“I had met Kennedy at a fundraiser at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York that NBC News assigned me to cover. Watching him pace the floor backstage, I remember something that was captivating, something in his demeanor that made me feel he just might be elected and go on to become a good president.
“Unfortunately, after only a thousand days in office, at age 43, he was gunned down. It defied all logic.”
Longtime newsman Larry Nation was an eighth grader eating lunch at Edison Junior High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma “when the principal’s voice over the intercom told us ‘President Kennedy has been shot during a motorcade in Dallas, Texas and is being treated at a hospital.’"
The lunchroom “was stunned into silence,” remembers Nation. “’He’s young and strong. He’s make it,’ someone said.” The kids were “uncharacteristically quiet and we waited for more word, as the teacher just sat stunned and staring out the window.”
Today Kennedy’s shooting is still shrouded in confusion and unanswered questions.
On nationwide TV, the funeral procession paused and the beloved First Lady, dressed in black mourning, whispered to the toddler America called John-John. Three-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. solemnly saluted his father’s bier.
John Jr. salutes his father.
And the nation wept.
Kennedy’s dour vice president, Lyndon B. Johnson, unceremoniously moved the young widow out of the White House and plunged America into the disastrous Vietnam War – which he micro-managed to unprecedented defeat. Hoping to redeem his legacy, he launched a nobly named but flawed “War on Poverty.” Then America’s hopes were crushed again and again as assassins’ bullets silenced Martin Luther King, then Bobby Kennedy.
America struggled to understand.
“I was only 14 years old when John F. Kennedy was killed,” says bestselling author Joni Eareckson Tada, “but I remember very clearly being called on to answer a question in Spanish class — before I could reply, an announcement came over the school intercom, informing us that President Kennedy had just been assassinated. The message was repeated, and then it clicked off. We were all stunned, and weren’t sure what to do or say. Our Spanish teacher, however, just picked up as though nothing happened, and asked me to answer her question. I proceeded to count from 20 to 0 in Spanish.
“When class was over, the principal let us all go home early. I was incredibly sad, because I liked President Kennedy, even at that young age. In social studies class, we memorized his challenge, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.’ I rushed home and watched the frightening images on TV with my family, thinking, This doesn’t happen in America… This only happens in countries where there are terrible problems. To me, it was a rude wake-up call that no country is really safe from evil people and their wicked schemes. Kennedy’s assassination ushered in a different era in America: and I often wondered if the rebellion and unrest of young people in the ‘60’s got its start with the death of the President.”
John F. Kennedy
“That afternoon, I was a gawky fifth grader in my favorite class – English – with my favorite teacher, Mr. Davis,” remembers Jane Struck, former editor of Today’s Christian Woman magazine. “He had just asked a boy to recite, but before he could, an office staffer entered our classroom and whispered into Mr. Davis’s ear. Suddenly he was herding us into the gymnasium. There our principal solemnly announced we were dismissed for the day because something had happened to the President.
“When Mom met me at the bus stop, she was in tears. Together we watched on our tiny black-and-white TV as news anchor Walter Cronkite tearfully announced President Kennedy’s death. I’ll never forget how saddened and shaken I felt.”
Newspapers proclaimed the terrible news
College professor Cris Richardson was only a third grader. “My teacher, Mrs. Allbright was playing “Puff the Magic Dragon” on the record player. I was intently listening because this song even today makes me happy and sad. Suddenly someone was knocking frantically on the door. It had to be important – it was the principal. We all can see how upset she is. Although the record was still playing, we began whispering, ‘What is wrong?’