Where were you when JFK was shot?
Fifty years ago today, people were just going about their everyday, busy routines when their lives, and the country’s history, were forever changed.
News spread that President Kennedy had been gunned down in Dallas.
The Echo Press asked readers to share their memories of that fateful day. They recalled the events in vivid detail, remembering where they were, what they were doing, and how they felt on November 22, 1963.
Here are their stories.
SHOCK THEN SILENCE
I was in the Army in Heidelberg, Germany, playing basketball. Needless to say, the game ended at that point.
The first reaction was shock, then total silence, because no one wanted to believe it. Everyone just walked away and went back to the closest media source to get the rest of the story.
For the next few days the only conversations included the murder of President Kennedy. It didn’t make any difference whether you liked or disliked the president, everyone felt betrayed and lost. What made it really hard was the fact that we were so far from home and not able to hug our loved ones. Kennedy’s murder was like the attack on the World Trade Center; everyone knows where they were when it happened.
Jim Korkowski, Alexandria
SADNESS ON THE STREETS
I was a 20-year-old newlywed who worked at the Federal Reserve Bank on 5th and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis. The message came over the intercom that the president had been wounded in Dallas, Texas. We all thought it was probably not much. Then another message came and said the president was dead. When we left work there were people crying and looking very sad on the streets. It was a day I will always remember.
Marcy Isackson, Lowry
CRYING WAITRESSES I was a salesman for Pearl Jobbing in Alexandria. Coincidences do happen. I was on the same route, same day of the week at noon when President Kennedy was inaugurated and assassinated, two years apart.
I stopped in Ledgerwood, North Dakota for coffee. There were no waitresses up front, so I looked in the back room and the waitresses were all crying.
No coffee that day.
Earl E. Olson, Alexandria
CHILLS AND TEARS
That is a day I will never forget. My husband and I lived near Miltona and were on our way to my grandmother’s funeral in Clarissa. We were listening to the car radio and the music was interrupted with the news bulletin that President Kennedy had been shot.
The report just sent chills to my body and tears to my eyes. A neighbor was babysitting our 2-1/2-month-old son. When we arrived at the funeral, we shared the news and no one had heard it yet. It was an even sadder day.
Shirley Syverson, Battle Lake
I was descending the stairs from my 5th grade classroom on the second floor of St. Mary’s School in Long Prairie when two classmates came rushing up from below saying that someone had shot the president in the head.
Since we had no media access in the school, I knew I would have to wait until I got home to learn more about what had happened. I went over to the public school where I was to have a band lesson and discovered that it had been cancelled.
I remember noting in my lesson book, “Nov. 22, 1963. President Kennedy shot.”
I went home and began watching the story as it was covered by KCMT from Alexandria. I kept that lesson book for years but lost track of it a long time ago.
Mike Sieve, Alexandria
I was 7-years-old and just two days before JFK was shot, our family buried my 22-year-old sister-in-law, who died tragically from an automobile accident.
I attended St. Mary’s School in Morris and we were in school at our desks. Suddenly our principal nun came into our room and told us that President Kennedy had been shot. We were told to get on our knees and to start praying immediately.
We got down on the hardwood floor and prayed for at least a half hour and then we were told that he had died. We all were so sad and I personally thought that the world around me was surely ending with all the death to strike those few days. This is a memory I will never forget as long as I live.
A person really has to wonder what our world would be like had JFK lived.
Connie Reuss, Barrett
A PUNCH IN THE GUT
I was in Central Junior High in Alexandria at my desk in 7th grade social studies, English. Mr. Lantz went to the door. He took a quiet message and turned to us, his clasped hands moving around to find a calm position.
His words were brief as he told us that President Kennedy had been wounded in Dallas.
Our class was soon dismissed and we quietly moved on to choir in the Central auditorium. Mr. Lynch said that under the circumstances of shock and not knowing, we wouldn’t have choir that day.
We didn’t have to be told to sit quietly. We just did. We gathered our chairs near our friends and waited for some news. The first news came from someone that Kennedy was going to be all right.
A couple minutes later, Mr. Lynch came in and told us that the president had died. It felt like a punch in the gut and so many kids cried.
I remember the mournful weekend before the funeral as a time when no one went anywhere. We sat and watched the continuous news reports from Washington and Dallas. I’ll never forget the sound of the muffled drums in the funeral precession. It was a time of great respect and great sadness.
I mourn the loss of the “New Frontier” and I miss the sweet faces of my 7th grade friends.
