Saturday :: Nov 22, 2003

The Fall of America's Dream

by pessimist

Today, November 22nd, a date which will live in infamy. ...

Forty years ago, today, the American people lost their innocence. As happened to our parents with Pearl Harbor, and to our children with 9/11, we learned that despite our technology and our "progress" we were still living in a vicious, cruel world.

So much that happened before and after November 22nd has some kind of a tie to that day, either as a cause or an effect: the Election of 1960, in some ways as crooked at the Election of 2000; the ambitions of political rivals, the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vietnam, and more - all figure in to the history of that terrible day. So many names - some already famous at the time, others to become so, were involved in some way.

It's not my purpose here to go over all the theories of conspiracy: Lone Nut, Single bullet, etc. There are many others who will, and have. My purpose today is to present the memories of those who were witness to the most sudden and radical change in the American Psyche in our history.


The Day The Optimism Died

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy 40 years ago marked a sea change in American life. Among other things, the assassination ended a blind belief in authority and ushered in the Age of Conspiracies. The biggest, of course, is that Kennedy was killed as part of a conspiracy by the Cubans, or the Mob, or the CIA, LBJ, or fill-in-the-blank. According to a recent poll conducted for Court TV, 69 percent of Americans believe Oswald didn't act alone, while 67 percent believe the government is holding back information. The government did hold back information regarding the Kennedy administration: its enlistment of the Mob to kill Castro, for instance. Big stuff.

In addition to conspiracy theories, the Kennedy assassination ushered in an era of mistrust and cynicism that persists to this day. The assassination ended a life, one marked by optimism in a new era. Kennedy was young, handsome, the first post-war president who embodied the country's spirit at the time. "His death signaled an end to a period of optimism, though I'm not sure we knew that at the time," said ABC executive producer Tom Yellin, a 1971 graduate of White Station High School [Memphis, TN].

Exit optimism. Enter cynicism.

"I think all the various conspiracy theories that grew up around this represent a kind of shift in Americans' attitude toward government and authority," said Yellin. Americans continue to question authority, the government and the official version of events. "Look at the debate over the intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq. I think you can trace a straight line from that to information that was kept from people (back then) by the CIA and other intelligence agencies," he said.

I think it affected everyone around the world.

I thought I would never see anything like this again, especially the atmosphere in Kent State. But in September, 2001 we were entertaining a guest from the Czech Republic and had planned to show her our alma mater on September 12. When we arrived at KSU, all the memories of the JFK events came back because the campus was again completely shut down and people seemed to be in shock.


"The President has been shot."

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a Supervisor of Roadway Express' Teletype Message Center. Around 12:30 PM on that day the teletype circuits were humming at full capacity receiving and transmitting teletype message from all over the country; (which was normal that time of day). Suddenly one by one all the circuits started to stop transmitting, the room became totally silent. Not knowing what happened I picked up the phone to call AT&T's Central Office to report a trouble condition. Just as I was doing this, one of my operators, who was returning from lunch, came into the Center and announced that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. We did not have a radio or any communications to know the severity of his condition. Of course everyone was in a daze and just standing around dumbfounded. About 20-30 minutes had passed when I happened to look outside the window; I told my staff, "President Kennedy is dead." Of course no one believed me, but I said it again and told them to look, as I pointed to the Schaffner Reserve Center where I was an active member of that Army Reserve Unit (XX Corp): they had just lowered our Country's Flag to half-mast; I knew he was gone.

I was a journalism student at Kent State University, and was in the journalism lounge during the noon hour on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. I was sitting just a few steps away from an Associated Press teletype machine when I heard the "ding, ding, ding" of a news bulletin coming across the newswire. I went to the machine and read BULLETIN, BULLETIN, BULLETIN with a DALLAS, Texas dateline, that President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been shot and was being rushed to Parkman Hospital. I couldn't believe it.

What was initially perceived by the class as a joke now became a horrible reality. Many students began sobbing. Others cried quietly, while others stared off into space stunned. Kennedy, a man who had exuded youth and vitality, was dead.

