I was ten years old in 1963. Fifty years ago. I had lived an idyllic, innocent life as a little Canadian girl, up until that day. On Friday, November 22, 1963 it was sunny outside and everything was right in the world to a child like myself. Then the SHTF. I was in school, grade 4, and it was after lunch when there was a commotion in the hallway. The office interrupted our class with a sudden announcement that American President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated while in a motorcade driving through crowds of people in downtown Dallas, Texas. School was dismissed. What was assassinated I wondered? All I knew was that it was bad, real bad. I think I ran all the way home past crying teachers and shocked children standing around hugging…..
I grew up in a city in Canada near the American boarder. When we got a television in the 1950s, our television antenna picked up mostly American TV stations so we were bombarded with U.S. news, media, and programming. I think we thought that we were almost American too. We could identify with Americans because we lived similar lifestyles.
On November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was shot and killed, the entire world grieved. Up until that point in time, I had never known grief or violence or that there was a negative force in this world. My innocence was shattered. When I got home, my Mom was crying – I had never seen her cry before. Neighbours phoned and dropped by the house for the rest of the day and into the weekend. Our black and white television set remained on for a week as all the stations broadcast the CBS news feed 24/7. Over and over again, they re-played Walter Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy.
It was unbelievable, stunning, shocking – JFK seemed like a nice young guy interested in bringing civil rights to all Americans and landing a man on the moon. How could this happen?
I don’t remember much else about that day except it was a very, very sad day. Over the years, I’ve had an opportunity to revisit the gruesome events of that weekend before the American Thanksgiving: poor Mrs. Jackie Kennedy standing beside Lyndon B. Johnson as he was sworn in as the new president, her outfit still splattered with her husband’s blood (she reportedly left it on purposely to remind people what ‘they’ did to Jack). Watching her trying to open to wrong door of the hearse as her husband’s body was being loaded from the airplane …… my young ten year old heart felt her pain.
A few days later, on Sunday, I remember vividly like it was yesterday: I was playing downstairs when my Mom started screaming and yelling “they shot him, Oh my God, they shot him”. I ran upstairs and she was standing in front of the television with one hand over her mouth and the other pointing to the screen saying it over and over again. Jack Ruby had just shot alleged JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in a Dallas Police Station on live TV in front of viewers throughout the world. It was shocking. Up until then, nothing like this had ever happened on TV – someone being shot and dying right before our eyes opened another pandora’s box of the media world. Later in the week, there was a funeral for President Kennedy and months of reports from the media. In the ensuing years, conspiracy theories have abounded about the John F. Kennedy assassination. In high school, my annual ‘speech’ in English Literature was about the Kennedy assassination and the conspiracy theories surrounding it.
In 1963 I was just a little kid. I had no outside knowledge of politics, privileged Kennedy life, or anything else. But I understood that President Kennedy was a Dad of two little children. It was a few days before his little boy’s birthday. And I was sad.
JFK’s kids dancing in Oval Office
If you weren’t alive on that monumental day, it would be hard for you to imagine the impact that this event had on the world…….. and me. I still feel emotional when revisiting my memories of that time. One never forgets a moment in time like that….. it’s burned in my memory.