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1963: 'Stunned into silence' by JFK's death

Thousands of people had turned out on a sunny autumn day to cheer their President on his visit to Dallas, Texas.

But 22 November 1963 was destined to become one of the most infamous days in modern history, when two bullets from an assassin's rifle hit President John F Kennedy in the head and throat. He died 35 minutes later.

The prime suspect was 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald, who was arrested within hours of the shooting, but was himself murdered two days later.

Since then almost every aspect of the assassination has been disputed - it is not even clear how many shots were fired - but there is one thing most people are certain of; where they were when they heard the President was dead.

Your memories:

I saw JFK on the last day of his life as his motorcade passed over a highway overpass in Ft Worth, Texas early on the morning of November 22, 1963.

The President had just landed at Carlwell Air Force base in the west of the city, and was being taken to an early speaking engagement in a downtown hotel.

The President was waving to all of us who were stuck in the traffic stoppage his passage caused.

Everyone present was waving back to the President.

I was a university student on my way to class that fateful morning. Later in the day, while in an art history course, the class received news that JFK had been shot in the nearby City of Dallas shortly after noon local time.

Normal life seemed to stop for most of us. The time was quite similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis earlier in Mr. Kennedy's presidency.

For the next several days the network television companies broadcast nothing but the ordeal from shooting to burial in Virginia's Arlington National Gravesite.

All of us present that day remember the time as if but yesterday.
John W Gaston, USA

At the age of ten I was in Class V at the District Council Primary School in the remote town of Kambia in the northwest district of Sierra Leone.

The sad news was stunning. I was too young to vote but old enough to remember that fateful day. No one could believe that would happen to JFK, the President who established the Peace Corps, offered me among others the opportunity of having the first American teachers in our school.

He provided me the assurance of having a bowl of cornmeal/bulgur for lunch at school. That terrible news was unimaginable.


" I had my hands over my head, tears rolling down my cheeks and my heart was overwhelmed with grief "

Nabi Yaya Sesay, Sierra Leonean

The whole school was summoned to the football field where we normally met for the beginning of the day assembly. We did not have an auditorium then and even at this moment there is none.

The Headmaster made the formal announcement. Every pupil who could differentiate between hunger and a loaf of bread cried bitterly as if we just lost our Paramount Chief.

I had my hands over my head, tears rolling down my cheeks and my heart was overwhelmed with grief. The school formed a long line and we were led to the residence of the first Peace Corps Teachers where we paid our respect to the world's fallen hero.

Twenty years from that day I stepped my feet on the soil of America as a student. During my first break from school I made it a point of duty to visit Dallas, Texas to see first-hand the place where the course of history was woefully changed.
Nabi Yaya Sesay, Sierra Leonean in the US

I was attending first grade in a school in suburban Dallas on the day of the shooting.

President Kennedy's trip to Texas was huge news in our state. His remarks at a breakfast in Fort Worth were broadcast over our public speaker system.

I only mention this to think, in retrospec, how exotic a presidential visit to Texas was in those days. I recall that even at 6 years of age I understood that to many Texans it was a huge effort to show courtesy to this exotic fellow from the damnyankee north.
Keith Grantham, USA

I was alone at home on our family's 40 acre farm just south of Fresno, California. I was only three years old, but I had already developed the habit of flipping the telly on for the noon news.

America has a strong tradition for local TV news fixtures, and the Fresno, California NBC affiliate's noon news (even in 1963) was no exception. Ed Clayton, an older gentleman who commanded much respect at the time, gave a detailed reading of the events at Dealey Plaza.

Since my parents had been on me to not wander out onto the highway in front of our farm lest I get run over, all I got out of the report was "an 87-year-old man was killed in the street", presumably because he had stepped out in front of a car.


" I have since been to Dealey Plaza and have come to wonder how such an underachieving place could have been the setting for one of America's darkest moments "

Brian McLaughlin, USA

It took me some time to realise Ed had been talking about 87 years between the assassination of JFK and Garfield (the last President to be shot), and that JFK had been riding in an open car.