Both my teacher and the priest were crying. Even second graders realized the importance of this news. Those of us in Catholic schools in the early sixties knew he was one of us. We felt that we had lost more than a president. We had lost our link to the future.

This was a time in history that nobody will ever forget. I was 11 years old, living in New Jersey. Our teacher came into the classroom, crying as she told us the president had been shot. Of course we were stunned. Later that night, we started getting hate calls from various people who knew that my father was from Dallas. At such a tender age, I found that very difficult to process.

My parents were die hard Democrats (my father had shook President Kennedy hand once). My mother heard over the radio and yelled down from the office that Kennedy had been shot. My father locked up the store and remained closed for several days.

My Dad had been at the A&P Grocery store when someone had told him about the shooting of the President as he was checking out. He hurried home. My mother said that he had scared her by throwing the door open and racing to the TV set yelling, "Kennedy’s been shot! Kennedy’s been shot!" He was normally a quiet man. That following Sunday as we watched TV we saw Lee Harvey Oswald shot. It all seemed unreal. In a few minutes my aunt & uncle came in for a visit, and we told them what had just happened! My aunt said, "What will happen next?!"

My parents had not voted for President John F. Kennedy. However, he was their president and everyone was shocked and saddened and grieved that he was assassinated. It did not matter that you were Democrat or Republican, Protestant or Catholic, white or black, young or old, you were deeply wounded that our President had been assassinated.

When the news about JFK came, campus activities including classes basically came to a halt. Everyone seemed to stop everything they were doing in order to watch events unfolding on TV for the next several days, and the live assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald only added to the bizarre weekend.

How strange it was that all you could hear was the sound of footsteps in the hall! There was no talking al all. Students opened and closed a few lockers very quietly. Everyone was so shocked at what was happening. There was no sound except for the radio news on the PA system. We were all listening trying to make sense of all that was being said. They mentioned the possible type of gun used, and there was a gasp from a couple of boys who obviously knew something about guns. There were a couple of girls quietly crying.

The principal announced over the PA that the president had been shot. Our teacher began to cry. A girl from the back asked why she was crying since she hadn't supported him. She replied simply 'because he was our President'.

I come from a military family. My father was a pilot who participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion. In the days following I remember listening to my father and some of his fellow pilots discussing the assassination. I distinctly heard one of them say, "let's make a toast. Here's to the assassin." Then the rest followed with, "To the assassin." Recalling this later in life I asked him about it and he replied that he didn't know I had heard that. He went on to explain that there were bitter feelings in the armed forces and free Cubans over the way JFK handled the Bay of Pigs. He said that JFK's indecisiveness doomed the operation. He said he wasn't surprised that JFK was killed.


"I remember ...

I was only 11 years old when he died, but I remember it just as if it were yesterday.

I attended Woodland Elementary School in Stow and the principal came over the loudspeaker and made the announcement. We were dismissed for the rest of the day and asked not to speak all the way home. As a child the full impact didn't hit home until you saw all the adults crying and the scenes on the television. You just never forget.

I was in 3rd grade when the President was shot, and I still remember the sadness and the pain that we had lost someone very important to us.

I remember this sense of incomprehensible loss being shared by most adults. It was as if something had died that belonged to everyone.

I remember the deep sadness that came over all of us and many were crying. We all felt that something great had been brutally taken from us.

The funeral procession, the endless drums; I can still hear those drums in my head today, 40 years later; as though it happened yesterday, beating out the rhythm - tum tum tum, tum-tum-tum, tum tum tum...; the horses hooves on the pavement clop clop clop beating out their own rhythm. Flashbulb images;
"John John" saluting his father's casket. Jacqueline Kennedy standing, composed, her face covered by a black veil; Caroline Kennedy at her side, holding her mother's hand, standing equally as composed; the mourners lining the parade route; my parents talking to each other about what had happened late into the evening; even my father, hiding his tears, (real men don't cry); all of us trying to make sense of tragedy in a world that seemed to have momentarily slid off its axis, tilting our previously upright world, causing us to become unbalanced, grabbing onto one another for support; and then still trying to right ourselves on Monday morning as we went back to school, to work, on about our daily chores, as the lesson is always that life goes on - but certainly never in the same way that it had been prior to the loss of JFK. We were a changed family, a changed nation, a changed world.

