Where were you on 11/22/1963 ?
November 22, 1963; the day John F. Kennedy was shot, is a painful and costly date for all those who witnessed the tragedy unfold, particularly Baby Boomers who were in their teens at that time.
Prior to 9/11, this date was embedded in my mind like no other. My memory plays like a movie when I recall the day Kennedy was shot. First of all, I had attained the age of 16 and acquired my driver’s license the month before. On this indelible date, my Mom let me take her to work and then drive her car to school for the very first time. I was so excited to be able to give my friend, Judi, a ride home that day.
As the last class of my school day ended and the clamor of excited teens exited the building, I was startled by a fellow classmate running down the hall shouting, “Kennedy’s been shot”. Well, this guy was sort of a character and I thought he must be kidding and trying to scare us; so, I totally dismissed his alarm.
My Mom had asked me to drop off some clothes at the Base Dry Cleaners, so I headed there before taking Judi to Base Housing. Like similar businesses today, the customer area was a small rectangular room with a counter down one side. Back then a small, 12 inch, black and white TV sat on a shelf in the corner. As the door opened, I was stunned by the silence and wondered why all these guys were just standing there staring at the TV. I looked at each of the 6 customers, all soldiers in uniform, observed their tears and noticed their hands clutching hats to their chests. I looked up at the TV and realized what I heard in the hall at school was true. Fear raced through my heart and I just wanted to get home. How could something like this happen in America?
We had three TV stations back then and they came on around 6 in the morning with a farm report and went off the air at midnight with a musical rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The news specific channels we have today did not exist. This was such an event in our history that the regular TV channels used their air time to keep us informed every day every step of the way until he was laid to rest.
I watched live TV as Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswold, and again as John John stood with his mother and sister and raised his hand in salute to his father’s casket, and everything in between. We must have had time off from school but my memory isn’t helping me with that detail. I do remember the crying. Everyone seemed to be crying all the time.
The Cuban Missile Crisis had introduced national fear; but our “Happy Days” existence was penetrated with a new vulnerability on the day JFK was assassinated.