After all these years my memories are still fairly distinct, whilst those of my older brothers (who were in school that day) and parents have faded to grey.

I have since been to Dealey Plaza and have come to wonder how such an underachieving place, a 1950s era square, could have been the setting for one of America's darkest moments.

All I can say - at least for the assassins - is that there is no accounting for taste.
Brian McLaughlin, USA

I was an 11-year-old child, the daughter of an Air Force defense contractor, who went to an American school in West Ruislip.

Mostly I remember watching the "telly" at about 7:30pm with the "live" news, which was very profound for me at that time.

Still is, to think about it.

The day after my father took us on a drive around London, where all flags were at half-mast.

It looked like a ghost town, similar to the movie "28 Days". I'll never forget my sad mood.
Karen Moore, USA

I was a college freshman in Dallas on the day that JFK was killed.

Just before entering a class, several students approached the class doorway whispering about the incident that had just taken place.

"The president has been shot."

Another student came in a few minutes later, crying and said that the president was wounded and taken to the hospital.

I spent the entire period wondering and worrying. I had almost gone to the city to watch the motorcade go by, but stayed in class instead.

All I could think about was the promise of JFK's term and what would happen to those hopes.

When I was finally able to leave the class and walked out to the street, the US flag was already at half mast, and everyone in the street was huddled around portable radios, or next to cars with their radios on.


" I had grown up with the new ideals of this president, and now saw them crushed "

Kit Wilson, USA

People were crying. I was an awful sight to experience. I had grown up with the new ideals of this president, and now saw them crushed.

Nothing has been the same in my country since those events. Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-contra, George W Bush.

I want to pass along hope to my children, but fail to convince them that the future will be better for them.
Kit Wilson, USA

I was only eight years old at the time and remember my mother asking me to listen out for the news on television and tell her what happened as she was busy cooking dinner at the time.

I was able to tell her that the man in America had died, but being from the UK and also only being eight years old I didn't know really who he was.

I remember my mother saying, "Oh God, No!" and she cried a lot.

His death didn't mean much to me personally until about 15 years later when I realised who he was.
Denise Wilden, UK

I was teaching school in Bridgewater, Mass.

The principal turned on the radio and sent it out over the school.

We were stunned and at first unable to understand what was going on.

Bridgewater is close to Cape Cod and one of the teachers owned a home near the Kennedy's.

The secret service rented her house in the summer.

You cannot imagine the quiet that came over the whole area. It lasted for days. Everyone felt like a family member had died.

I don't think I have ever quite recovered.

And then to lose his brother and Dr King. Sad and a tragedy for America.
Beth Suydan, USA

I was babysitting two little girls close to my parent's house.

It was a treat for them to go visit my Mommy and Daddy. We had just arrived. The phone rang.

My Dad, who voted for Nixon every chance he got, answered.

I remembered him sitting down as he put the receiver down, staring into space.

He looked at us and said Kennedy has been shot.

He shook his head slowly and said, "This is wrong."

After a stunned silence, he got up and turned the TV on.

We did not leave the TV until it was time for me to get the kids home before their mother arrived.

Life was forever changed for all of us, except maybe for the two who were too young to know.

But, it also gave me an insight to my Dad that I had not known. Despite his voting for Nixon, Kennedy was our President and he received the utmost respect from my Dad. Of course, the shock was just beginning leading to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, which we saw as it happened.

What a weekend of horror for people not used to such horror.
Bonnie M Matheson, USA

I was stationed in Trabzon, Turkey with the US Air Force's Turkish-US Logistics Command (Tuslog, Detachment 3-1).

On the night of November 22, 1963, we were just sitting down to "midnight chow" in preparation for working the graveyard shift in operations.

For the first time, a radio speaker was on in chow hall, so we could hear our base radio station.

The announcer was saying something that I could not hear from my chair over the babble in the chow hall.

Someone yelled "Shut UP!" "Quiet!"

The announcer repeated what he had just said. "President Kennedy has been killed in San Antonio, Texas (the announcer had the city wrong). He was shot in the head."

