Readers from many Kentucky communities shared their stories about what they experienced the day a nation was stunned by the assassination of President Kennedy. Here are some of the most notable responses.
Joe McGlone, 61, LexingtonI was in sixth-grade class at St. Andrews Catholic Elementary in Harrodsburg when the assassination occurred. It was a very small private school run by our parish, usually enrolling around 40 to 50 students and taught by Ursuline nuns. It was actually a three-room schoolhouse along with the priest’s rectory/apartment. Early in the afternoon, I noticed that the sisters kept leaving the rooms, meeting in the hallway, and disappearing for a few minutes and returning with very uncharacteristic expressions. Shortly, some of the parents started picking up some of the students and had noticeably been crying. We could hear the whispering from the hallway and knew something was wrong, but we were never told what was going on until classes had ended. Some of us students were left in the care of the nuns after school to accommodate our parents’ work schedule. After being told that our president had been shot, the students remaining at school were taken into the priest’s apartment to watch the events on TV. I can remember the total silence in the room and the expression on everyone’s face, especially the nuns. I had never witnessed the vulnerable side of the sisters before and when I saw them crying, I knew it was okay for me to cry, too.
Marvin Allen, LexingtonI was a 21-year-old serving in the Navy on the flight crew of a patrol plane stationed in Jacksonville, Fla. On Friday, Nov. 22, we were in the air en route to Dallas on a two-day temporary assignment to inspect a Reserve Patrol Squadron, when we received word that the president had been shot. He died before we got there. All of us on crew were devastated by the news. When we landed, no one could hold back the tears. I will never forget our young Lt. j.g. co-pilot being consoled as he sobbed uncontrollably. Sadly, he would die a year later, along with an entire crew in a training crash. My flight engineer and I decided to go into Dallas. We were in uniform, but wearing our leather flight jackets because it was so cold that Friday. Maybe because Kennedy was a sailor and we were the only sailors in Dallas that day, people treated us special. They would approach, talk, cry and hug us. When we ordered food or drink, the restaurants or strangers would buy for us. We, and it seemed everyone else in Dallas, stayed glued to a TV. Never have I seen so many people from all walks of life, in such sadness and grief. A lot to process then for a young guy, but now I’m glad to have been there on that eventful day.
Wendell Butler, 55, FrankfortI was with my mother returning from Lexington. We had been to the old Howard Curry’s shoe store on Southland Drive. We had just gone through Versailles when the voice on the radio announced that President Kennedy had been shot. I have a graphic memory of mom pulling off the road, coming to a complete stop, and starting to cry. I being a few months beyond 5 was confused as to why my mother was crying and unable to converse with me. Eventually, we continued the drive home, and I remember other cars pulled off the road. It was a surreal feeling. The world had stopped. Once home, the sadness continued.
Dolores Seaman, 75, CynthianaOn Nov. 20, 1963, I celebrated my 25th birthday. My husband was stationed at, and we lived at, Randolph Air Force Base outside of San Antonio, Texas. On Nov. 21 I packed up my three sons, ages 2, 4 and 5, and drove across San Antonio to see President Kennedy recognize the Aerospace Medical Center at Brooks Air Force Base. I can still see him in my mind walking across that stage to the podium to make his speech. I was so thrilled to go to see the president and Mrs. Kennedy. He was the first president I was eligible to vote for. (The eligible voting age was 21 back in those years). On Nov. 22, 1963, I was watching my favorite soap opera, As The World Turns, when they interrupted the program to announce the shooting of the president. I just sat in the middle of the floor and cried. Then went out the front door and most of my neighbors were also outside, and we were just stunned at what had happened. I have always been so very glad I made the effort to pack up those boys and make that trip.
