Where Were You?

by: Jeff Spector

November 22, 2013

Today is November 22, 2013 and marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, 35th President of the United States.

For those of us who are old enough, we remember exactly where we were when we heard the news of his killing.  We remember enduring a weekend of nothing but the coverage of the assassination on all the TV channels in our area. We remember the killing of suspected assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV that Sunday morning and we remember the funeral held on Monday, with the salute of John Jr. as the casket rolled by in the streets of Washington DC.

I was in the 5th grade, attending Langdon Avenue Elementary School in Sepulveda, California, a suburb of Los Angeles located in the San Fernando Valley.  It was lunchtime and we were sitting at the lunch pavilion, outside (it was Southern California, after all) eating our lunches brought from home.

Rosie, our lunchtime aide (and probably a Mom to some of the students there) came over and told us the horrible news; The President was shot and had died.  Remember, this was back when politics, while in many ways a rough business, was not as acrimonious as it is now. Most everyone that I knew loved President Kennedy.  We were all in shock, we were sad and some were crying.

Upon returning to the classroom, our teacher Miss Jones, asked us to bow our heads and say a prayer for the President and his family.  As a Jewish kid, this seemed a bit odd to me since I had never seen anyone bow his or her head in prayer before.  However, I did it anyway.  After that, we got back to the business of school, as I remember.

For the next 4 days, there was nothing on TV except the news of the assassination and the return of the President’s body to Washington in preparation for the funeral to be held on Monday.  No cartoons on Saturday and Sunday morning as usual.  Hour after hour, it droned on.

I was up and watching on Sunday morning, hoping to find a cartoon or something else on one of the stations. We had seven channels at that time; surely, one of them might show something else.  But no.

Anyway, I started watching the coverage and was able to see the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby on live TV on our Dumont TV.

The country was awash in a profound state of sadness, which was both apparent and palpable.

Years later, I was in Washington DC on business and had some time before my plane ride home so I went over to Arlington National Cemetery. One of my stops was the Kennedy gravesite.  As I arrived there, I noticed there were many people there.  Was this normal? It was in the middle of a weekday afternoon in the fall, so why were all these people there?  Then I realized it was November 22nd.  Ah, no wonder.

I also had the opportunity to visit Dallas as well and I was surprised seeing Elm Street with the Book Depository Building in Dealey Plaza being much closer to the street than the TV seems to show.  Therefore, the distance to shoot from the sixth floor of the building was not as far as I thought it was.

We have never really gotten a good, credible explanation of the assassination itself.  To this day, we have many theories, many conspiracies, but no definitive, reasonable explanation of who did it, why, and how it happened.

What, if anything do you remember?

12 Responses to Where Were You?

  1. Douglas on November 22, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    In Japan, at Yakota AB as a military dependent. I was four. I remember my older sister came from next door where she was playing with the neighbor girl, screaming, “President Kennedy was killed!”. I was with our Japanese housekeeper (her name was Sumako, interesting how I can recall that 50 years later)…Mom and Dad had just left to shop (it was early Saturday morning, Nov 23rd of ’63, so judging by the time difference there was about a two hour delay between JFK’s passing at 1 pm CST on the 22nd in Dallas and our neighbors who probably had Armed Forces Television on…I don’t recall then either but this was before 24 hour broadcast so they might have just signed on).
    My dad told me years later that his unit (an RB-57 reconnaissance squadron) went on “alert” that night, thinking that Kennedy’s assassination might be precursor to some war plans. I don’t know what his squadron did but judging by the location they likely were taking pictures at Soviet installations about Vladivostok, Sakhalin, and Petropavalosk, and also seeing whatever North Korea and Red China were up to. He did say that they were quite busy well into ’64 when the Vietnam War began to ramp up.

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  2. Last Lemming on November 22, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    I was walking home from school in Ithaca, New York. My best friend’s sister (probably about 9 years old) was running up and down the sidewalk whispering in people’s ears. When she got to me, she asked if I wanted to know a secret. Who wouldn’t? So she whispered that the president had been shot. I guess whispering made it tolerable for her.

    My dad was working in a lab at Cornell. He and his colleagues didn’t know what to do. They couldn’t keep working and they had no desire to sit around and talk or cry. So they went bowling. For them, knocking pins down made it tolerable.

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  3. Will on November 22, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    I was in the pre-existence and don’t remember a thing

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  4. CS Eric on November 22, 2013 at 9:52 PM

    I was five years old. I just remember my mother was so sad–she had a crush on JFK. I do remember Jack Ruby jumping out from the crowd and shooting Oswald.

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  5. Jettboy on November 22, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    “e have never really gotten a good, credible explanation of the assassination itself. To this day, we have many theories, many conspiracies, but no definitive, reasonable explanation of who did it, why, and how it happened.”

    Yes, yes we do. Lee Harvey Oswald, a Cuban sympathizer, shot and killed JFK. Otherwise, wasn’t even close to born at that time.

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  6. Geoff - A on November 23, 2013 at 3:12 AM

    I was on a building mission in Scotland. My family joined the church in 1958 in Australia in a place called the Gold coast. A beach, surfing and holiday resort. Within 18 months they moved the family to Cardston Alberta, Canada to be in a church community. And after 11 months there my parents were called as building supervisors by the church at a time when chapels were built by volunteer labour.

    Someone had decided it would be good to build chapels and that would attract members to fill them. The branch where we built our first chapel was Kirkcaldy and had 5 teenage girls and 2 male missionaries as it’s active members (volunteer labour.)

    By 1963 I was in Kilmarnock helping to build a chapel there. The killing of John Kennedy was quite a big thing there too.

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  7. Hedgehog on November 23, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    What Will said.
    Not often I get to write that.

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  8. MH on November 23, 2013 at 7:01 AM

    I was arguing with Will in the pre-existence over the conspiracy theories.

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  9. Kullervollervo on November 23, 2013 at 9:44 PM

    C.S. Lewis died a few hours later on the same day.

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  10. hawkgrrrl on November 24, 2013 at 12:19 PM

    I, Will, and Hedgehog were all waiting for our turn on earth together. Back then we were all three fairly like minded. Then two of us were born female. ;)

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  11. Will on November 24, 2013 at 11:57 PM

    I feel hen-pecked.

    Hawkgirl makes fun of my maleness: Brian says I’m not human: Hedgehog says I’m disagreeable.and argumentative; MH says I’m a right wing wacko conspiracy theriorist who celebrates with bankers who received corporate walfare; Nate and Mike S thinks I’m a greedy capitalist; I can’t say what Dan thinks or I would get blocked by the filters; Geoff and Nick think I’m homophobic; Stephen thinks I have no logic; Howard thinks I’m an asshole; Aaron thinks I’m a racist and sexist and emails me condemnation notes; my son say at times I’m a cross between Homer Simpson and Rush Limbaugh; and my wife thinks I need a filter at times.

    The reality is I’m a fun loving guy — a guy you would want to get a beer (root) or go golfing with. My wife and kids love me. It wouldn’t be the same without Will. Beer or golf anyone?

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  12. Jeff Spector on November 25, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    The attempted humanization of a W&T icon……..

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