I had my first fork full of food halfway to my mouth. I put it on the plate. "Oh, no!" someone said.

We rose as one, leaving our meal behind, and walked silently to the operations center, where we monitored Russian communications.

A sergeant whom I hated was waiting there, smiling, as he held the door open for us. I wanted to punch him in the face.

We were told to listen for any odd communications coming from Russia, because it was possible the Soviet Union had been behind the assassination.

It was the longest, saddest night I ever spent at work. There were no strange communications having to do with JFK's assassination.

The next morning, the sunrise was the most beautiful I have ever seen. Somehow, though, it made me even sadder. The world would never be the same.
John Lovejoy, USA

I remember what I was doing when I heard that JFK had been murdered as clearly as yesterday.


" I didn't want to believe it - I don't think anyone anywhere wanted to believe it "

John Cross, Australia

I was driving my aunt to work in central Perth. As I drove towards Williams Street, I saw the newspaper billboard with the stark banner: President Kennedy Shot Dead.

I didn't want to believe it - I don't think anyone anywhere wanted to believe it. I will never forget that day.

Life went on of course, but things were never quite the same.
Jim Cross, Australia

I was 12 years old, in seventh grade at Preston City School, six miles from Norwich, Connecticut.

We were in English class, having just returned from lunch. The school secretary, a very refined Southern lady, Mrs Bice, came to our classroom and asked, "Mr Hughes, do you have a radio or anything? The President and the Governor have just been shot."

I next recall the voice of a CBS Radio newscaster saying, "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States is dead" followed by the playing of the National Anthem.

I can scarcely think of the incident without feeling a good deal of emotion.
Robert Paine, USA

The USA felt like a new era had begun for our country. We had so much faith in democracy and a lot of faith in John to run the country, for the best of all mankind.

There was just a feeling that no matter what problem we had President Kennedy would get us through it.

Since his death, this country has gone into a slump -except for the Clinton years where hope seemed to emerge again.

Now we are at the bottom of the rung, in every category you can think of - politically, socially, economically, and viewed very poorly around the world.

Compare the lack of leadership now to what we had with President Kennedy.
Glenn, USA

When President Kennedy was shot, I was in the 6th grade and a special messenger went to every room and announced that he was shot, as we didn't have a public address system.

A few minutes later he returned with the very sad news that he had passed.

School was dismissed.

He was a young and energetic President with great goals and ideas that were short coming in his death.

The world loss to this great man has never healed.
Greg Larson, USA

I was 10 years old and in the fifth grade in Vallejo, California.

I went home for lunch as usual and found both my parents home glued to the TV (which was unusual).

These strange twangy Texas accents were dominating the airwaves.

The news had just been flashed that the President of the USA had just died.

It was just unbelievable. An assassination just like Lincoln or McKinley. I had thought that things like this just did not happen anymore. It was like being thrown into an historical time warp.

When we returned to school after lunch the news had already been broken.

There was more shock than sadness. However 1963 was a time when decorum prevailed. Everyone was respectful.
Rick Jones, Czech Republic

I was a five-year-old Catholic growing up in Northern Ireland at the time.

We didn't have TV, and I obviously couldn't fully grasp the radio reports, but I sensed that something terrible had happened.

My abiding memory is of my mother crying on the way to Mass that Sunday (24th) and me not really understanding why.

I remember later that day she kept gazing at a picture on the wall and crying again, and all the adults were talking in hushed tones.

I had no sense of a death - just a great sorrow in the house.

In later years I realised that the picture on the wall was a double portrait of Pope John 23rd and JFK.

It was quite common in those days for Irish Catholic families to have this double portrait in their houses.
Bernard Murray-Gates, UK

To this day, I still remember coming home for lunch when I was 12 years old and seeing my mother crying. She told me that President Kennedy had been shot.

It changed my life forever. I felt a terrible sadness that has never left me. Forty-two years later I look back and see it as a loss of childhood innocence and the loss of a great leader.
Tim Gabriel, USA

I remember this horrible day quite vividly. I was in the 4th grade at an elementary school in Washington State.