Milton Adams, 72, GeorgetownIt was November 1963 and the cold war with Russia was in high gear. I was a 22-year-old Spec. 5 radio repairman stationed in Giessen, Germany, with the 504th Signal Battalion. It had been a typical quiet November day, but just after midnight, those of us on base were suddenly awakened from a deep sleep by "All Alert" sirens going off everywhere. Our initial reaction was that the Russians had mounted an invasion across the East German border, which was only about 30 miles to our east. We were immediately ordered to dress for combat, pick up our assigned weapons and stand by for further orders. All military installations in Europe were now on full alert. The 68th Mannheim was already rolling tanks to the East German border to take up defensive positions. A short time later, our company commander told us that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas. As you can imagine, there were waves of shock, sadness and disbelief that permeated everyone. President Kennedy was loved and respected by a vast majority of Americans. This was especially true of the military; his exploits in the South Pacific as Commander of P.T. 109 made him one of us. As each American heard the news, time stood still for a few moments, and whatever they were doing at the time was forever etched in their memory. For me, it was a blessing and honor to have served under President Kennedy, if only for such a short duration.
Larry Dyer, 69, LexingtonOn Nov. 22, 1963, I was working as a photographic lab technician for the FBI. Our lab was located on the seventh floor of the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. I was in the darkroom processing some prints when the news came over the radio at approximately 1:30 p.m. The government in D.C. dismissed employees for the day about 3 p.m. As people began the process of leaving, gridlock occurred in the city due to the state of mind of all the people trying to decide of what and where they were going. I was traveling by bus back to my apartment on the east side of the district. People on the bus were openly weeping, tears in their eyes. We all were in a state of shock. Later, I was asked by my FBI supervisor to come back to work due to new information being turned over by Russia on Lee Harvey Oswald, so we could photograph it for the Warren Commission (the group established by President Lyndon B. Johnson on Nov. 29, 1963, to investigate the assassination). I worked 20 hours straight. We had CIA or FBI agents watching us as we processed the evidence in the lab so that no duplicate copies could be made for personal use. We photographed the rifle that he used and made blowup shots from the 8mm film of the Book Depository Building. I viewed the funeral procession from the White House as the body was being transferred to the Capitol for viewing in the rotunda. I took pictures of that historic event. I stayed in line for approximately eight hours for viewing the JFK casket.
Ann Thurn, 72, LexingtonOn Nov. 22, 1963, I was teaching English to a gifted 10th-grade class at Bryan Station High School. We were rehearsing lines in front of the classroom in preparation for a Shakespearean festival. These lines from Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 1 had just been spoken (in which Cassius and Brutus have a discussion about the blood of Caesar, whom they plotted to assassinate): Cassius: "Stoop then, and wash. How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!" Brutus: "How many times shall Caesar bleed in sport ..." As the 10th-graders were lying on the floor, the loudspeaker came on, and Principal R.L. Grider announced that President Kennedy had been shot. I feel sure that some students probably still remember the irony and seriousness of those long-ago Shakespearean predictions.
John Meurer, 65, LexingtonTrinity High School in Louisville had a geometry teacher, Fr. Robert E. Osborne. He loved to use the word "theoretically" in teaching geometry. Father Osborne had a briefcase with his initials on it in gold: R.E.O. When the principal announced that JFK had been shot, Fr. Osborne stopped class and asked us all to kneel and we said a rosary. John Kennedy was the first, and last, Catholic president, so it was appropriate for us to pray for him in this manner. To answer the question, where were you when Kennedy was shot, as we fondly called it then, I was in REO’s THEO GEO at Trinity High School.
Bob Howard, 61, HarlanI was attending a small mountain elementary school on the side of a hill in Harlan County. Shields Elementary School only had about 40 kids at the most. The school principal came in and informed us that we would be going home early for the day. Buses did not transport us then in the small mountain towns. So this meant that we had to walk home. We were not told why we had dismissed. The walk home for me was the longest of all the kids at the school. The trip was up a railroad track to my home in the coal camp of Highsplint. This would take me over two miles of track and a railroad bridge. I thought all the way home, why had we dismissed for the day? When I got home my mother was surprised to see me, but had the TV on, black and white obviously, and I saw the news. The thought about sending us home to be with our families was based on the fear that as a nation we didn’t know what was going on. There were conspiracy thoughts and such about the day’s events. Shows you how times have changed, that we would send children home without notice to parents on the day the president of the United States was killed.
