THAT TERRIBLE DAY
I just remember we were in Japan, and all the mama-sans and papa-sans saying how sorry they were.
I was married to the late Carl Plett, who was a trumpet player in the United States Navy, and he was stationed in Japan for 18 months.
I was amazed at how sorry they were. It was all over the news, in the Stars and Stripes (A military magazine).
I was teaching school that day at Eisenhower. I heard ripples in school that Kennedy had been shot, so I called my wife at home and asked her about it. She said, “Yes, it’s true”.
My next class was accounting, and when I told them what happened, they were teary-eyed.
Throughout the day, there were rumors. To this day, 50 years later, there are still rumors floating.
I was at Camp Lejeune getting ready to come home for the weekend. We heard about it on the radio all the way up and back.
I was in orchestra in high school- Warren Area High School – playing violin, when it came over the PA system.
I went to speech class and that was when the pronounced him dead.
I remember Jackie in her pretty, pink outfit. The grief that was on her face… crawling over the limousine.
It was terrible.
– Julie Verdot
I was just a new mother.
I was watching the soap opera “As the World Turns” when Walter Cronkite came on and said, “The president has been shot.” We were just glued to the TV after that.
I had an appointment, I went to get my hair done that day. “Oh my gosh. What do we do now? We don’t have a president. What’s going to happen?” That was the talk at the beauty shop.
I remember John John and Caroline… I saw it when Oswald got shot.
– Mary Lou Watt
I was home, ironing, watching “As the World Turns”.
It was unbelievable. This can’t be happening. We kept hoping that he was not really dead… it was just a mistake.
I remember the horror of it… the waiting to learn. After that, it was just shock.
– Betty Carlson
I was over in Germany in the Army at the time.
We got in formation and they told us. Nobody knew anything that fast.
(Details arrived) two or three days later.
I remember how devastated we all were.
– George Sedlak
I was at home, watching television and waiting for my third child to be born.
Everybody was in a panic.
I talked to my sister. The day of the funeral, she tried to get her two-year-old twins to watch the TV because they were making history. They said, “Look, horsies.”
– Shirley Hitchcock
I attended school in Titusville and I don’t remember them announcing it. I did hear it later in the day from a girl friend.
It was scary, I couldn’t comprehend it. It was unbelievable that this could happen in this country.
My father was a Methodist minister and he kept the TV in a closet so he could control what we watched. I remember he brought the TV out of the closet and sat it on the dining room table so we could watch it all.
– Sharon Collman
I’d been working third shift. I was home sleeping and my wife woke me up.
I remember thinking, “This is unbelievable that that’s happened.”
– Dave Downey
I was in my living room.
We had this gas stove. I was cuddled up to that watching a black-and-white TV.
– Lynda Baxter (4 years old at the time)
I was shopping with my husband and 14-month-old daughter at Field’s in Schenectady, N.Y.
People were heading to the television area. We followed.
– Ruth Johnson
I wondered why everyone was crowded around the TV set.
– Russell Johnson
That was a day for crying.
I was home. I remember them saying, “Kennedy’s been shot.”
We watched it all day long.
That was a terrible thing to see.
– Sallie Salsgiver
I was in Germany – isolated missile site.
We went on alert. We were on alert for a couple days.
We had no idea what was going on. Being that far away, no TV and radio, you don’t know what’s going on.
– Ed Campbell
I was in social studies class at Youngsville High School and it came over the loudspeaker.
I was shocked … it was not registering. I remember everyone was crying.
We watched everything on TV. I remember watching the funeral; his kids were so sad.
– Denice Bleech
I remember that day vividly. I was at home and Jim (her husband Jim Pearson) was at the bank in Kane. I was ironing and the phone rang. He said, “Turn on the TV.”
I turned on the TV and watched it. I was numb to it, I couldn’t believe it.
We watched it all, and remember back then the TV went off at 11 o’clock.
– Demeyer Pearson
We lived in an apartment at the time and the baby was due in a couple of weeks.
I was shocked and confused.
We watched and got a lot of information from TV.
– Jo Loree
I was working at New Process (now Blair Corp.) filling orders and we got an hour for lunch. I was going home for lunch and stopped at Guiffre’s for a loaf of bread. That’s the first I heard of it, everybody was talking about it.
I was devastated, I couldn’t believe it could happen here.