The principal came in and whispered something to my teacher (Mrs Rainer). She began to cry, her hands covering her face.

Our Principal (Mr Barra) then told our class. Some of the kids were confused. I know that we all sat in silence for 10 minutes. It was a very sad, shocking time.
Bobbette Olson, USA

I was in my first year at grammar school and it was our speech night at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester. I was in the school choir and backstage waiting to go on when the rumours started to circulate.

The headmaster went on stage and made a brief announcement to the audience. The effect of such shocking news on a concert hall full of unsuspecting people was highly emotional.
Tony Elwood, UK

My mother rushed into the bathroom where I was taking my bath and announced the shooting of Kennedy. I asked her who was Kennedy?

I don't know what shocked her more on that day, the shooting, or my ignorance? Was being only nine years old an acceptable excuse?
George Bonanos, Greece

I was 11 years old and living in Memphis Tennessee at the time. I'll never forget that day.

Even then I knew that President Kennedy was different than all the other presidents we have had.

I also identified with his religion, which at the time I was catholic. I'll never forget when I heard the announcement of his death.

I was delivering flyers for a local company and was dropping off a flyer at a local barbershop when I heard the news on the television. I was stunned and saddened. I still miss President Kennedy.
David Miller, USA

I was 17 at the time and in the front room tape recording an 'American forces in Germany' broadcast when a newsflash came across that Kennedy had been shot.

My family who were in the back room watching TV didn't believe me. It must have been half-an-hour at least before a TV announcement was made.
Bill Cody, Scotland

I was in 6th grade (10 years old) in Granada Hills, California. Our class was interrupted and we were taken outside to form into lines.

We were told the president was dead. A few people burst into tears, the entire faculty seemed distraught by the news, and we were sent home early.

As a 10 year old, it had no real significance for me aside from the distress it caused adults close to me.

I do recall that even a year later a few of the girls in my glass would still burst into tears at the reminder of the assassination; I never did (and still don't) understand how someone my own age could have been so political at that age to feel it so deeply.

It took a few years before I understood the depths of meaning of the event. I still vividly recall the "Life Magazine" and TV coverage of the funeral. Thanks for the opportunity to record this; I haven't thought about it in such detail for years.
Neal, UK

I was a fifth grader at Meadowvale Elementary School, Havre de Grace, Maryland when Mrs Wilson announced to our class that President Kennedy had died.

We were released from school. When I got home we watched all of the news about the assassination.

Mom came home at her usual time. It was the first time that I had seen my mother cry. She had voted for President Kennedy in 1960. She wore a yellow polka dotted dress to go vote.
Charles Strong, USA

I was standing on the deck of the USS Saratoga a new 17 year-old-sailor. The captain of the ship had been piped off 10 minutes earlier.

When he was piped back aboard it was a surprise he could have sent someone back for his keys or whatever. The 1MC came on and it was him "This is the captain speaking".

"The president of the United States John F Kennedy was shot and killed. 4000 men on the ship were stunned into silence... I really don't remember much more of that day...
Barry Weiser, US

I was in 3rd grade and remember Mother Superior coming over the intercom saying the president had been shot. We all got down on our knees and began praying.

I remember looking out the window and seeing a silver jet flying very high up in the sky, leaving a vapour trail. I thought: "There he goes."

At that moment, a nun came into the room and cried that the president was dead. We were sent home for the day and I found my mother crying.

It was my little brother's birthday, and we went ahead and had the party anyway - the kids playing and laughing while the parents sat around whispering and looking distraught.
Jeff Bray, South Dakota

It was my ninth birthday party. We had a tiny black and white television and there was a news flash. It put a damper on the jelly and ice cream but none of us really knew who JFK was.
Peter Sas, UK

It is one of my earliest memories, I was five years old sitting at our kitchen table colouring when the radio news announced that the president had been shot.

My mother cried "oh no" and began crying, before she turned on the TV, and telephoned my dad at his office.

JFK was a hero in the homes of all Irish-Catholics in the USA...my home included, and his death was incredibly tragic.
Tim Murphy, USA

Seventh grade in a Catholic school taught by nuns from Tullamore, Ireland.

