Former Peace Corps volunteer and desk officer
I remember sitting in the SUB, the Student Union Building, at the University of New Mexico, where I'd met my sister for lunch. I was a freshman. The television was on and then the news interrupted whatever was on. I felt emptiness in the pit of my stomach and people were shuffling around to get a better look at Walter Cronkite. Tears welled up and I tried hard not to sob. Everyone seemed to be in shock. One of Mary Ann's friends walked up to me, smiled and handed me an ice cream bar. I really didn't know what to do with it. Did I eat it? Could I have done something as ordinary as eat ice cream at that tumultuous moment in history? Five years later Bobby was assassinated and then Martin Luther King. I joined the Peace Corps that summer. It was about altruism. It was a Kennedy thing. Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You .....
In Belize, when invited to someone's home, it was common to see two portraits in their living room: one of Christ, showing palms extended and exposed heart, and the other was the official presidential photo of John Kennedy. We shared respect for a charismatic figure. He inspired many of us to achieve goals which we might not have pursued otherwise. And I can't say I much cared for ice cream bars since then.
I was a junior in high school in Ohio in November 1963 and
Presidential Assassinations were the stuff of history books, not my
life and times. Or so I thought. I was glued to the TV the entire
weekend, not really believing what I was seeing. I remember in
particular coming home from church that Sunday to learn that Oswald
himself had been shot in the basement of the Dallas Police Department
and beginning to wonder, in the midst of the added chaos, about the
stability and certainty of everything in my life that I had once
believed with all my heart was stable and certain. And that, I think,
is the feeling that endured -- in many ways, a loss of childhood
innocence and an introduction to tragedy on an epic scale even here
and, as it turns out, especially here, in the USA. I had a chance to
put the Kennedy Assassination into clearer perspective when I taught
my children about it in the context of all that went on in the 60's.
In the truly wonderful Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, they could see
what hopes and dreams had been dashed by Kennedy's killing (and those
of his brother Bobby and Martin Luther King), and what new hopes and
dreams were born in the aftermath and in the activism and rebellion
which colored our college years.
I, like so many people, mark the anniversary of the JFK assassination by remembering the exact spot I first heard the news -- crossing a college campus while people around me were sharing/shouting the news. Members of my class marched in Selma, protested the Vietnam War and conspired to enable male students to become ineligible for the draft.
The college I went to did not allow women students to wear "slacks" to class, and we had single-sex dorms (most of the time.) I went on to teach school under the Johnson era "Great Society." In the 60s I was certain that the country could eliminate poverty and racism. When I started teaching, remnants of institutional racism were still evident in some schools in rural VA. However, both black and white children lived in poverty. And class seemed to be a common factor in predicting school success.
I was an electronics instructor at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colorado, and in the break room when one of the technical sergeants entered and stated that the president had been shot in Dallas. We soon learned that the wound was fatal. Everyone I knew was shocked at the news. I was dismayed for a few hours, and then became quite angered that such a thing could happen in the United States in that day and age. It certainly brought an end to the naïveté of my youth.
I was talking to the Allentown (PA) head of Pennsylvania Bell about for a non-profit I volunteered for when he said, “I’ve got to go. The phones are going wild. The President has been shot.” My next stop was the offices of The Morning Call where I was a reporter. The wire room, comfortable for two or three persons, had about a dozen in it soberly scanning the wires. There was a short hiatus and then five bells sounded; AP’s highest priority. A priest had confirmed the death of the nation’s first Irish Catholic president, and wide open possibilities of Nov. 1960 seemed a lot more constricted to this Irish Catholic.
Retired health care policy analyst
On the morning of November 22, 1963, the Peace Corps, on the corner of Lafayette Square behind the White House, gave me my first job. Afterward, I walked across the square and one more block to a fancy department store called Garfinkel's. I didn't know, at 22, that one would overpay for mattress covers at fancy stores.
Taking the elevator back to the first floor, I overheard women talking about President Kennedy's having been shot. I laughed in shock, wanting to believe it was some kind of sick joke. I soon verified the news, staggered outdoors, and walked around the block to a bar with a TV.
My sense of security was destroyed. Assassinated was the head of my country and the senator who, just four years earlier, had exhorted my high school class to public service at our graduation ceremony.