I remember that day in November 1963, 50 years ago, almost as if it was just last week. Anyone alive remembers where they were….What they were doing….Who they were with. November 22, 1963 is burned in the memory of those of us who were alive then. I was just 11 years old, but the memory is still there. I was not all that sure about world events, but I knew who President Kennedy was. I still remember watching his press conferences. I can’t for the life of me remember what was said, what the topic was. But he was the vision of youth, of a nation moving forward, vigor, hope and freedom. Then, suddenly, a friend rushes up to me, “Don she cries out….President Kennedy has been shot”! Let the nightmare begin.
I was at a square dance with a girl friend. Having a great time, the callers had taken a break when my friend told me of the events in Dallas. I rushed down the hall with Noritta and my girl friend Shelly, to listen to the reports on a transistor radio. It was true, “From Dallas Texas, three shots have been fired at President Kennedy’s motorcade as he rode through the Streets of Dallas today, en route to the Dallas Trade Mart where was to deliver a speech”, the commentator said. According to early reports the President riding in an open limousine jerked sharply, clutching his throat”. Then another report that the president had been struck in the head, that his wound was serious, perhaps fatal. By now the staff at the school, had ordered us all back to our units. We sat in a Day room with the TV on, watching CBS News reporter Walter Cronkite, reporting the events of the shooting, and then suddenly a hand reaches across his desk handing him yet another Flash bulletin, “From Dallas”, he said “apparently official President Kennedy died today in Dallas Texas at approximately 1:30 pm some thirty minutes ago.”, “Once again President John F. Kennedy is dead”. Cronkite choked on the last phrase, pursing his lips, sitting quietly for a moment in an attempt to compose himself on live TV.
We sat there stunned. Shot?, Dead?, Our minds racing, all I could ask myself was why would anyone shoot someone so young, full of life, and as good as President Kennedy. Makes no sense. No sense at all.
In the next few days we watched, as did the nation, the historical events unfold before our eyes. Oswald gunned down, the Presidents funeral, the horrific after math, and the questions. More questions, and the answers. Answers that were not good enough. Soon, there was talk of conspiracy, more than one shooter, and on and on. the burning continues.
Now, it is 50 years later. I am 61 years old now. The questions unanswered still linger. We know more. We see the horrific photos. and still wonder how it is that one lone gun man could do that much damage. What was it really all about. What really happened in Dallas that day?
We may never know, not in my life time at least. But the theories, perceptions, charges, allegations will continue. It’s a cottage industry now. So many involved, so many thinking they have cracked the case.
November 22, 1963 started off as just another day in America. People got up, and went to work. Secret service agents gather for morning meetings to protect the president. A motorcade goes through the streets of Dallas Texas, they turn onto Elm Street, drive for a few moments and then there is a terrific crack, followed immediately by a second crack. The unmistakable sound of gun fire. The third shot seems to resound around Daly Plaza, and in a mere 6.5 seconds the life of a president is snuffed out, and history has changed forever.
That’s the way it was on November 22, 1963.