I remember being glued to our old black and white console television set on Thursday, the day of the assassination, then Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with my parents and my younger sister, Susan (who at the time was 5 years old.) Even Susan at her young age seemed to be able to comprehend and appreciate the gravity and sadness of what had taken place.

I remember feeling a continuing overwhelming sense of disbelief, horror, fear, sadness, insecurity. Our beloved President was gone, leaving behind those who loved and respected him, his beautiful wife, two young children, his relatives, and an entire country, as well as the people over the world who thought of him as a great leader.

I remember the newscast stating JFK had been shot. My family and I were glued to the TV hoping to hear that he was alright. When they announced that he had died, I remember crying off and on for 4 days not wanting to take my eyes off the TV. I truly believe that our country would have had a different course if he would have served his term. He was a hero to me and always will be. I will never forget that day for as long as I live.

My memory of that day is one of confusion. It was my fifth birthday and I remember watching the scenario unfold on the television, not understanding fully what was going on and why my mother was so upset. This was my special day! She should be making my cake and spoiling me, for heavens sake. But I do remember that it transfixed me to the TV, fascinated. Once I was old enough to grasp what had happened and why it effected so many people, people who didn't even know him, I haven't had a birthday without thinking of that tragedy.

What I remember most about that moment was the silence. There was no joy in getting out of school early that day, everyone saddened by what had occurred in Dallas. I walked directly home and spent the weekend with my parents in our living room in front of a black and white television watching history unfold on one of the three networks broadcasting back then. We mourned as a nation the loss of our young beloved president. Forty years later, we still do.

I will always remember that day. I was picking up baked goods from members of the Munroe Falls Mothers' Club. We were holding a bake sale at the Kroger store. At one stop, I was told of the assassination of JFK and we pondered if we should go ahead with the sale. That evening in Krogers, we stood selling our pies, cakes, cookies. There was a deadening silence among the shoppers as they moved about the aisles.

I remember our teacher looking real shocked, and other teachers gathering out in the hall. I remember going home, and sitting down in the middle of the living room floor watching the news on television. I remember my Mom being very upset. I remember my Dad being very quiet the rest of the evening, it was a very sad day is all I remember.

I remember that I was in elementary school at Oakdale in Barberton. We got the news at the end of the day that JFK had been assassinated. First the news came across the PA system that there had been an assassination attempt on his life and that the President was wounded. Finally the news was delivered to us that the President had died, again over the school's PA system, right before we were dismissed. That was an abnormally cold Ohio weekend in November. All that the three Cleveland TV stations showed nonstop, was repeat footage of the horror of it all. Being ten years old, I tried to go out to play on Saturday but there was no one out because of the bitter cold weather and because everyone in my neighborhood was riveted to the TV. We watched the horrible Zapruder film over and over again. Like most breaking news events nothing really new happened until Oswald was shot on Sunday. Then we relived that moment on film, over and over again. However to everyone I knew, the murder of Oswald seemed like a good thing, as if it were the swift and terrible justice of God.

I remember going on the (old wooden) merry-go-ground on the playground with a couple of other classmates, where, instead of playing, we sat on the ride and cried. When I got home from my school that day, my mom was sitting in a darkened living room, with the sweeper standing starkly upright, untouched, while she watched the unfolding news on our black-and-white television. I remember clearly watching Lee Harvey Oswald's assassination. I recall a clip of Oswald shouting that he was a "patsy." I watched in horror (any my parents that this happened on live TV) as Jack Ruby gunned him down. Even at that young age, I couldn't understand how Ruby got through all the policemen to shoot Oswald. I remember watching JFK's funeral, and never did forget watching young "John-John" saluting his father's casket. This was especially poignant many years later when I turned on the TV to see that John, Jr.'s plane was missing. The first image that came to my mind was that salute.

