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Where we were when we heard the news

The nation paused last week to reflect on the death of President John F. Kennedy, gunned down in a parade along Dallas, Texas roadways.  On November 22, 1963, the world was horrified over his assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald, and those of us old enough to remember have never been able to get the images out of our minds.

Two days later, Oswald was gunned down, live, in full view of stunned parents and even small children watching the assassin’s arrest on national television.

When you consider how scandalized we are over bad words and clothing malfunctions that sneak past FCC controls today, the idea of young kids watching actual murders, in real time on national TV, is crazy.

We remember where we were on that terrible day.

The  Newseum in Washington, DC is displaying a special exhibit on Kennedy’s life, his family, his presidency, and his death.  As part of the programming, visitors are invited to record on Post-It notes where they were when they heard about the assassination.

People posted memories of JFK's assassination

People posted memories of JFK’s assassination on Post-It notes at the Newseum in Washington, DC

The memories are vivid:

I was in high school practicing in the school orchestra.

I wasn’t alive when he was, but I have heard great things about him.

I was home with small children watching TV. We were glued to the TV for days.

I was in elementary school. All the nuns were crying and going from class to class and they were praying for him. We were all sad and left for home early. At home, we bought a new TV to watch the services.

I was 24 years old and at work. I was so scared to go outside because I feared chaos in the streets. I watched for days the carnage on TV and was fired from my job for not calling to say I would…. (unfinished) 

I was in class 6th grade Holy Trinity Catholic School. We all went to church and prayed, then watched TV all weekend.

I was on my lunch break in Syracuse, N.Y. I then wandered aimlessly home after the announcement. 

I was a senior in high school in Hartford, Conn. when Sister Berlignan came into our class and told us the president had been shot. Our immediate concern, in our naiveté was how long it would take him to recover. We did not believe he would die.

I was 8 years old and living in Sao Paolo, Brazil. We had just arrived at our Equestrian Club when one of the stable boys came running out to my family saying that “El Presidente’ Kennedy” was dead. He cried and I cried. The Brazillians loved Kennedy.

I was in 9th grade at Howard Junior High in Wilmette, Ill. In the hallway some kids said our English teacher was crying. It was between periods when we were told what happened by our teachers. School was dismissed early. We all walked home. We watched the television coverage all day, and for many days after.

I was in high school chemistry class. One of the first bulletins said that a secret service agent had also been shot. The daughter of the limousine driver was in my class. I remember she immediately got up and left the school. We didn’t see or hear from her for many days.  I went to the capitol with my mother and best friend. I remember the large, quiet crowds at the Rotunda….

Are you old enough to remember?  Even if you aren’t, those powerful newscasts from 50 years ago vividly bring the events into our living rooms and make them real for you.

Has it really been an entire half century? It seems like yesterday.

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