Helen Morgan, 67, NicholasvilleI suppose I will always remember the day President Kennedy was shot, because that event is so inextricably tied to a major event in my life. On Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, I was a senior at Lafayette High School. That morning we were going to an assembly in the auditorium, and as the students filled the hallways, they seemed to be unusually talkative. I began to catch pieces of conversations about the president being shot. It was unbelievable, but when we got to the assembly, one of the speakers confirmed the shooting to a stunned and grief-stricken audience. The following hours were devastating with television images I often vividly and painfully recall, especially at this time of year. At the age of 17, I was getting married on the following Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, and the wedding rehearsal was to be held on Friday evening, the 22nd. When we arrived at the church for the rehearsal, the pastor said he had considered postponing the rehearsal after he heard about the president being shot. The rehearsal took place, and so did the wedding, although there was sadness amidst our joy. Just as President Kennedy was shot 50 years ago on the same day of the week, we will celebrate 50 years of marriage on Nov. 28, again Thanksgiving Day. I remember him well, and I can still picture his face as he admonished us, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Albert Campbell, 86, LexingtonI was a battalion staff officer serving in a signal battalion very near the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea. I could not sleep any longer, so I got up and went to the shower room down the hall. It was just about 4:30 a.m. Korean time. I had taken a portable radio with me to the shower room and was listening to Armed Forces Network Far East out of Tokyo when the program was interrupted with, "We have just received an unconfirmed report that President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas, Texas. More information will be reported as received." I immediately got out of the shower and awoke all the officers in the quarters and had the commander put the battalion on full alert as well as notify our higher headquarters, only to find out they did not know the news. Within the hour all the units just south of the border between the two Koreas were on full alert and moving to prearranged battle positions in the event the North decided to take advantage of any possible turmoil. We stayed on alert and in the field for three days, and nothing happened.
Ray Lowry, 83, LexingtonAt age 83 it is very easy for me to remember where I was on Nov. 22, 1963, and what I was doing. After leaving UK I went to work for a large company and ended up being transferred from Dallas to New Orleans. I was district manager, supervising 18 stores. I had suspected a theft ring was hitting some of our stores. I requested some help from our home office security division. The head of that department came to New Orleans to meet with me. He had been a former FBI agent. We were in a hotel room in New Orleans talking about strategy. The TV was on with the sound down. This former agent happened to look at the screen and screamed out "They have killed my president! They have killed my president!" He was visibly shaken and very emotional. I don’t know if he had any assignment as an agent with the president, but it seemed very personal to him. I had seen someone handing out pro-Castro flyers in New Orleans that summer, and it turned out to be Lee Harvey Oswald. p.s.: We did break up the theft ring.
Sue Hendricks, 75, LexingtonI have a very vivid memory of the crisp fall day that changed history forever. I was working the lunch shift on the large switchboard at Winters National Bank in Dayton, Ohio. A red light on the board indicated a call was coming in. The call was answered by plugging in a cord and then with the matching cord you ring the person being called. All of a sudden, every red light on the board lit up like a Christmas tree. I realized immediately that the calls were being made to employees who normally did not receive personal calls. I could not get a line out to call home, but I knew something very big had happened. Finally my roommate called and gave me the news. The board stayed at full capacity the rest of the day.
Margaret Barton Williams, 75, LexingtonI will never forget that sad day of November 22, 1963. I was a biology teacher at Sacred Heart High School, Cleveland Street, Memphis. It was the last class of the day and there were about 30 girls in the room. I was standing and could see an unusual number of cars waiting to pick up the girls. (Normally, most of the girls rode a bus home or walked.) Sister Thomas Frances, the principal, came on the microphone for announcements. After a reminder or two, she told us, in a somber tone, that President John F. Kennedy had been killed in Dallas about 1:30 p.m. She told the girls to go out the front entrance, as most parents had called to say they would be picking up their daughters. I remember that the girls left in complete silence. Sacred Heart Church was next door to the school and the convent was near the main door of the church. There were 10 of us nuns teaching at Sacred Heart. We had a chapel in the convent, so we gathered there after school and had community prayer for the president and his family. The most remarkable memory of that day was what happened from about 5:30 until our bedtime. We could see the front door of the church from our hallway. It was raining hard, yet there were hundreds of people quietly strolling into the big church. I will never forget the crowds, walking slowly in, then slowly out after a moment of prayer. There were old people, young people, African-Americans, Caucasians, street people, well-dressed people, etc., truly a grieving nation.