I can remember it like it was yesterday. We got the word about 1:30 pm that he had been shot and had died. When I was driving home, it was like death had hit the streets of Barberton. there were not many cars on the road and in the ones that were there, people were crying while they were driving home from work. I cried for days and while they were showing the funeral procession, I remember my children were 1, 3 and 4 at the time and they sat on the floor with me watching the tv and I was crying and they just sat there in silence, even my 1 yr old. it was so strange that they understood. It was a terrible time for all of America.

What I remember about that day is was a beautiful sunny fall day. I was in algebra class when the announcement was made that our president had been killed in Dallas. It was strange to only hear 1300 lockers being closed as we left school . Everyone seemed to be in a daze. And for the next four days everyone was glued to the TV watching and praying.

I'm a "seasoned" 59-year-old now, but I can vividly remember the events of November 1963. Although I am a Republican, I recall the Camelot years with considerable fondness and fascination. At that time, I was serving as church organist for my parish congregation. A special memorial service was scheduled for the Sunday afternoon following the assassination. I wasn't surprised that the large church was packed during that emotional time. However, the attendees were almost entirely college-age---not the typical age for church-goers, then or now. JFK touched us all, and we haven't forgotten.

What I most remember was watching TV through it all. Seeing Oswald shot, JFK's funeral, John-John saluting his father's casket, all of it still evokes strong feelings of sadness and shock. I'm not sure the country ever really recovered.


"What were you doing when...?"

I was there that fateful day, it was horrible.

It was a day that stole millions of people's ideals of justice and fair play

On November 22, 1963 I was living in Ankara, Turkey, where I taught first grade at the school for the dependents of American Air Force personnel. November 22 was Friday, and my roommate, Anna, and I had both gone out for the evening, she to the American Officers' Club and I to the British Embassy where they presented movies in English on Friday nights. I arrived back at our apartment first but Anna came in soon after very excited and upset. (There was a nine hour difference in time between Dallas and Ankara.) The news of John Kennedy's assassination had been announced at the American facility, but not at the British. Anna's home was in Dallas so she was very upset by the news. The next day I went with some friends to explore the old section of Ankara. Nearly all of the shops were closed and had pictures of John Kennedy, draped in black, displayed on the doors. Many Turkish citizens, recognizing that we were Americans, came up to us to offer their sympathy as though we had lost a member of our families. This indicated how much Kennedy was admired in this remote part of the world and caused us to feel that we had lost someone very important to us.

We were there, all nine of us, shunned to silence, including Mom and Dad. November 1963 the television loud while speaking, telling us President Kennedy had just been shot. He was dead and the world was devastated-not to mention our lot of Americans within that room. There wasn't any comfort, Dad was solemn, focused on the television and mom, and older sisters, like many other women were drawn to tears over a man whom they would never meet, but would grieve as if they had.

I was in the Army, stationed at Ft. Ord, Calif. We were in the field and I was driving the company Commander, watching field exercises from a position high on a hill. I heard a radio call to "stop all training" and return to base. The commander and I then heard the radio report. It was a sad day.

The day of the tragedy, I was upstairs in my sons' room; painting the walls. My brother was visiting and answered the phone downstairs. He called up to tell me that it was my mother-in-law. She told me that the president had been shot in Dallas. I remembered that my first thought was that it couldn't be a serious injury. I turned on the television set and saw Walter Cronkite and knew it was bad. My children were too young to know what was really happening right in their living room, but I remember that they were upset that I was crying. I stayed in front of the television all day as people in our family kept calling us and sharing the grief that they felt. When my husband came home from work; he went right to the television set and stayed there until coverage ended late that night. In the morning the set was turned on as soon as coverage started. The television stayed on for the next week and we stayed in front of it. We felt like a family member had died. The whole nation was in shock and grief. No one just went about their routine until the funeral was over.

I was fifteen, living in Shoreham by Sea, West Sussex. I went out to the neighbours and friends house to confirm the Newscast of Kennedy's death. We really couldn't believe it. He was held with such great esteem. I don't ever remember any American that was so genuinely loved by the English Public. For me at that age innocent times had finally come to an end. I had become painfully aware that there were really bad people out there. And of course I would never fully trust the Government or Politicians.

