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 the senior radio operator for “B” Team, 6thSFG on 22 Nov 63.  I decoded the encrypted message and relayed it to the “A” Teams.  LBJ ordered the shutdown of Operation White Star and we were ordered to return to Ft. Bragg.  

We arrived at Andrews and were barracked.  On the 25th we were bused to Arlington and were present on the hill above the gravesite throughout the burial service.  

JFK presented our Green Berets to us at Ft. Bragg in 1961.  I have lived my life since then by his charge - “Duty, Honor and Country.”

My life was forever changed …

I lived in South Dallas and I attended high school across town in North Dallas at Booker T. Washington Tech. I was 15 years old and in my sophomore  year. Due to the distance I had to commute via public  transportation, I had to be up fairly early to be on time. As usual, I was at school a bit early and hanging around in the boys locker room awaiting the the warning bell prior to the start of my first class. I came upon a classmate named Tommy Morris who indicated to me that ” the President of the United States was coming to Dallas this morning.” I recalled saying to Tommy how kool it would be to see him.

Much to my surprise, Tommy said he had a car and we should go see if I was willing to cut school. The route the motorcade was traveling from Love Field airport was on the front page of the local Dallas news papers. The weather was overcast and drizzly. We decided to go to the airport and see if we could get a close up view of him.

We headed over off Lemmon Ave to the airport which was not far away being that it was located in North Dallas also. We drove around for several minutes looking for a parking place as it was very crowded. I felt a sense of excitement and guilt because I was supposed to be at school, yet I considered this a ” once in a life time opportunity and important as well. I was going to be a part of history!

We observed the arrival of AF One while we rushed to get close to the airfield runways. Then we realized that we would not be able to get close enough to actually see or touch the President due to the size of the crowds that had formed. we then to find another location along the motorcade route that would allow us to be right on the street where we could have direct visual contact with his motorcade. We headed for town. We found parking on what we called “deep Elm ” where most of the pawn shops, etc.. were located and headed toward the main center and shopping sector of Dallas.

We ended up at the corner on the corner where H.L. Green and Neiman Marcus were located on the H.L. Green side of the street at the curb. We stood there for several hours be fore the arrival of the motorcade in great anticipation. It should be noted that during our wait the drizzle dissipated and the sun ” peaked out ” partially.

Finally, the motorcade arrived and I could see the police on their cycles and the plain clothes men walking along side the vehicles approaching me. Much to my surprise, there was the President and First Lady sitting next to him smiling and waving and he seemed to look in my direction and then in a ” blink of an eye ” he was gone.

He was so close to me that I could have taken two steps off the curb and reached out and touched him. I was was so proud, so impressed at what I had just experienced!

However, within five to seven minutes I heard a loud pow, then pow pow pow sound rang out as if someone had tied several firecrackers together & set them off. I turned to Tommy and said  ” someone is celebrating the President’s visit by popping firecrackers. “

We stood on the corner for several minutes at the most after the last pop sound when sirens started blaring from all directions and police started rushing past us toward the direct the motorcade had gone. At that very moment Tommy and I looked at each other as if we were realizing our worst fears where happening before our very eyes. We started to run in the direction of the motorcade as well. I came upon a man holding an umbrella with tears streaming down his face in front of Woolworths department store holding a small radio to his ear.

I ask him what was happening and he just quietly  said to me ” the President has just been shot !” I was literally in a dazed panic and I ran into Woolworth where the tvs were all turned on and focusing on the school book depository. Tommy and I ran to the location where we saw police with drawn guns and crying people and a helicopter hovering above the edge of the roof of the depository with what seemed to be a large ” red circle ” hanging from it in front of a specific window in the building.

After standing around trying to get details of exactly what had happened we were forced to leave for safety reasons. We returned to Tommy’s car and then went back to school which had been dismissed for the day. I immediately headed home to seek the comfort and security of my mother who was visibly shaken by the events which had just transpired and to share with her my experience which forever changed my life….

My family and I lived in Dallas

 It was misting in the morning but I decided to take my almost three year old daughter Judy to Dallas Love Field to see the President. We were lined up right on the fence and watched him and Jackie Kennedy come down the steps of the plane,  followed by Gov. Connally and his wife Nellie. 