The secretary came in crying. Sister Dolores went to the office and soon the radio was on the loudspeakers. We went outside and everyone was crying. Our parents came to take us home and we watched TV for days. I am still not over it.
Kurt Mueller, USA

It was like a day where everything just stopped. Children send home school, businesses closed, no traffic, just silence.

Grandmothers coming to our home, because my mother was due to give birth at anytime, and did on the 26th to Jacqueline Ann, in honour of Mrs Kennedy.
Maureen Atkinson, USA

I was a very young boy, we were let out of class, as the teachers were crying, mom was in tears, my twin sister and I were crying. We (my sister and I) kept saying poor president Kennedy... As an Irish American family we were devastated...then came the Vietnam War...
Tom Ross, USA

I was a student in the 4th grade. My teacher, Mrs Bullard, came into the classroom and told us that President Kennedy had been assassinated.

There was silence because not one of us had any idea what "assassinated" meant Over the next few years, how many times would my classmates and I hear that ugly word. How much better would the world have been had we never learned the meaning.
Jerry Rhodes, USA

I was 10 years old, in fifth grade in Grand Island, Nebraska. A little after 0100 CST, our teacher left the room and a minute later came back white as a sheet and she was crying.

She told us the president had been shot. The classroom and my fellow students reactions, especially our teacher, Mrs Judy Eversoll, will be forever etched in my mind.
Andrew McGovern, USA When JFK was assassinated, I was a little girl of seven years old. It was a sad thing for my household, all the adults and teenagers were crying. My mother made sure every news broadcast was viewed, and just shook her head saying what a wonderful man he was.

In my little world, I watched every moment to see his daughter because I felt sorry for her that she wouldn't have her father anymore. This was a moment in history that will never be forgotten by anybody that was alive at that time.
M Haley, USA

I was five years old when President Kennedy was killed. Just a day or two before that day in Dallas, my mother took me to downtown San Antonio to see the president drive by in a motorcade very much like the one he died in.

I saw him from maybe 15 feet away for a second. Boy, I wanted to be president! Just a day or so later, it occurred to me that maybe that wasn't such a good idea.

My parents were devastated at the news. But what I remember the most were kids at school whose parents were GLAD Kennedy was dead. And that was my first experience with hateful Republicans.
William Bogy, USA

I can flash back extremely clear to the moment I heard the news - back to being 14 in my 8th Grade Language Class, 1315 hours, a chilly but clear day.

The school principal announced over the PA system that President Kennedy was shot and seriously wounded. I remember looking at the clock on the wall as if I knew that I would want to note the time.

A couple of minutes later, the principal announced that a "neural surgeon" had been called to the hospital in Dallas that was treating the president... in another few minutes, that President Kennedy had died.

There was a shocked silence, disbelief followed by deep sorrow, anger, frustration, loss, and then fear. Most of us had identified with John Kennedy because of his youth, vigour, optimism, and the hope he gave to our country. He was a hero to my generation.

This was the day, the moment, we lost that hope, were yanked into the world of reality, and were changed forever. The country was changed forever. Government and authority were never trusted to the same degree. And I lost another hero five years later when JFK's brother was killed.
Sam DeFilipps, USA

The funeral ceremony was a shambles as no protocols were disseminated beforehand to instruct people what physical responses would be appropriate during the ceremony. The majority of the congregation were not Catholic so were unfamiliar with the norms.

President de Gaulle was a Catholic but he had an idiosyncratic view of how he should act, based on military practice and local French traditions. His procedures, however, were followed by many.

The Kennedy clan were Catholic, but so numbed by the assassination, that their responses were often chaotic but again copied by others in the congregation. Some of the various representatives were Catholic and followed correct procedures and these were copied by others in their part of the cathedral.

People were sitting, standing, kneeling all over the place, most at different times. Reporting of all this was much muted by the press as it was considered disrespectful at the time in light of the momentousness of the occasion.
Brian Lucas, Malaysia

I was eleven years old, attending the Marshall School in South Orange NJ. Our 6th grade class was outside playing softball. Our 6th grade teacher, Mr Parker (from Georgia who always sported a bowtie as was always a gentleman) was umpiring the game.