Nancy Jarboe, 71, VersaillesMy husband and I were in Hanau, Germany on Nov. 22, 1963. He was drafted because of the Berlin Wall five months after we were married. About 7 p.m. their time, we were listening to the Armed Forces Network when they broke in to tell us that President Kennedy had been shot ... and was on his way to the hospital. A few minutes later they broke in again and said that he was dead. We had to rely on the radio to keep us updated. The Germans loved Kennedy and even more so since he had been to Fliegerhorst Airfield Kaserne, in Hanau, in June after his "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech in Berlin. Our German neighbors had a TV. They invited us over to watch part of the funeral procession, with all the dignitaries, to the church where the service was to be held. We probably only saw about 15 minutes of that because we were watching it by Telstar and the satellite moved away out of range. Naturally, I’ve always been interested in what the people in the U.S. were seeing during that long weekend. Wherever we went, the Germans were very upset and kept asking us how something like that could happen in America. It was Idlewild Airport when I left and JFK International Airport when I returned.
William D. Gregory, 74, Mount VeronNovember 22, 1963, is vivid due to an unusual job. I was in the Army, attached to a criminal investigation detachment, doing undercover work for the military, investigating anything of a criminal nature. My job that day was more mundane but unique in that four of us were licensed to steal by our commanding officer. A PX (army store) had been losing money due to inattention to security. We were dressed up as privates, and a sergeant took us to the store to pose as a clean-up detail sent from the post stockade (jail). The PX was glad to get a clean-up detail, but none of them knew our real mission, which was to demonstrate their lack of security. On the way we listened to the car radio about Kennedy landing in Dallas. When we started cleaning, we took trash cans outside, removing merchandise in the trash cans or hiding it in our uniforms. We hid the loot behind the dumpster to retrieve later since we had to inventory it and account for everything. Someone from the back of the store yelled out that it was announced on the radio that the president had been shot. All cashiers ran from their registers to the radio. Registers were left open. I thought about taking money from the registers but I knew the employees would probably get fired if I did that. When we got back to the office our commander let us know our license to steal was officially revoked.
Alyce S. Emerson, 57, LexingtonI can remember almost it like it was yesterday. I was in the second grade at what was then a segregated school, Douglass Elementary School. I could walk to my school every day; I lived right behind the school. I had a very nice second-grade teacher, Ms. Dalton who taught us spelling, writing, math, even current events. The day that she received word about the shooting of President Kennedy, it was very different. I actually remember her sitting at her desk and weeping. I remember her sensitivity and her emotions even as a second-grade student. Ms. Dalton was a stately, tall, white-haired, intelligent teacher who I will always remember for her caring and sharing spirit. She explained what happened as simple as she could make it since we were young. Later that evening, my mother talked about it more and we watched it on our black-and-white television set at home. I knew something had happened, for so many people seemed so sad. Later in life, I, too, became a social studies teacher. I now understand the importance of current events as well as the historical information we must share with students and our family members. I also understand how she felt that day and the emotions that as educators we cannot help from feeling and sharing with others
Chris Jones, 61, HarlanI remember that day so long ago to be so very sunny and unseasonably warm; a perfect Indian summer day in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. I was in the sixth grade at Harlan Elementary School and being the serious student I was, I had faked an illness during the lunch hour and was allowed to go home. My parents had left for Lexington to attend the Kentucky-Tennessee football game to be played the next afternoon at Stoll Field. My grandmother, Maggie Blair, was to stay with the four Jones kids during our parents’ big weekend getaway. Once home from school and amazingly cured of any illness, I took to the back yard, where I began hitting plastic golf balls across the lawn and into the surrounding woods. For a time, I was the Arnold Palmer of the Appalachians and was enjoying my afternoon of freedom upon escaping from Harlan Elementary School and Mrs. Howard’s class. Suddenly, my grandmother stepped out onto the back porch and with a trembling voice, shouted that President Kennedy had been shot. I dropped the golf club and sprinted to the TV set, a nearly worn out black-and-white model, and began watching the CBS broadcast. Walter Cronkite was on the air, and a moment or two later he would stare into the camera, his voice unsteady, announcing to the nation that John F. Kennedy had died at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. The day would forever be carved into my memory, and, all of a sudden, the day was not as bright as it once was.