I was in my 4th grade when I heard the news in a small town, in my country - Ethiopia. Because of the Peace Corps, I heard, read and saw films about him. I felt like my close family was killed. I am still sad and angry why such a compassionate, visionary and young leader should be killed.

I was listening to the TV broadcast in the school lunchroom in New Orleans, Louisiana. My family had moved there from Seattle. When the announcement that President Kennedy had died was made all the southern kids got up cheered and celebrated. The people in the south hated Kennedy for trying to bring equal rights to blacks. I will never forget their hate for him all of my life.

I was a sophomore sitting in geometry class in Irving, Texas, only a few miles from the site of the assassination. Up until that point, I knew that the world was a fairly safe and orderly place. I knew that assassinations were of McKinley and Lincoln's time, events of the distant past. At 1 pm my high school principal came on the loud speaker with the saddest of voices to tell us that President Kennedy was gone and that my orderly world was in chaos.

I was sitting in my 10th grade biology class right after lunch when the announcement was made over the intercom. Everybody sat in silence and my biology teacher just took a textbook and slammed it down on the lab counter in anger & dismay. We were let out of school early and the high school halls were silent as everyone gathered their books & coats and headed for home. For the next 3 days we sat with our families and watched the historic events take place on television. Somehow we felt, without being told, that an "earthquake in history" had just occurred and things would never feel the same again. It sounds trite in saying it now, but it proved true. The 1960s after the assassination no way resembled the tone & feel of 1960-1963.

At the time I was just a young boy. My father and the family were stationed in El Paso, Texas. I remember my father coming into the house with tears and telling my mother, who also started to cry. My mother had only been in this country for two years, she was French. There was so much sorrow.

I was in my home room class in the auditorium at school when the teacher came in to announce in a shaky voice that the President has been shot dead. I remember feeling dumbfounded with disbelief and cold all over. All was quiet in the class - no one could really take it in. Everyone knew that Lincoln had been shot, but that was history! This was now and unthinkable.

I was sixteen years old in school when JFK was shot. It seemed as if the world stood still. This one man had made me feel like I was an American.

I was living at Rose Hill, Oxford, UK and stationed at RAF Brize Norton a SAC Base, as an Air Policeman. I was working 3 to 11, about 1900 hrs BST, the Strike Team came around and told us the CIC had been assassinated. However we all knew something was wrong before the Strike Team came around, because English Church Bells were ringing from all directions from the country Side.

Barely a teenager, I was lying on the rug in front of the radio, when the program was interrupted with the news of Kennedy's assassination.
Six thousand miles away, on another continent, I knew that this was a terrible moment for America and the world. The world would have been a far different place today had that tragedy not taken place, perhaps better, I like to think.

At the time of Kennedy's assassination, I was in my sleepy hometown of Montecristi, Dominican Republic. I was part of a group of teenagers being trained by members of the Peace Corps on the "building, running, and management" of small scale chicken farms. Well, the Peace Corps was a Kennedy creation; thousands of young, and enthusiastic Americans volunteered for it. They were busy all over the world teaching very basic and needed skills; from English to bookkeeping to building skills to water purification techniques. 40 years ago, our "gringo" instructors, Richard Cabreja, from New Mexico, and "Lucky" Dannon, from Texas, were crying without shame; they really felt distraught beyond explanations. For the next few days we, the young people in their project, became their emotional "nurses". When they were finally able to put their feeling into words it became apparent to us that their were not just mourning the killing of their president, but the killing of so many programs that Kennedy had championed in his pursuit for better US international relations.

"We were living in Houston and my wife and I were preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday. Then, we heard the news. We dropped everything and then we said a prayer for the Vice-President (Lyndon B. Johnson). It was a very quiet Thanksgiving that year."

We were all busy at work when my son, who had been watching TV, ran into the room and said "Mommy, Mommy, someone shot our president." We all said, "No, honey, you must be mistaken." So we went into the room, and found out it was real. We thought it was so amazing for a little 3 year old to pick that up from the TV news.

I wasn't even born when JFK was assassinated but it's one of those events that will forever stay in my mind. When I see film footage or read books I am still shocked by the events of that day.

