Where Were You the Day President Kennedy Was Shot?

AARP is gathering memories
about the event that stunned a nation.
Many of us remember November 22, 1963, including exactly where we were, and how we felt.
Please share your experience. And tell us how that moment, and the days that followed John F. Kennedy's assassination, shaped you. Click the word "submit" to share your thoughts, share your name, location and age if you like, and we'll approve and post your comment. Find much more at aarp.org/jfk

I was seventeen, riding the city bus from junior college in Providence, RI to home in Pawtucket, RI. I had a date that night with the first love of my life for his Bryant College Winter Ball and when I heard the news on the bus, I knew the dance would be cancelled.

I am ashamed to say that was my major focus at that point.

November 22nd is my father’s birthday and I am stunned that he was only 53, fourteen years younger than I am now.

Linda Langlois, Wakefield, RI (67 years old).

Sad Day

I was in first grade in Portageville, MO.  A teacher came into our room and whispered to my teacher, Mrs. Moody, then left crying as she went to the next room.  Mrs. Moody stood up and told us to run quietly home.  I ran across the street to my grandparents’ house.  My grandmother was crying while my grandfather, dad and mom were glued to the TV set.  It was my brother’s ninth birthday.

Everybody was at the department where TVs were sold

my little sisters b-day is nov.22 

I was just just before my 6th b-day when my mom and I pilled up in rike’s dept store around 10:30 that morning mom didn’t turn the car off and I heard on the radio why  we went into the store but there wasn’t anyone there  then as I walked with mom I knew why.  

At the dept where televisions were sold, the whole store was there watching. I didn’t understand until later in life what I had just witnessed

I was born that day.

A very sad day!

It was the day before my third birthday. I remember sitting with my Mother consoling her as she sat on our couch crying. She was watching tv and holding me. She told me a very bad man hurt our President and that things would never be the same.

Happy Endings

I was 22. I’d lost a premature baby 14 months earlier and tentatively gone through a second pregnancy, frightened that I might lose another. Now it was time for this baby to be born and I was standing at the ironing board, ironing my ‘regular’ clothes in anticipation of recognizing my body again. I was simply being practical. This baby was going to be born one of these days and I’d better be ready so I could give her all my attention. My thoughts were more like daydreams of being a young mother of a beloved child, a daughter who would be a little doll to play with and fuss over and adore, when the radio switched to classical music. I was pleased and turned up the volume only to learn that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. My first thought was My God, “they” actually shot him. (“They” being the far right extremists). I stood there frozen, looking at the top of my refrigerator where the radio sat, wondering what kind of world this child would be born into, waiting for the news to continue. I turned off the iron and listened to the announcement that our young handsome sophisticated President was dead.

I don’t know how long I stood there looking at my radio. I didn’t run to a neighbors or call my parents or my husband. The music continued, a reflection of good taste and good manners as I took in the news. Kennedy was dead.

We didn’t have a TV. I don’t remember whose TV I watched the funeral on. Seems I stood. Couldn’t quite sit down. I just remember watching the riderless horse, seeing Jackie and Robert and Ted walking in stunned silence, the two Kennedy children standing with their mother who knew they would now live their lives without a father. 

Now, watching footage of those times, I know what is ahead for that family and I know more of what Jack was experiencing behind the facade of healthy vital youth that he presented. I too have grown old in that 50 years and have back problems and wonder at his ability to appear so hearty while in the pain I too now experience. 

He was the world’s perfect American President, looking like he just stepped off a Hollywood lot, surrounded by pretty girls, living a perfect family life, getting some on the side like all the handsome American actors in the movies.  And yet the Kennedys lost one after another of their family in full public view. He and Jackie had lost their Patrick like we lost our baby boy. Then Robert, Ted, even John John. There are times, even in America, when money can’t make everything okay. We Americans like a happy ending. We didn’t get it this time.

My daughter was born. She’s about to turn 50. I became active in the Democratic party, working on campaigns, marching in the street, walking door to door, working for the greater good for all. I’m still hoping for a happy ending.

The day before my 8th birthday the world changed forever

In November 1963, my parents took us on a family vacation. My father drove us cross-country, farther from our home in California than we kids had ever been before. He was taking us to visit his relatives in Alabama and Texas.  Alabama was our first stop; we stayed at his eldest sister’s house in Decatur for a couple of days. 

As we got ready to continue our trip on Friday, November 22nd, I remember overhearing the plans they were making to celebrate my eighth birthday the next day in Houston, Texas. We were busily packing the car, preparing to go see more uncles, aunts and my grandparents in Houston. Suddenly the program on the television was interrupted, and we heard the awful news that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. 