Walter C. Cox Jr., 91, LexingtonThe location when I heard the news was at Levas’ Restaurant at the corner of Vine and Limestone. It was a very famous place and full of lunch people. I was sitting at a table facing Limestone and with a wall in front of me. Someone announced to the entire group that President Kennedy had been shot. I looked up and the first thing I observed was a portrait of President Abe Lincoln directly in front of me hanging on the wall. I never forgot that moment.
Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, 73, LexingtonIn 1960 I was 18, a student at the University of Portland in Portland, Ore., and able to vote for the first time. JFK was traveling the country to campaign for the presidency. After he presented a stirring speech in the university auditorium, luckily for me, I was able to shake his hand as he moved among the crowd of students and surrounded by security. After one year (1959-60) at P.U., I was financially deficient and forced to go to my local college, Cal-State Los Angeles, and that fall I did get to vote for JFK using my first ‘right to vote’ privilege. Fast-forward to November 22, 1963, and I was working as a student in L.A. as a bank check pressman for Schwabacher-Frey. When the news came over the pressroom that JFK was shot, I simply sat down in a wheeled bank-check storage container and wept. JFK had a profound affect on my developing political consciousness at the time and was my light in those dark days of politics. It is so sad that his assassination is still a COLD CASE.
Pat Rosenthal, 63, WinchesterI was in seventh grade at Model Laboratory School at Eastern Kentucky University on the day Kennedy died. Specifically, I was in a language arts classroom. Our class was being taught by a student teacher. He was dressed in his army uniform (ROTC) and was struggling to keep our attention. We were not rebellious but very talkative, and his impressive military uniform did not help him with our behavior. During our changing from group work to seat work, the intercom came on and the principal said that the president had been shot. There was no mention of his death, but that came within 30 minutes of the first announcement. We turned on the television, and Walter Cronkite announced his death. What I remember is the normally loud group suddenly became completely silent when Kennedy’s death was announced. The student teacher became visibly upset, and I remember tears coming down his face. He did not know what to say to us and so he didn’t talk. We sat in class quietly until school was dismissed. The whole weekend after his death we stayed by the television. No one went anywhere or even out to play. In fact, for the first time in years we did not go to church. During that morning I saw Lee Oswald get shot by Jack Ruby on live television. My mother was afraid for us to keep watching as everything happened so quickly. I think we were out of school the day of his funeral, as I still remember the music that was played throughout the funeral and processional. I went to the hymnal to find it and started playing it on the piano. It was dignified as was the processional with the caisson and the horse without its rider. We had lost our rider and we needed that day of mourning.
Frank W. McMullen, 66, LexingtonThe day Kennedy died, I was in the Ben Ali theater watching a movie when the usher came in and asked if there were any paperboys there. He said the Lexington Leader was looking for paperboys and they should go to the paper office. The office was on Short Street and had both the morning Herald and the evening Leader back then. When I got there, they asked us to sell an extra newspaper about Kennedy. And that’s my story.
Kim Masse, 56, LexingtonI was 6 years old. My father had just been transferred from London to Cologne, Germany, where he worked as a designer for Ford Motor Co. I recall that our flat was on one of the highest floors. When looking outside the giant front window, you could stare down the entire length of a downtown street, lined with giant buildings. That view in itself was overwhelming. On this day, I was studying with my tutor at the kitchen booth. The telephone rang, I heard my mom screaming from another room, then she started sobbing, sitting on the edge of the bed. I remember thinking something horrible had happened. That evening, while looking out the front window, the street was lined with giant American flags. It looked like they went on forever down both sides of the street. The image will forever be etched in my memory. Additional note: My father, Don R. De La Rossa, was part of the design team that built the Lincoln Continental that JFK was sitting in when he was shot. I remember stories about the bulletproof windows that were not being used on that November day.
