JFK Assassination: Where were you on Nov. 22, 1963?

So where were you Nov. 22, 1963. We asked some of our writers to reflect back in their memories of that particular day. Here are their stories. Please let us know your memory by writing it in the comment section below.

‘She put a finger to her head and pretended to shoot herself’

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was seven years old and my family had just moved to Mexico City, Mexico from Rye, New York.  We were in temporary housing out in the suburb El Pedregal, miles from anywhere. My father was out of town traveling on business. My brothers were at school or out with friends.  My mother and I were in the house with two Mexican maids, Josefina and Margarita. We didn’t speak a word of Spanish and they didn’t speak any English.

I was sitting down in the laundry room watching Margarita iron. For some reason, I was obsessed at the time about learning to iron. She was listening to the radio. All of a sudden she became upset and started talking very fast. All I could understand was” Kennedy Kennedy.” I had no idea what she was talking about. Then she put a finger to her head and pretended to shoot herself.  That really confused me. I took her upstairs to see my mom.

The pantomime was repeated for my mom along with shouts of “Kennedy Kennedy.” We were able to establish that John Kennedy had been shot but couldn’t understand if he was alive or dead. The maids were crying. It didn’t look good.

A little while later my mom got a phone call. An American woman who knew we were recent arrivals phoned to see if we had heard the news. President John Kennedy was dead. — Kathleen Gamble

It was the first time I ever saw my mother cry

I was only five years old the day President Kennedy was assassinated.  When the news broke, I was in the afternoon kindergarten class at P.S. 232 – Thomas Jefferson Elementary School.  I didn’t know what the word “assassinated” meant, and I don’t think I had a grasp of what death was about.  No one I personally knew had yet died, and the only shootings I had ever “seen” were in the westerns and war dramas that dominated television throughout the 1960s.  I vaguely remember my parents talking about Patsy Cline (who died in a plane crash earlier in 1963), but President Kennedy’s death was the first real death I experienced.

I don’t recall if we were sent home early, but I do remember a number of somber-looking parents showing up to take their kids home before class was dismissed.  And I remember trying to envision Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby (strange-sounding names to a boy of five), as the news continued to play on the radio in my house that weekend.  But for me, the most vivid memory occurred while watching the funeral on TV.

My grandfather had placed his red portable Philco set on the dining room table.  Some aluminum foil on the rabbit ears helped improve the grainy picture.  Mom brought her ironing board up from the basement so that she could work while watching the coverage.

I was spellbound but noticed that my mom stopped ironing several times during the funeral procession to turn away from the TV and blot her tears with a handful of tissues.  It was the first time I ever saw my mother cry.  That’s the image I’ll always remember – seeing my mom cry as the cameras followed the president’s flag-draped casket. – Anthony C. Hayes

Just a baby

I was probably in my bassinet. I was only four months old. Why is it that I feel like I remember it? How is it that I feel like he was a part of my life? Perhaps it was the retelling of the story over the years of my childhood. Perhaps it was because of the impact he had on the hearts minds and imaginations of my parents, my community, and the world. To think of it now brings tears to my eyes as if I personally lost someone I loved that day. – Nancy Murray

I felt numb

I’d just come back from looking at posted grades from a philosophy class at Miami University. I, along with another student, Ray Fish, Aced it. When I got back to my dorm, several women were in the living room crying. The whole place was muted and solemn and silent. I felt numb, but not as devastated as a lot of people. My father had died suddenly earlier that year and that was truly devastating. Karen DeWitt.

The teacher was quietly sobbing

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in the second grade at Fairview Elementary School in Milwaukee, WI. On that afternoon we were at lunch and then the after lunch recess time when we could run about on the playground before returning to class. None of us were aware of what was happening in Dallas, TX; we were seven years old.

When we did return to our classroom, the teacher, Miss Kowski (Don’t remember if that’s the correct spelling), was quietly sobbing. She stood in the corner and would furtively glance at us as she cried. We were all quiet, including the class clowns. Something was terribly wrong.