Frank Steen, DDS, St. Paul
AT THE HOSPITAL
I had just started my job at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Alexandria, the 7th of November. I was very nervous about my job as I had never talked to a nun in my life and there I was working for them.
Our televisions for our patients were very small portable TVs on a stand with wheels. Then all of a sudden Sister Patrice came wheeling a TV into our office. She turned on the TV and said President Kennedy had just been shot.
So while checking on patients and answering the switchboard, we watched all the events of the day. Now here it is 50 years later, still working at the hospital and certainly thinking about that day.
Wanda Thun, Alexandria
I was manning the analyst’s position at the switching center for Pacific Telephone in Riverside, California. It was a sophisticated mechanical switch and as such it made some noise. When the system found a problem, it would punch out a card indicating where the trouble was.
All of a sudden, I heard the noise of the switches increase, indicating more traffic. There were no cards dropping. I turned around to see the control panel and saw load lights coming on – too much traffic but no trouble. Soon only essential services would be able to get a dial tone.
Then someone told me the president had been shot in Dallas. We lost the office that day and the president. It was a sad day.
Jim Jensen, Alexandria
AT HENRY’S CANDY
I was coming back from lunch when I heard it on my car radio. I lived in Montevideo and worked for Henry’s Candy. I ran into the warehouse yelling, “The president was killed!”
Everyone stopped what they were all doing and ran to listen to the constant news releases.
It was a day I will never forget.
Pat Manthei, Alexandria
A SOPHOMORE IN HIGH SCHOOL
I was born and raised in Washington, D.C. In 1963, I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school when I heard the terrible announcement that President Kennedy had been assassinated. I spent the next four days watching the television broadcasts of the sorrow-filled events, including the killing of Lee Harvey Oswald.
Since we lived near the landing pattern of Andrews Air Force Base, we actually saw Air Force 1 just before it landed from Dallas. We then saw the helicopter leaving Andrews taking the president’s body to Walter Reed Hospital.
My mother went to see the procession that was taking the president’s coffin to Arlington Cemetery. We visited the cemetery and saw the small white picket fence surrounding the grave, along with the eternal flame. It was the saddest four days of my life and I remember it vividly to this day. I can’t believe it has been 50 years.
Karen Vollrath, Alexandria
DISBELIEF I was a junior in high school in Conrad, Montana. I worked in the school lunch room during the noon hour. We were done serving lunch when the head cook came and told us that her husband had just called and said J.F. Kennedy had been shot.
No one could believe it. When we returned to classes for the afternoon we just sat and listened to the news on the radio in our classrooms.
Deanna Schultz, Miltona
A RESERVE’S PERSPECTIVE
I was 23 years old and I remember distinctly that I was in the hallway getting supplies for my chemistry lab [at Moorhead State University] when someone stopped me, saying that President Kennedy had been shot.
About a half hour later, we were notified that classes were called off.
I got out of the Navy in the fall of ‘61 but I was still in the Reserves and I was sweating it out when the Bay of Pigs happened, thinking I’d be recalled. Then in ‘62, there was the Cuban Missile Crisis and I thought I might be going back. Then, in the fall of ’63, this happened.
Steve Walters, Glenwood
GLUED TO THE TV
I was in my history class, 7th grade, at Central Junior High in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. It was a nice November day. Within minutes of the shooting, it came over our loudspeaker that we would be going home as soon as the buses came to pick us up.
I remember five classmates came to my house to watch every detail on TV. It was hard for us to believe someone could shoot our president.
Nancy Lorsung, Alexandria
INSECURITY AND ANGER
I was teaching English, speech and drama at Thousand Oaks High School in California. Classes had just been dismissed for the day when a fellow teacher came up to me and said that President Kennedy had been shot! Thinking it was the start of a bad joke, I waited for the punch line. She said, “No! Look at the flag!” The school flag had already been lowered to half-mast.
Like the rest of the country, I returned home to become glued to the TV and the coverage of the capture, the “conspiracies,” Jack Ruby and the eventual funeral. Though I had not been a Kennedy voter, one still felt a tremendous loss and a great fear of what was happening to our United States. Our sense of insecurity and anger was much the same as those that experienced the horrors of 9/11.
In today’s world of so many divisive feelings, rich vs. poor, white vs. people of color, liberal-conservative-moderate, it is ever so important to remember that we are all Americans, first and foremost.
Ann Wolff, Alexandria