I was playing short stop and outfield. A man in a raincoat and a hat walked in our direction and approached our teacher and whispered to him that the president was shot. Our teacher immediately called a recess and sent us home.

The greatest shock, most awful, life long lingering loss ever. I loved President Kennedy; his orations, his vision for the future of our greatest nation; and the intensity of his inspiration compelling us to dream the impossible dream and to excel for humankind. A leadership since unparalleled worldwide.

His murder is no conspiracy; the CIA (including Allan Dulles), the Pentagon, the mob, the oil click, and the hate mongrels killed the best president America and the American people ever had in contemporary political history.

And in the end, today, in 2005, the very first year American media has ignored this assassination, the same powers responsible for his murder then have usurped and destroyed the America of my childhood's lifeblood.
Dianne, USA

I was seven years old at the time and visiting relatives in Akron, Ohio. The television was on and then went black as Walter Cronkite's voice spoke of a shooting in Dallas. I don't remember any hysterics, just shock and numbness.

I sat on my father's lap as we watched the funeral. He shed one tear, as I recall and said "Well, that's it.". I doubt we will ever know who the perpetrator of this crime was, but I do know who benefited. RIP John Kennedy.
Mary Jane Love, USA

I was in the second grade at Loma Portal Elementary School in San Diego, California. Our school schedule included a one-hour block for lunch and sports. At the end of the sports hour, a bell rang and each class required to line up at a designated spot on the sports field and wait for the teacher to lead the students back to the classroom.

I had been near the meeting spot when the bell rang, and hence was first in my class line. One of my classmates, who had walked home for lunch, was clutching a transistor radio and listening with an earphone.

Knowing that radios were contraband at school, I asked him why he brought the radio to school. He said, "Sssh...listen...President Kennedy has been shot and he may die."

There was no announcement made at school. The teachers were pulled out of class, one by one, and told the news by the principal, but each teacher was given leeway as to what to tell the students. Our teacher, a stoic, middle-aged spinster from Scotland, evidently felt that such terrible news should be delivered by the parents at home, and that there was no point in upsetting a classroom full of seven and six year-olds.

As a result, while I walked home knowing that the President had been shot, I did not learn the JFK had died until I arrived at home, where our housekeeper broke the sad news to me.

The assassination happened on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The funeral--a national day of mourning--was the following Monday, and most offices and institutions were closed. The following day, Tuesday, was back to school and work as usual.

I arrived in my classroom on Tuesday to find our German-born custodian, Mr Warnecke, hanging a black cloth drape over our classroom flag. I had never seen this practice before and asked him why he was doing it. He shook his head, gathered his tools, and began to sob as he walked out of the room. Our teacher explained that when a flag is fixed on a pole and cannot be lowered, the alternative protocol is to drape the flag in black cloth.

I will never forget Mr Warnecke's tears--triggered by a seven-year-old's innocent question for as long as I live. He seemed to symbolize our nation's grief that dark week.

No matter what books are published about JFK or his assassination, no matter the gossip, conjecture, etc, it really doesn't matter to those of us alive at the time who heard him, saw him, were touched by him, even at the age of 11 years his greatness is immortalized.
James Sperber, USA

I was 12, living in Milton, Massachusetts, when the frightening reports came over the radio and TV. As this was the state from which President Kennedy had risen to his high political stature, we were particularly decimated by the news of his death.

It was the first truly shocking event of the post-war era. Nobody thought the leader of the free world could possibly be murdered with all his secret service protection, particularly while riding in the streets of his own nation.

Sadly, too many world leaders have been assassinated in the years that followed and the notion of political murder is no longer surprising. The only international shock comparable since then is the unbelievable tragedy of September 11, 2001.
Dennis O'Brien, USA

I was 11 years old in 1963. On Friday 22 November 1963 around 2000 hours I was kicking a ball around in the street with some friends. My father came out of the house and said John Kennedy had been shot. I remember that evening so very clear, even after 42 years.
Brian Alexander, UK

I remember the night he was killed, I had just come home from work, I was junior at the Daily Mirror in Holborn, London.