Finally, she turned around, still crying, and told us the president had been killed and we should all go home. As I recall we all started walking out the door. The principal, Mr. Morrissey, stopped some of us and asked what we were doing. Someone told him what had just transpired and he let us go. I spent the rest of the day and night watching the news with my parents, both of whom were devastated by the news.

My parents, good Catholic Democrats, had both worked on the 1960 Kennedy for President campaign so this was especially terrible news for them.

It was the Kennedy assassination that woke me up to politics, at such a young age. JFK was a hero in our house and we were very proud to have contributed to his election. He was one of us.

As of Nov. 22, 1963, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy became a martyr and a saint, at least in the Forkes’ home – Tim Forkes

Ready to play Bingo

“There’s a report that the president has been shot,” said the cop as he walked into the clerks’ office of the “Baltimore City Court,” at Calvert & Fayette Streets. It was Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963, around 1:30 p.m.. I was working in the office as a clerk while going to law school at the University of Baltimore at night.

I was stunned by the news, as was everyone else in the office. It was a total shock.

Morris Cohen, who sat next to me in the office and loved to chatter away, was for once – speechless. Then, the cop, who was overweight and assigned as security to one of the courtrooms, started talking about his recent hernia operation. I thought I was going to throw up.

Later, we got the news that President John F. Kennedy had died. That night my neighborhood in Locust Point in South Baltimore was quiet. I thought for sure they would have some kind of service at the RC church – Our Lady of Good Counsel – on Fort Avenue, something to help the people deal with the tragedy. They did have a service of sorts. They carried on with their weekly bingo game as if nothing had happened in Dallas that day. – Bill Hughes

Is that a bad thing?

I was five years old, waking up from a nap on Nov. 22, 1963, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I had walked into the kitchen where my mom was preparing or cleaning up a meal. My mother was a hardcore Nixon party supporter.  In my youth,  I spent a lot of time with my grandma (my Dad’s side) who was the closet Democrat in the family. My grandma – probably more than anyone in my life – helped shape my political views the most as I grew up.

In the kitchen, we had a radio that sat on top of the refrigerator. It usually was on a news station or WOKY. It was always on most of the day.  We had a broken-down black-and-white television with rabbit ears, but it fhad two working channels, and a third if the sun was out – not a common thing to see in Milwaukee in late November. And most of the time you had to stick a nail to balance the channel knob to get a picture as well as stick aluminum foil on the rabbit ears. So we were more of a radio family in the early 1960s.  I didn’t even know color TV existed until we would visit my grandma’s house in Whitefish Bay to watch the football game on NBC in ‘Living Color.” Cool uniforms, my brothers and I always thought.

But on this day, the radio kept us in touch with what was happening in Dallas. I remember hearing the newsman say, “The President has been shot,” while my mom just kept cleaning the kitchen. Kind of odd, I thought if this was a big deal.

But she eventually got really quiet when she saw me enter the kitchen.  I didn’t know what this meant getting shot.  So, I asked my mom just one question, “Is that a bad thing?”

My mom didn’t respond – just told me to go back to my room – as if she was trying to tell me it would be OK. But I don’t think it was ever just OK. Five years later when I came inside after playing a game of hide tag with my friends,  I  learned that one of my favorite politicians had just been shot in California. I was 10 years old and arguing politics with my friends at school as much as we argued about our favorite football team.  My sixth-grade teacher required us to clip out news articles about the Vietnam War as well as the presidential election. We placed them in a scrapbook but for some reason, we stopped discussing them in class.

I watched the California shooting unfold again in my parent’s bedroom on their new 13-inch black-and-white TV. The network had a flashback to Dallas in 1963 and then forward to California where it was just madness.

My parents watching with me didn’t say a word other than “Kennedy was shot.”

All I could  think of was, “Not again!”

After RFK died,  I didn’t want to clip out any newspaper articles anymore. –Timothy W. Maier