Don Mills, 77, Lexington, former editor of Lexington HeraldI was with former Gov. Edward T. Breathitt at the old Pheonix Hotel in Lexington, interviewing potential Cabinet members for him, when President John Kennedy was shot in Dallas. Breathitt was about to become governor in early December, and I was to be named his press secretary. When we heard about the shooting of Kennedy, I left immediately for the wire room at the old Herald-Leader building on Short Street to get the latest information. Finally, it came over the wire that the doctors had pronounced Kennedy dead about 1 p.m. To say the least, I was saddened, even more so because I attended Kennedy’s last press conference in Washington D.C., on Nov. 14 as the guest of his press secretary, Pierre Salinger. Salinger had contacted me by telephone several times earlier that year, when Breathitt was battling Louie Nunn for the office, to ask how our campaign was going. Kentucky was one of only four states to hold elections that year, and civil rights was a hot issue. Kennedy was expected to be the Democratic nominee in 1964 to face Sen. Barry Goldwater. So what happened in Kentucky was very important to Kennedy and his election advisers. In June 1963, former Gov. Bert Combs signed an executive order granting public-accommodation rights to all citizens. Nunn seized on the issue and made it a big campaign issue. It was defended by Breathitt, who won the election by some 13,000 votes. So Salinger, on election night, called to congratulate us, and Kennedy called Breathitt the next day. Salinger invited me to Washington, and Kennedy told Breathitt he would be in Eastern Kentucky on Dec. 6 to talk about his war on poverty program, inviting him to accompany him on the trip. When I prepared to leave for Washington on Nov. 13, I took with me a photograph of Kennedy speaking at Freedom Hall during the Wilson Wyatt campaign for the U.S. Senate. I had hoped to get the picture autographed by Kennedy. I left it with Salinger, who said he would mail it to me. Sometime in December, I got the photograph in the mail, unautographed. "Hope things are better in your Capitol than they are here," Salinger’s secretary wrote.
Hal Marz, 73, LexingtonI was about to start my fourth year at the University of California-Berkeley. I listened to the inaugural address of President Kennedy and was inspired by many things in it, and especially when he addressed his intent to create something called the Peace Corps. During my last year, the Peace Corps was established, and close to my graduation I applied to join the organization, In the middle of my final exams, I received a cable from Sargent Shriver, director of the Peace Corps and a relative of Kennedy. The cable said that if I agreed, I would have three months of skill training, and completing that, I would be sent to India. I was sent to south India and worked with an agricultural extension group attached to a small agricultural college. During that time I traveled by jeep throughout the state to visit other volunteers in order to see how they were doing. One day I was very much lost and knew I could not reach the next volunteer location by nightfall. I stopped at a school and asked to see the headmaster. I asked him if I could sleep at the school, and he told me I could sleep in the gym along with other students who could not go back to their villages every day. During my work, I had noticed that in the mud huts and homes of villagers, there was always a picture of Gandhi and Prime Minister Nehru. However, there was very often a picture of Kennedy. Although political relations were strained between our two countries, many Indians thought of Kennedy as a savior. I went to sleep on a thin mattress on the floor. Very early in the morning, the headmaster shook me awake saying, "Mr. Hal! Mr. Hal! Our president is dead!" He did not say, ‘Your president is dead." He said, "Our president is dead." And that is how so many Indians felt about Kennedy.
Harolene Karauguz, 81, LexingtonOur seventh anniversary was the day Kennedy was killed. My husband (an interpreter for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and I were in Istanbul, Turkey, and he was taking me out to dinner. And as we were going out, we went by the military base and the soldiers were running all around, here and there, And I thought, "What in the world is going on?" My husband said, "Oh, they’ve probably got a practice or something." So we went on down and had dinner and came back home, two or three hours later. And the babysitter of our son said, "It was on the news that President Kennedy had been killed." And I said, "No, you must have heard that wrong. There’s no way that would happen in America." I was sure that she had heard something wrong. So I went on to bed, and the next morning, my dad called. He lived here in Lexington. And I was going to call him but he beat me to it and he told me. I just couldn’t believe it. I cried all day. I loved Kennedy. The Turks were as sad as we were. The Turkish people, the friends that we had there, they loved Kennedy. They called me and consoled me, just like it was a member of the family. I thought that was so sweet of them.