I saw this short film when I was 14 years old in Gia Long high school in Saigon. That was a big shock for my youth at that time and from that day, his picture with John junior is always in my mind and my heart. They are a part of my life and I never forget.

I remember just where I was when I heard he had been murdered. I was in the quadrangle at High School. My first thought "My God, Johnson is President."



Shock and disbelief were my immediate reactions. How could this happen? Even at 12 years old, I loved JFK; the handsome, dynamic and inspiring President. The rest of the afternoon remains somewhat of a blur. I remember that after school that day we had a "Campfire Girls" meeting, talking to the other girls about what had happened to the President, none of us really being able to concentrate on our tasks at hand; wanting just to go home to be with my family, feeling insecure, scared.

My mother related her story. She had left our home on Vine Street in Kent that fateful day. She was walking to downtown Kent when she was approached by a man, a stranger, who told her that the President had been shot. She thought that the man did not know what he was talking about; she hurried to get away from him, looking over her shoulder, yet a small part of her wondering if he was being truthful, another part of her denying that anything like this could be true. As she reached downtown and arrived at one of the local banks, everyone was talking to one another; tears were being shed. By this time, the news was that the President had died. My mother said everyone was talking about what had happened, the general consensus being how could this have happened? Why did this happen?

I remember standing on the street corner and the school crossing guard told me the President had been shot and was dead. I remember standing there trying to fathom what all that meant.

I didn't really grasp the significance of it all (I still have yet to do so), although I understood it was a watershed event in my life and that of my country. I remember something else - as a 9 year- old over that long weekend in November 1963, I still went out to play with my friends. The difference was, we acted out the assassination in our play. That still strikes me 40 years later.

Then in horror as we watched the television while Lee Harvey Oswald was being transported; a man walked out of the crowd and shot Oswald, later identified as Jack Ruby. How are we supposed to feel about Ruby? Was he a hero for shooting the man who had allegedly taken the life of the President? But killing someone was wrong at all costs, wasn't it? Was this equally a tragedy because what if Lee Harvey Oswald had not been the person who had killed the President?


"The World Turned Upside Down"

I heard the news of JFK's assassination on my transistor radio while visiting my Grandparents. Later, I vividly remember watching Walter Cronkite crying on TV and thinking that the world would never be the same.

[E]ven at seven and a half years old we knew the world had changed. ... not unlike September 11th, 2001 ... We knew it was not a good change and would effect all our lives in some manner now and forever.

No matter JFK's or his family's faults or crimes, they killed the symbol of American democracy. Instead of an elected President, we received one chosen by a bullet who gave the assassins the war they so dearly wanted. Our country began its slide into 'our long national nightmare' at that moment.

I was 17 and sitting in school when the news arrived. I learned two things. First, governments are a front to protect the shadowy figures who rule behind the scenes and two, evil seeped into the world of governments and corporations. It was a day that stole millions of people's ideals of justice and fair play. It was a day that marked the rise of greed.

I'm 66-years old and I was working in the court house, in Baltimore, when JFK was murdered. Since his death, the country has gone to hell!

The government began losing the trust of the people. Nothing in the last 40 years has given us cause to increase our trust.


"Oh, Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye"

It was a time that seemed filled with great hope and renewal. The entire world mourned the events of November 1963 and America's heart burst with sorrow.

Kennedy had an aura about him. History will judge his effectiveness, but we can all say he was a popular president.

It devastated me. I loved Kennedy. He was the true inspiration for young people.

I prefer to remember the man for what he gave to our country and the world rather than recall the sad ending of his life. I recall the great uplift that JFK and his charming family provided for our country. Many of us Americans bought the First Family record album and listened to the humor and joy of a happy first family. JFK personified a character right out of his "Profiles of Courage" book. He was the right person at the right time, just as he referred to President Lincoln and others.

I have very fond memories knowing that I saw President Kennedy give a speech in New York to The CYO Convention of teen-agers and young adults one week to the day and hour of his death. When every thing else stopped for four days I have my memories of the smiling president speaking to the young people of the United States.

