Federal Government

What Does Kennedy Death Mean To You?

Things are slow here at the GUARDIAN world headquarters, so we decided to jump on the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination bandwagon. We would like to hear from both the youngsters under 50 and the seniors about how they perceive the loss of JFK and what it meant to them.

Guardian Editor

I was a senior in high school working at J.W. Knapp’s department store in Lansing, Michigan making picture frames when a guy from the upholstery shop walked in and said, “The president has been shot and if he dies it will be the biggest damn funeral you ever saw.”

He died and the funeral was indeed the biggest I had ever seen.

Two things are fixed in my memory: Crowds of people glued to the TV sets in the appliance department and cancellation of the Michigan State football game which was finally played Thanksgiving day.


CASTRO, 1977

Ironically, my career took me to Cuba in 1977 where I stood at the Bay of Pigs and listened to Fidel Castro joke about sinking a boat which he could have simply captured. It was part of an ill-fated covert invasion by Cuban American dissidents likely sponsored by Kennedy. Castro was often cited as the possible source of Lee Harvey 
Oswald’s reasoning to kill Kennedy.
Acoustics expert testifying before Congress 1978. --DRF Photo

Acoustics expert testifying before Congress 1978.
–DRF Photo

Then, in 1978 I sat (on the floor) through the last session of a U.S. Congressional hearing which discussed the acoustical evidence of gunshots the day JFK was shot in 1963. TIME Magazine had called me to Washington to work for two weeks during the Christmas season. The big game during the last week of 1978 was the debate over a “lone gunman” or a conspiracy theory of multiple shots. Thirty-five years later the debate continues and the political hearings continue to be performances aimed at creating sound bites.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. As a youngster under 50 and product of the pubic skool szstem, I have to azk who is President Kennedy and can I follow him on Facebook or Twitter?

    I think I read in Teen magazine he dated Marilyn Monroe, did he do anything else amazing?

  2. Diane Sower
    Nov 20, 2013, 2:55 pm

    Kennedy’s death is huge to me. Nobody from the conservative front was taking the kind of chances he was in pursuing civil rights. Nobody. The vision he had for America should have been a no brainer long before his presidency, yet, the vast majority of Americans were racist idiots calling themselves christians. Utterly shameful.

  3. on a serious note, I remember my Mom telling me how she cried all day, a lot of people like her held a lot of hope and dreams for what JFK might accomplish.

    I was alive when Ronald Reagan was shot, I remember feeling like it was an attack on all democracy and I felt personally connected.

    Side note, I continue to be amazed at the adventurers of MR. Guardian.

    EDITOR NOTE–I try not to livd in the past, but the older I get the more past there is!

  4. Just as I was getting out of kindergarten my mother picked me up and told me the President had been shot. We went straight to St Ed’s which was half full with people praying We then learned he had died. I remember little of the tv coverage. My vivid memory is the devastation to my parents.

  5. I’ve read that everyone can remember just where he/she was when the news was heard…and I clearly do…a young mother sewing on her machine, at home in Walnut Creek, Cal. Death is always hard, but this vibrant young man’s murder was a shock I guess I never quite forgot. No politics entered the scene, just great tragedy for the whole country.

  6. Grumpy ole guy
    Nov 20, 2013, 8:56 pm

    I was 23, just beginning to take my place in the “adult world” after college and graduate school. I felt betrayed and devastated. Still do. I was watching when Ruby shot Oswald and all sense of “Law and Order” was lost to and for me, I’ve had little sense that I live in an orderly world since that day. The flower children did more to restore my sense of society than anything else since.

  7. I was a 10-year-old kid, sitting in the lunch room at Roosevelt Elementary, right here in Boise. The tinny PA speaker suddenly crackled to life… that never happened after morning announcements, so everybody knew something unusual was going on. (The speaker box was painted light blue, the same color as the wall – I can remember it like it was yesterday.)

    I’m guessing that Mr. Marshall, the principal, had a table radio on, with the PA microphone pointed at it. What emerged from the speaker was garbled and distorted… but eventually we came to understand that our president had been shot.

    It snowed that afternoon in Boise. And after school I went to my friend Art’s house for a couple hours.

    I can remember the nonstop TV coverage of the aftermath. (B&W, at least in my household.) It was probably my rude introduction to “current events.” And nothing in current events had such a visceral and life-changing impact on me again, until the morning of September 11, 2001, when I awoke to news that a plane had flown into one of the WTC towers.

    (I’m sorry that Diane was surrounded by “racist idiots calling themselves christians.” At the time, Boise was probably 95% Caucasian, but I certainly didn’t feel like I was surrounded by racist idiots! And based on the “retrospectives” they’ve been showing over the past couple weeks, the “race issue” was as sensitive for Kennedy as it was for any politician of the day… how to walk the tightrope between improving race relations without offending the “racist idiots” and losing their votes.)

  8. Was in Modern Problems class in high school when the intercom began carrying the radio broadcast. I’ve always looked back on the assassination as the day that the course of America changed (not for the positive). Perhaps Vietnam that followed would have been the same, but somehow I doubt it. Perhaps the positive things LBJ pushed through might never have happened, however. Who knows.

  9. The really notable thing about the death Of President Kennedy is most people remember exactly where they were when it happened. I was a junior in high school and was playing basketball in a PE class.

    I can only wonder if the Vietnam war would have escalated under Kennedy like it did under Johnson. Another war of choice that cost dearly in lives and treasure.

  10. Stephen King wrote a great book on a guy who goes back in time to stop the assassination and all that resulted. It’s called “11/22/63.”

  11. Attending a radio repair school at Ft. Benning, GA courtesy of the U.S. Army.

    They issued weapons and assembled us in formation on the parade grounds of the quartels. We were there for hours. There was talk of issuing live ammunition. Many thought we were going to war.

    When the formations were dismissed, we spent the next few days watching ensuing events on a small B&W TV in the barracks.

    A sergeant from the Turkish army helped ease the pain with something called Raki. While clear in the bottle, it became cloudy when added to ice and water. Tasted a bit like licorice.

  12. I won’t pretend that Kennedy’s death had any impact on my life, but I am sure it did. I was not born till 10 years later and much had changed by that time, some thanks to him. But I do remember other events like this and my whereabouts.

  13. I was born 9 years after he was killed. I have been to the museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, which is probably the most incredible, visceral experience I’ve ever had to an interpretive display anywhere. You wind through the exhibits starting with his family life, then the elections and his presidency, and then things start to slow down and his last day starts to take up all of the space. Just as you are reading and listening to the parts of the shots being fired, you step out of the exhibits and right in front of you is the window that Oswald stood at, boxes stacked up as they were when he rested his rifle on them and shot Kennedy.

    It gives me goose bumps just to write about it. You feel like you would be able to jump ahead, grab Oswald’s arm and stop him…except for the fact that it happened so long ago. The only thing that separates you is time. It is just incredible.

  14. I was 6, watching TV at my great grandmother’s house. Everyone was crying and just couldn’t believe it. My grandmother was also murdered earlier that same year (shot in the head and chest)and I wondered why we didn’t have a funeral like that for her.

  15. I was attending school at George Washington University and working part time as an elevator operator under the patronage of Speaker John W. McCormack in the U.S. Capitol Building. I was at work the afternoon of November 22, 1963 about 30 feet from the entrance to the Speaker’s east front capitol office when I learned the President was killed. The enormity, power and sadness of the event and my experience being in that building at that moment and throughout the next days and year are forever part of me.

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