Matilda Howard Helton, 62, Stoney Fork in Bell CountyI was 12 years old. I lived deep in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. We attended school in a four-room building that used to be part of an old lumber camp. I was in the seventh grade and my teacher was also the principal. He was a very strict and stern man. We were all a little scared of him. He had a large wooden paddle and was not afraid to use it. On Nov. 22, he told us to put down our work. We were going across the road to the old commissary, which was now a general store. We had no idea what was going on because he didn’t tell us. He only said, "History is happening today and you need to see it." There was a small black-and-white television sitting high on a shelf. We all filed in and just stood watching it because that’s what the teacher was doing. Within minutes we understood. And whispers abounded: "The president’s been shot." Oh, this was bad. Really bad. Then I looked up at my teacher. I felt like my feet were frozen to the floor. Silent tears were running down his face. And Walter Cronkite was saying, "The president is dead."
Norma Adams, 85, FrankfortInterviewing for an accounting position at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J. Telephone rang. Interview over. No job.
Thomas O. Haglage, 76, RichmondI was in Saigon, South Vietnam, when JFK (my commander-in-chief at the time) was murdered. In January of ’63, shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, I re-enlisted in the U.S. Navy and almost immediately received orders to report to Headquarters Support Activity Saigon. When I arrived in Saigon in the middle of March aboard a civilian Boeing 707 under contract to the U.S. Air Force, fewer than 80 GIs had lost their lives in Vietnam. I first heard the news of JFK’s murder on Armed Forces Radio. Like everyone else, I initially experienced total disbelief: It must be some other JFK they’re talking about. When the truth did finally sink in, I really did not feel that great sense of loss -- I was in uniform, on the other side of the world, away from all those that I love -- and we GIs were still trying to adjust to the overthrow of (the South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh) Diem regime three weeks earlier. Since that memorable time in my life (I was 26 years old), I soak up everything that comes on TV pertaining to the JFK assassination. That’s my little story in a nutshell; this is the first time I’ve ever put it on paper.
David Ditto, 63, NicholasvilleI was in band practice at Rowan County High School. Our band director, Randy Wells, was out that day, so we were practicing with one of our student directors. We were interrupted by another student director, who told us that the president had been shot. At first no one believed her, but one look at her face told us it was true. We all sat in disbelief until the school intercom came on telling everyone to go to their homerooms. There we listened to live broadcasts and received the word that President Kennedy had died at Parkland Hospital. Little did I know that decades later, my daughter, Lana, would be a nurse at Parkland. Of course, all weekend we were all glued to the television. Two days later, on Sunday, I came home from Morehead First Methodist Church, where my father was pastor, and went to our basement TV room and was watching Lee Harvey Oswald being escorted by the Dallas police. I was watching live when he was shot by Jack Ruby. Perhaps more than any event in my lifetime, Nov. 22, 1963, and the days following are etched in my memory.
Barbara Holcombe Poynter: I am now 68 and live in Florida. I just walked out of Spanish class and looked downstairs in the day room, and all were crying and watching TV. Seems as though time stood still, and everyone watched television constantly for days. This was a great loss and shift of our country. Oh how I wish we had the morals and consciousness of that time.
Jim Odham: Was on my way to trigonometry class my sophomore year in college. Heard it on news. Professor did not show up for class. Everyone wondered why prof did not show. I said "maybe it is because the president is dead." (I did not know the others had not heard the news). Some girl yelled out at me, "That is sick, you are a sick person, how disgusting." I guess it was hard to believe something like that could happen. (No the girl never acknowledged how she behaved or apologized for her verbal attack on me) Always wondered if she remembered that. I remember the national mourning and watching events on TV. Such a loss for president's family and nation.
Rhonda Dickerson Oney: On my way to my first dentist appointment.
Barry Richard Coffey: I was in Barren County, Kentucky, the fifth grade in Eastern Elementary school, Miss Betty Hammer's class. Most of the students cried and were frightened since we had been conditioned from our "duck and cover" drills during the eminent nuclear first-strike fear days. I will never forget watching Walter Cronkite on black-and-white TV. ... I will never forget.