Everybody cheered.

They, the President, Jackie and Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird and the senators and congressmen came along the fence to shake hands.  The president turned and started to walk back toward the limousine and the entourage followed.  Then he turned back and continued to shake hands along the fence.  He shook my hand and looked into my eyes and he had the most beautiful blue eyes with a twinkle in his eye. 

Lyndon Johnson shook my hand and Lady Bird patted my little blond curly headed daughter on the head and said “what a beautiful little laaaady you are” 

I shook many more hands coming along the fence and then they finally did turn back and got into the limousine. Normally it was about 15 to 20 minutes to get home to Walnut Hill,  that day it took a longer time just to get out of Love Field.  I got home and immediately dialed my husband at work to tell him I shook hands with President Kennedy. The phone did not connect,  it had weird noises.  The television came on before I got through,  Walter Cronkite announced the President had been shot.  The President had been killed.

When we saw the President’s pass by

I was in 6th grade at Holy Trinity Catholic School. The school walked over 3 blocks from the school to stand on the sidewalk along Lemmon Ave and saw President Kennedy’s motorcade pass by.

I can remember how vibrant and entusiastic it made everyone. We then returned back to school, had lunch and they called everyone back into the classrooms to announce the fateful news that would impact the history of our country.

It was also communicated to us that our Pastor, Father Huber had gone to Parkland to administer the last rites to the President.

Lifelong Texan remembers

As a lifelong Texan, the assassination of President Kennedy left a huge impact on my life. As the daughter of lifelong, staunch Democrats, there were few things that were impressed upon me as a child as my parents’ reverence and awe of Jackie and Jack, of Camelot and the dreams they represented to us and our country.  

Pat Kirkwood, the owner of The Cellar nightclub in Fort Worth, lived in our neighborhood. Of course, rumors about Pat and his eccentricities swirled about before and after the assassination. My babysitter frequented The Cellar and I remember her stories about it as well. Growing up in Fort Worth, my house was close to what was then Carswell Air Force base.

My mother had set out to go shopping on November 22, 1963, with my little sister and I in tow. We ended up in traffic caused by the President’s motorcade on its way to Carswell and Air Force One. My mom got us out of the car to watch and wave at the President and First Lady. I’m sure at that time she had no idea it would be his last day on earth. I was only four years old, but I remember it vividly to this day. In particular, the lovely pink pill-box hat Jackie wore.  

My impression was that the Princess of America was driving by. I am quite sure I had little interest in the President and even less understanding of who he was! What I do remember was my father coming home from work early and seeing this normally stoic man cry. The television was on for days afterward. I remember a pall in the house and the feeling that something had gone terribly wrong. For as long as I live, I will not forget. My mother passed away in 2008.

I am now a resident of a suburb of Dallas, and my mother lived here for a short few years as well. We both had an affinity for Dealey Plaza and at times, would spend Sunday afternoons there, just sitting quietly and catching up. I will always cherish my parents’ active involvement and interest in politics and the values they tried to instill in me. Their love of the Kennedys was part of that.  I still have my mother’s battered old copy of The Torch is Passed.  

On Elm Street in Dallas

I will never forget that day. I was 15 years old - a sophomore in high school in Dallas. We were given permission to leave school to go downtown to see the President.  JFK was not popular in conservative Dallas. I remember many jokes being made about him being shot, but they were just that - jokes. Nobody that I knew wished for such a thing to happen. I went with a friend who had a car and a driver’s license. We got close enough to Elm Street (away from Dealey Plaza) to walk to it and stand at the side of the street, although I do not remember precisely where we were.

Suddenly the motorcade zoomed by at high speed. At the time we criticized Kennedy for being so rude as to speed past the waiting crowd. We had heard no shots. I know now that he had already been shot and was on his way to the hospital where he died. We left to return to school. The old car we were in had no radio, but friends pulled up next to us and shouted the news. We laughed, thinking they were joking. When we arrived back at Bryan Adams High School, the news was playing over the P.A. system, interspersed with funereal music. People were crying; some were sobbing hysterically. They closed the school early and sent us all home.

