion about scheduled activities and events following the assassination – some public activities were canceled or postponed. School officials were slow to decide that the football game would proceed on schedule, and that there would be a pro-longed moment of silence before the game in respect of the tragedy. I well remember the two, school, bands marching out onto the field at the Orange Bowl stadium in silence save for the muffled beat from drums draped in black cloth. I don’t remember for certain, but believe that neither band performed their half-time show.

“I planned to return to Gainesville Sunday afternoon, and was returning home from church when I heard the news, on the car radio, of the shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby. I went directly to the TV to get more details, and experienced, for the first time, seeing an individual being killed – the result of the extensive media coverage of the transfer of Oswald from the Dallas police station. Later, on Sunday it was announced that the following Monday would be a “National Day Of Mourning”, and all but vital services would be shut down in observance. Thus, I was able to remain at my home one more day before returning to Gainesville, and to sit in front of the TV and observe the continuing, and continual, coverage of events associated with Kennedy’s funeral. This included sitting for several hours on end watching mourners pass by the casket as the body lay in state at the Capitol and listening to the mournful sound of the dirges played while the caisson carried the body from place to place and, eventually, to Arlington Cemetery (realizing, for the first time, the origin of the little ditty that accompanied death and demise in the cartoons of my childhood). Many more memories remain, some from events that occurred relatively long after the assassination, the Warren Commission, for one, and the report they issued, but a statement by Jackie Kennedy that seemed to speak volumes concerning the over-the-top adulation heaped upon Kennedy before his assassination, and the efforts by family, friends, and politicians to embellish his record and achievements to try to ensure his place in history. Her comment, upon learning that the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, had Communist leanings/associations, said something along the lines, “Why did it have to be some silly Communist? Why couldn’t it have been for something like Civil Rights?” I think the surfeit of conspiracy theories, and the recent (due to the anniversary if nothing else) proliferation of documentaries concerning such, reflect this same state of mind – many, many people cannot/will not accept that so tragic a sequence of events could have been instigated by one, otherwise inconsequential, man.”

Maggie Miller, Pineville

“I clearly remember the day as if it were yesterday. I lived in Kane, PA at the time, a sophomore in high school and I was sitting in shorthand class. The Principal voice suddenly came on the intercom announcing that our President, John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. We were told to go home. Our teacher was in tears and motioned us to leave the room. No one spoke. The school felt like a morgue with shock, sadness and fear present. I have never forgotten that day and it amazes me it was 50 years ago and I was 15 years old at the time. I will never forget that day.”

Richard Schmidt, Concord

“We were living in San Francisco at the time, a lovely old apartment on Nob Hill, immediately behind Grace Cathedral. But I was traveling a lot. I had in fact just arrived in my corporate home office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was driving a rental car, and had just pulled into the driveway of our office. The radio was on and the announcer was telling us that JFK had just been shot. It was not immediately clear what had happened, or whether the president would be OK. Then came the fatal news. The president was dead . . . dead!. It took some time for that news to sink in. I just sat in the car, in disbelief to what I had just heard. Who, why . .?

“I went inside to report what I had just heard. Everyone knew. They all sat around in stunned silence. I called my wife in San Francisco, She answered the phone and told me that, she learned of the news because the bells at Grace Cathedral had been sounding in a mournful alert. She couldn’t figure out what was going on, until she tuned in to hear the news herself. She was in deep shock. The news was so hard to grasp. Who would want JFK dead . . . a crazy person? What followed on the news (we had no TV at the time, having thrown out our TV as a useless invention five years earlier) seemed even crazier than our wildest thoughts. The guy who ostensibly did the deed had been caught and was then himself shot by some other bozo, while surrounded by police. Now if all that didn’t arouse suspicion of a conspiracy, what would? But we were stuck with it all. We now lived in a crazy world of thuggish people, armed and willing to kill at the drop of a hat. Nice.

“From that point on, the notion of mortality entered my brain and has never left. My fear of flying began. Despite the significant travel I continued to do in my consulting business, I began to hate flying. And now, many years later, we have given up flying, after discovering that today’s airlines, led by USAIR, are in fact dysfunctional. And life goes on, and JFK is an increasingly distant memory. Ah Camelot. It was a wonder for a time . . .”

Peggy Streater, Salisbury

“ What I was doing when the President of the United States was assassinated, John F. Kennedy, I was in the ninth grade in my math class at Dunbar High School, East Spencer, North Carolina when the announcement came across the intercom that our President had been assassinated. School was dismissed at this time. We were very sad to hear, that the President of the United States was killed.”

Cindy Garrett, Davidson

“I was in Washington, D.C. at the time. My former husband and I went to Andrews Air Force Base to see the plane with Mrs. Kennedy, LBJ and President Kennedy’s body return to Washington. We also went to the Capitol to later to walk past the casket and show our respect for the President. I did not see the funeral procession in person - only on TV- partly because I had a small child at the time.”

Melinda Johnson, Charlotte

“When President Kennedy was killed I was a six-year-old girl living in my hometown of Dallas, Texas. I remember my mother and grandmother crying and comforting one another while the television stayed on all day, broadcasting the news over and over. I recall feeling sorrow and fear, bu have no other clear memories of that day. The event shamed Texas on a level that was separate from the pain that our president was assassinated, literally in front of the country’s eyes. We were visiting my grandmother’s home in Oak Cliff that day, just blocks from where Oswald killed the young police officer. I didn’t learn that until years later. I was reminded of it when watching one of the programs airing this week about President Kennedy and his assassination.”

Mary McDonald, Charlotte

I was in the sixth grade at Eastover School when President Kennedy was shot. My teacher, Miss Baker, left the classroom for an extended period of time and none of us could figure out what was going on. I’ll never forget her coming back to the classroom and telling us the President was dead. The walk home was eerily silent as each of us wonder how this could happen and what would happen to our country.

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