Carol Covato: I was living in my hometown of Dixon, Ill. I had just graduated from high school and was 17 years old, ... working in the restaurant part of Ford-Hopkins Drug Store. The cook had the radio on in the kitchen and came out to tell all of us in the store ... workers and customers alike ...what had happened. I was the youngest in the store, so I don't suppose it hit me like it did those much older people around me. There was a lot of talk and a lot of crying. To me it just seemed surreal!
Mary Blevins: I was driving home from town. Heard it on my car radio and was very sad and upset. I am 71 now, and I will always remember that day and the days that followed his death. I was a young pregnant woman at the time and was blessed with a baby girl on Nov. 25.
Mary Ruth Humphries: I was living in the village of Connersville, five miles outside Cynthiana. I was 18 years old and recently married to my high school sweetheart. We had a small black-and-white TV in our tiny living room and I remember sitting and watching history take place before my eyes. Our country mourned his death, and even to this day the country feels the truth has never been revealed over why and who was behind his assassination.
Mary Vanhook Leonard: We were never allowed to eat in front of the television, but that Sunday after church, we were watching TV when Jack Ruby stepped up and shot Oswald. I will never forget that; I had my plate of food sitting on my lap and I jumped up at the sound of the gunshot and my food went flying. I have the newspaper clippings from the assassination of both Kennedys and Oswald. ... Everyone stayed glued to their TVs, wondering what was going to happen next. A scary time in our history, and you never forget where you were or what you were doing when it happened.-->
Al Owens: I had just walked out of the American history class on the UK campus in Lexington. I saw some girls crying, and someone asked, "Why are you all crying?" One of the students, through sobs, said, "President Kennedy has been shot." Several of us who were leaving the class stood there in shock. I was an 18-year-old freshman and I felt a big emptiness in my soul, an unexpected void that left me a bit dazed. Later, when his death was confirmed, I wept that such a thing could happen in our country, and I began to realize that in the unseen world around us, in the background, sinister forces were evidently at work among us. Today I realize they still are.
Janet Lykins: I was a junior at Mt. Sterling High School, in my history class with Miss Lane. Suddenly, our class was interrupted by the message from the principal over the intercom: "Our president, John F. Kennedy, has been shot!" History was being made at that time as sad and scary as the incident which had just be announced. Our class remained silent. What went through my mind was what was going to happen next. My brother had been called up during the Cuban crisis to the Army base in Ft. Chaffee, Ark., and my dad had died of a heart attack in October. We watched the events that followed the assassination of President Kennedy on our black-and-white TV.
Harold Gaunce: I was at home sick from school that day, first grade, watching TV with my mom. I didn't understand fully why she was so upset, crying, calling friends and family up, and it was hard to get through. Most people had party lines back then and the General Telephone switchboard was jammed.
Gladys H. Fugate: I was in gym class at Caney Consolidated Elementary in Breathitt County, Ky. I will never forget that feeling of heartbreak and helplessness — it has only been surpassed — at least in my mind (when it comes to the world outside my family), and that was on 9/11/2001.
Jim Beirne: In class with U.S. Army at Ft. Lee, Va. Fortunate enough to be allowed to go to his funeral. A lasting memory; his horse Black Jack would not stop prancing the entire way.
Linda Crawford: I was at high school. They let us go home. I went home — to an empty house. I forgot we moved that day while I was in school! Went to the new house, to my room, and just cried all night.
Chuck Henson: I guess many of us at our age were in school that Friday. I was in 10th grade at Hialeah High School in typing class. The teacher yelled at us to stop typing and listen to the loudspeaker in the classroom. I remember the silence in that room after the typewriters stopped.
Peggy Wilson: I was in civics class at Bryan Station Junior High. All classes stopped immediately. The radio broadcast was put on our PA system. Our teacher (Mr. Shifflett) cried. Everyone was in shock. No one talked — there was just overwhelming sadness, shock and anger — for days.
Elizabeth Hatcher Springate: I was in fifth grade at Madison Elementary in Richmond. They let us out of school — we did not learn of the shooting at school. I got home, my mom and our baby sitter were sitting in front of the TV, crying. They told us what happened. We were in shock, disbelief and so sad. We watched TV all weekend and until after the funeral on Monday. The whole world stopped and grieved.