I remember a lady next door had just had a baby, she came into our house in hysterics, thinking there was going to be a war.
Geraldine Robinson, England

That day, two days before my 12th birthday, I was in school. It came over the loud speaker that the president was shot. We all began to cry. As I ran home I could see and hear people crying all up and down the street. It was a sad day.
Anthony Armstrong, USA

I was in first grade at St. Robert's School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Principal, a Nun (Sister David Marie, I believe was her name) announced over the loudspeaker that the president had been shot and we were all instructed to stand and say a rosary.

While we were saying our rosary, Sister came back on the loudspeaker and announced that JFK had died. I didn't really understand the enormity of it until I arrived home from school and found my Mother crying. She was inconsolable.
Elizabeth Barry Ernst, USA

I was in tenth grade, at Clifton-Fine Central School, in Star Lake, New York, a school located in a sparsely populated part of northern New York about two hours from Montreal.

An announcement came over the school's PA system that President Kennedy had been shot. There was no other information. Everyone sat in stunned silence. I remember feeling frightened, confused, and grief stricken.

At the end of the class period we returned to our homerooms and were sent home early. Our school bus, filled with normally raucous teenagers, was almost completely silent on the ride home. Some of us were tearful.

When I arrived home I met my Mother, who had been crying, heard the television, and learned that the President had died.

I felt overwhelmed with grief and fright. As a child of the cold war I had participated in absurd nuclear war drills at school (kneeling in halls, hands above head), lived through the Cuban missile crisis as a 12-year old, and was keenly aware of the possibility of nuclear war.

This Summer, at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas, TX, I stood next to Oswald's "sniper's nest" and re-experienced the horror of this event in a way no movie could ever provide.

Among many other things, I learned how deeply individuals mourned the loss of President Kennedy throughout the world. I highly recommend this museum.
Laura Sutherland, Milwaukee, USA I was a student in Grade 6 at Glencoe Public School. Word of President Kennedy's assassination reached us during the afternoon recess, while I was standing talking to my cousin Brian in the back yard of the school, reserved for male students.

The yard was being supervised by Mr Desjardins, one of the tougher teachers in the school. Suddenly Jerry, one of the tougher young lads in the school, ran out from inside, halted next to Mr Desjardins and yelled, "Holy [f-word]! Kennedy's been shot!"

I knew something was wrong when Mr Desjardins didn't hit Jerry. I asked Brian what it meant. "Don't you know, you stupid so-and-so?" he replied, and proceeded to explain to me the meaning of the f-word!
Jim Diamond, Canada

I was fourteen and we had emigrated to the U.S. We were travelling to stay with relatives in Easthampton in the Kennedy's home state of Massachussetts.

Just a few miles short of our destination the news came on the car radio that the president had been shot but there were no more details.

We got to Easthampton and our relatives greeted us very sombrely, they asked if we'd heard the news? They told us that it was confirmed Kennedy had died.

We had to go out to get some supplies and everywhere was deathly quiet. We went in to a drug store and and hardware store and the assistants in both, men and women, were weeping quietly as they served us.
Stuart Gilbert, England

I was only 10 years old when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was living in Waco Texas, about 70 miles from Dallas. Only looking back at that day can I now appreciate how his death impacted the country. As a child I did not understand the reaction of the adults around me.

We were released early from school that day, with no explanation given to us. Our teachers were shattered, many crying openly as we left the school. We heard indirectly that the President had been killed, but we really didn't understand, to us we were just going home early for the Thanksgiving break.

Without exception every adult I encountered for days was grim, and unsmiling. We sat glued to the television sets, which were broadcasting 24 hours a day, something we had never seen happen before. Everyone was focussed on their television sets, desparate for the slightest new bit of information. I remember the shame we felt in Texas that this had happened here.

Being from the wrong generation, I never understood how JFK impacted people, I still don't, I just remember a nation unified in it's grief.
Jerry Lindsay, USA


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