I remember feeling as though time itself had stopped, that everything was suspended in a surreal way.  Everyone was in state of shock and grief, glued to the television to hear more, but eventually my father (a very practical man) got us moving again and we drove toward Texas.  I was actually scared that we were going to Texas, where the President had just been shot and killed!

My birthday was indeed celebrated the next day, but it was a very somber celebration. 

I remember grieving for President Kennedy for a long while afterwards. I am still grieved by the memories, I know that the world lost someone irreplaceable that day.

I am mourning the death of a great President and my husband today

It was my husband (Jeff Dennis) 20th birthday. We were at some friends house near Dallas celebrating his special day, and watching the motorcade. They were so happy and all friendly smiles and my husband and I were excited to watch this day in history so close to home in Texas. Then the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen happened before my eyes. I watched as Jackie was trying to help her husband (Our President).

I was in shock to know that our President had been shot and later died. I’ll never forget as long as I live. I’m mourning the death of a great President and my husband today. My husband passed way 24 years later~ May they both rest in peace~

Captain of the Patrol

I remember it being a sunny day; I was eleven years old. My school was Conant elementary school in Concord, NH. I was captain of the patrol…one of the sixth grade kids who made sure everyone was escorted away from school safely. I wore a thick white over the shoulder/waistband belt with a silver pin..Captain, in blue. I was always the first kid down the long walkway to the main crosswalk to meet the traffic cop…..I see him plainly in my mind’s eye, however, his name I do not. The Principal’s name I do.  Mr. Sawyer. The policeman always greeted me so kindly, however, on this day he turned to me and said, THEY SHOT THE PRESIDENT! My first thought, honestly, was what was he doing out hunting? (Nov is hunting season). After all the kids had gone across the street, I walked back up to the school to talk to the principal. He met us on the top step of the main entrance just behind the white pillars. One other boy was there as well, Ricky C. We had both just turned eleven as we shared a same day/year BIRTHDAY….Mr. Sawyer told us to go right straight home. I remember looking at Ricky and feeling a change I would not like was coming….

A crash course in growing up would follow. I was at my Uncle’s house when I saw Oswald & Jack Ruby live on TV as that shot was fired…the tension in the room palatable…I headed away from the images.  On the day that President Kennedy’s procession occurred in DC, the images had become dreadful to absorb.  I asked my Mom if I could go outside and ride my bicycle.  She made me wear my JFK Fifty Miler sweatshirt inside out so as not to convey any disrespect….I always liked to think that, in my way, I was honoring him. The streets were nearly deserted…I rode for a long time before going home - all around the South end of Concord

So now I am a much older, wiser, informed sixty one year old still living in NH.  I still wish Ricky C. a happy birthday on “our day” sending my wishes skyward. He is married with children and was, once, the president of our high school class.I have watched many of the PBS films on the Kennedy years since then and spent some time at the JFK museum in Boston.  I do not like to wear pink with black as well as seeing someone dressed in pink & black….it is just a thing that stirs up memories. After this week’s films, I now am convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone….  It was a wonderful shiney time for me before that day in Dallas; The assassination of JFK was truly the breaking of the glass ceiling of my innocence.

Two years ago or so, Concord tore down our beloved Conant School to construct a new modern building now known as the Abbott Downiing School (named for a stage coach company that built the famous Concord Coach).  Before they did the dastardly deed, residents and former students were allowed one night to stroll through the school leisurely, remembering what they would & writing some notes. I have to say, it was one of the nicest nights as I was able to touch some sunnier days in my memories and bump into old neighbors and classmates….swings, marbles, double- Dutch; what great times we had there.  How that day in Dallas has both shaped who I am & put a young girl’s HAPPY heart into a time capsule of sorts.

Bittersweet

That is one day I will never forget.  It happened to be bittersweet for our family.  I was in 4th grade in a parochial school. Around 12:30 the principal came to tell me I had a brand new baby brother.  I was pretty excited because I was the 3rd of 4 girls.  Not too many minutes later, we heard over the loudspeaker that President Kennedy had been shot.  We were to all get ready, we were going over to the church to pray.  So we got in line & walked over to the church.  

It was probably the quietest we had ever been.  We stayed in church for around 20 minutes while the priest said some prayers & we were allowed to pray on our own.  When we got back to school we heard the devastating news that our President had not survived.  Some of us were too frozen with shock & not quite understanding what this all meant.  Others just weeped.  

Even at that young age they knew in their hearts that a most horrific thing had happened, not only to the President and his family, but to the world as well.