"I work two blocks from Dealy Plaza with the old School Book Depository building across the street. Every day, I see people lingering on the grassy knoll. Some are pointing at the window on the 6th floor. Others are standing near the black "X" in the center lane of Elm Street that marks the fateful spot. Sometimes older people are weeping silently."

Even now, knowing so much more, my age mates recall the tremendous energy, charisma and encouragement that we seemed to find in JFK. It seemed that he was telling us that we could change the world for the good. We bought the package. Later, when we learned of the cynicism and turpitude underlying it all, we sank into our own cynicism and turpitude. My generation of educated white Americans will never take on a president so blindly again.


An Eerie Coincidence

I will be 58 years old on November 25th. I was born in Akron, Ohio and my family moved to Dayton, Ohio and then Detroit, Michigan in 1956. Like many young people, I was moved by the young, energetic John Kennedy and I volunteered for his election committee in Detroit in 1959. My family moved to Tampa, Florida in 1962 and in the fall of 1963, I was a senior in high school.

President John F. Kennedy came to Tampa, Florida to speak to the area high school students at Al Lopez Field on Monday, November 18, 1963. By the way, this is the same Al Lopez who managed the Cleveland Indians. Al is a family friend and still resides in Tampa. Each school assigned senior boys to help with security and I was one of those chosen from King High School.

As a result, I was close to where the President entered the tunnel leading to the field and I had an opportunity to shake his hand. I worked on the school newspaper and also had a journalism class. Our assignment that week for the journalism class was to write a fictitious paper based on current events. Since I was so moved by the President and was aware of editorials warning of his upcoming visit to Dallas, I chose the assassination of our President in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.

Our teacher, Dee Blasingame, was reading the paper to the class that dreadful afternoon when the announcement came over the public address system that President Kennedy had been shot. I had to be excused from class in order to go the bathroom to be sick. Since Tampa is located in the South, there were mixed emotions about this event. I only know that it was the most devastating thing that had happened in my young life.

One of my classmates told his father about my paper. His father, Stephen Nugent, was the agent in charge of the FBI office in Tampa. He and another agent came to my home and interviewed my parents and me on November 25th. That was my birthday and it was the least happy birthday of my entire life.

Numerous facts relating to the actual assassination were duplicated in my paper and the FBI were simply checking into this strange coincidence.

My wife and I moved to Akron in 1975 and it is our home but I always become melancholy this time of year when I remember our President and how young and vibrant he was that November day so many years ago. Our nation was cheated and our history was dramatically changed due to a few misguided individuals so long ago.

- Tim Beringer


The Last Word

Although he evolved into a mythical figure post-mortem, mysteries still linger over John Kennedy's murder. Officially, it remains an unsolved crime, even though books are still being written that purport to solve, once and for all, the enigmas and riddles surrounding his assassination.

While I was still at Duquesne Law School in the mid-1970s, I read all 26 volumes of the Warren Commission Report, reaching the conclusion that we do not really know the identity of Kennedy's killer or killers. Since then, after having read countless assassination treatises, I still harbor grave doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald was the shooter — although I think Oswald may have played a role in the assassination.

The most implausible part of the Warren Commission report is its characterization of Oswald's assassin, Jack Ruby, as a ''concerned citizen'' who merely wanted to spare Jackie Kennedy the horror of having to return to Texas to testify at Oswald's trial. This is a complete sophistry. Ruby was a crude, heartless thug who had killed another man in Chicago earlier in life. He was intimately involved in organized crime, a fact obscured when the Warren Report was released in 1964. In 1979, the U.S. House of Representatives, after years of investigation, concluded that President Kennedy's death ''probably'' resulted from a conspiracy.

The trail is now cold and the crime committed in Dallas that day will never be solved. On Nov. 22, however, that should not deter us from quietly observing the 40th anniversary of the premature death of a great young American. And, let us pray that our country produces another one like him very soon.

Donald P. Russo is an attorney in Bethlehem.


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Our optimism died in Dealey plaza, too
Residents remember Nov. 22, 1963
Pause to remember the sad anniversary of Nov. 22
Your memories of JFK
Letters remembering JFK, Part 2
Letters remembering JFK, Part 3

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