Craig Channell,

Washington, DC

The President Locked Eyes With Us That Day in Dallas

NOVEMBER 22, 1963

I was a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas when we learned that President Kennedy’s motorcade would be driving through the city that morning. Our teachers told us that they couldn’t excuse us from classes, but they wouldn’t take role, either!

My parents, being staunch Republicans, were not impressed with JFK or his politics. I didn’t care much for politics at time, but I sure wanted to see this dynamic young president and his glamorous wife who spoke French! So, of course, I didn’t tell my parents I was going with my best friend Barbara who had a car.

We knew the parade route (it was published in that innocent time), and decided where we would go to have the best view of the motorcade: Lemon Ave. where it would be easy to park the car on a neighboring side street, walk to Lemon, stand curbside and see everything. We did. As the presidential convertible turned onto the avenue we saw our handsome president and Jackie in her pink Chanel suit and matching pillbox hat. She was turned, waving to the crowd on the opposite side of the street, but the president was turned toward us. Barbara and I were no more than five feet away from him when he locked eyes with us, grinned and waved! We were so thrilled and excited that we ran back to the car and decided to drive to another spot on the parade route (Dealy Plaza) where we could see JFK again.

But the first time we saw him became the last. We had the car radio on so we could follow the motorcade’s progress. It was less than ten minutes later when we heard the president had been shot and was being rushed to Parkland Hospital. Stunned and horrified, Barbara and I began driving home when we heard he was dead. At my age I didn’t know anyone who had died, so I felt particularly devastated. He was so alive ten minutes before!

We went to Barbara’s house to turn on the television, and watch the tragic drama replayed. Schools and businesses were closed and remained so all weekend. I remember one newscaster—I think it was Dan Rather—who reported that the Dallas schoolchildren yelled with delight when they heard the president had been killed. That was so cruel and untrue. What actually happened was that when the announcement was made over the loud speakers, the first words spoken were “School is dismissed for the day” before telling the kids why. If school was out, of course kids are going to shout with joy! I doubt many of them listened to the reason.

All we did was watch TV for four days.

My Uncle, The Eulogist

I was in 2nd grade at St. Ann’s School in Washington, D.C., when our teacher told us, with tears in her eyes, that President Kennedy had been shot. School was dismissed early, and my older sister held my hand as we walked home. We loved the President as an Irish Catholic — and also because our uncle — Philip M. Hannan, then an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Washington — had befriended Mr. Kennedy shortly after he was elected to Congress.

Uncle Phil knew the family well, but was discreet about it, given the bias against Catholics at the time. On Nov. 22, our uncle was in Rome for the Vatican II conference when he heard the news. He later wrote in his autobiography, “I was as numb and emotionally exhausted as every other American struggling to make sense of the stunningly brutal murder.

My own grieving, however, would have to wait. First Lady Jaqueline Kennedy had asked that I deliver the eulogy for her husband — and my friend.” Three days later, Uncle Phil had the somber honor of returning to the beloved church where he, my father and the other brothers had served as altar boys, to honor the late President by sharing key passages from his inaugural address and from scripture. Two thoughts remain in my mind and in my heart.

The famous picture of the bishop in the skullcap handing a folded U.S. flag to the grieving widow was my uncle; that brings memories of sadness and solace. Many years later, my uncle shared with our family one Christmas how he felt outside St. Matthew’s Cathedral following the funeral Mass while gazing across the street, seeing an ocean of people in topcoats, hats and gloves — all of whom were crying. He told us, “There were hundreds of photos taken from the south side of the street looking at us. What a shame there were no pictures of us looking at them — the American family who had lost their president.”

I saw JFK in Miami three days before Dallas

I was at Zayre’s department store in Hialeah, FL with my Dad.  A clerk came up to my Dad and said President Kennedy had just been shot. I recall some brief back and forth conversation, then he took me by the hand and we immediately left the store. By the time we got home, we saw Mom who was literally sobbing.

I saw JFK three days prior to that since Miami International Airport was on his country tour route right before Dallas. My Dad had me on his shoulders trying to move in closer so I could shake JFK’s hand!   I will never ever forget his alabaster skin,  reddish hair and of course his smile, he seemed so perfect… 

Ask people where they were, you will find out quickly who does know and who has no idea what you are talking about.  Keep the flame alive, we are getting older…well, at least I am ;)