I watched it on TV when I got home; back then we only had CBS, NBC and ABC.
– Jack Elder
I was at my desk. I worked at Warren General Hospital.
One of the nurses came in and said Kennedy had been shot. I said, “I don’t believe it.”
“I don’t believe it”, that was the comment that everybody made. We went to a patient’s room and watched the TV… and knew that it happened.
– Margaret Scalise
Jim and I got married in September and were living in Tidioute.
It came on the television. I was ironing some shirts. I was just so shocked that that happened, I dropped the iron on the ironing board. It sat there for a while and it burned a shirt.
It made me sick. How could that happen? I just sat and cried.
It was like you were in another world. It was surreal.
– Frankie Zavinski
We were returning to Warren from Arizona for the holidays. My dad pulled into a diner somewhere in Indiana for some sandwiches so we could make better time. We waited in the car, and heard the news over the radio.
It was another 6th period spent watching the clock in Mrs. Cardamone’s math class, made especially burdensome because it was Friday.
Near the end of the period, a knock came on the classroom door and the most ill-tempered teacher at Glendale Elementary in Glen Burnie, Md., disappeared into the hallway.
When she returned a few moments later, she seemed softened, introspective, almost human.
She paused for several seconds in front of the class. “I suppose you are old enough to hear this: President Kennedy has been shot, maybe in a hunting accident. That’s all I know.”
The class continued for a few more minutes, and the bell rang to signal both the end of the day and the end of the week.
There was 50 cents in my pocket for a haircut on the way home.
For most of us, the president being wounded in a hunting accident didn’t instill much excitement. It was just another bit of news that might affect adults but probably wouldn’t affect our lives.
That was until I climbed into the barber’s chair, and while I was being cloaked in a chin apron, I looked down at the never-off console television across the room.
There was a still image on the screen, a portrait of “President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 1917-1963.”
“Did he die?” I asked the barber.
“Yeah, they killed him,” he answered with disgust in his voice. Another barber and a couple of other men were in the shop, and while normally this would have been a forum for discussion of the Colts’ current performance, the shop was silent except for the solemn voice-over emanating from the television.
That weekend, the whole neighborhood seemed quieter, perhaps because virtually everyone was glued to their televisions.
Word came that school would be cancelled on Monday when the president would be laid to rest.
We traveled to Frederick, about an hour away, to spend the day at my aunt and uncle’s house; they had a bigger and nicer television than ours.
It was odd to me that my parents, staunch Republicans who seldom had a good word for the Democratic president and often were disparaging of Democrats in general, seemed different. My mother and aunt both cried. My father and my uncle were angry that something like this could happen in America.
It just wasn’t right that someone would kill a president, any president.
– Eric Paddock
Fifty years is a long time, plenty of time for memories to fade, names to be forgotten and faces difficult to attach to those names.
So some of my less-significant memories from 50 years ago today Nov. 22, 1963 are blurred or unretrievable. But the main moments of the day are unforgettable.
I remember sitting in Latin III class working on yet another translation when the school principal’s voice suddenly filled the public address system. “May I have your attention please…”
We all remember why he interrupted classes throughout the high school in Adrian, Mich.
I remember Miss Paige, who somehow managed to retain her enthusiasm for teaching Latin for decades, audibly gasping and bracing herself as she sat down on the corner of her desk, then quietly crying for several minutes as we sat uncomfortably watching.
She then did what teachers do: She taught us, not about Latin but about the presidency and JFK in particular. I don’t remember specifics of what she said, but I’m sure I had heard most of it in history and government classes. The difference now was relevancy because what we had heard from the principal stung each and every one of us.
I remember going home after school and sitting with my mother as we watched CBS and listened to Walter Cronkite tell us the awful details.
I remember the TV being on constantly as we watched with family and friends throughout the next few days: the thousands of people lining up to pay their respects as JFK’s body lay in state in the Capitol rotunda, the funeral procession and, shockingly, the live murder of the supposedly heavily-guarded Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.
I’m thinking now this might have been the start of America reflexively turning on TVs when something terrible happens. It was a black-and-white world of broadcasting then, far from the 24-hour cable news channels obsessed with upstaging everyone else.
And I’m thinking that if we had the current TV news coverage then as we have now an unimaginable number of viewers would have watched the assassination of our president. That’s one memory no one should bear.
– Tom Schultz