Fifty Years Ago Today

To many of my friends, the tragedy that played out on November 22, 1963, and the days that followed, are pages in a history text, perhaps something their parents told them about, as my parents told me what they were doing when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.

I was a junior at Coral Gables Senior High that day.  I didn’t hear the initial report of the shooting because I was outside in Phys Ed class.  I have no memory of what sport I was being forced to play that day–in November in south Florida it could have been anything–but I remember the buzz of talk in the halls when I came in for my next class, hearing the news that the President had been shot.  I think I was in English class when the news came that he had died, but most of that day still seems, as it did then, a bad dream.  Surely we would all wake up and find that it had never happened.

November 22 was a Friday in 1963, too, and I remember, dazed as we all were, leaving my gym bag at the bus stop, and going back to find it waiting for me hours later.  Collecting my gym bag seemed oddly important at the time, and I must have borrowed my dad’s car to do it.

I remember spending the weekend that followed glued to the TV, watching report after report, waiting to wake up from the dream.  And then watching the film clip of Ruby shooting Oswald, over and over again.

I remember watching the funeral, with all the pageantry, and all the sadness.  That was on the Monday, and I think school must have been closed.

It’s funny, but I suspect this is true for many people–my clearest memory of those four days is the beginning, where I was, what I was doing, when I first heard the news.  For the rest of it, it’s hard to separate my individual memories from the collective memory produced by the news coverage of the time and the decades of discussion and debate which have followed.

With all credit to Gary Brookins, who writes and draws Pluggers, one of my favorite comic panels:  I think he summed up the memories of my generation very nicely this morning.


What do you remember of that weekend in November, fifty years ago?

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Cheryl Bolen
    Nov 22, 2013 @ 17:08:29

    My memories are pretty much the same as yours, Kay. There was no school that Monday, and I remember weeping for four straight days as I, too, was glued to the television. Even after 50 years (God, did you ever think you’d be recalling something that happened 50 years previously?) when I read of the assassination, I get weepy again. You would think it would lose some of the sadness after the passage of so much time, but it still hurts.

    I actually saw him in person and touched his hand when he was campaigning for President in Torrance, California, and my mother let me skip school that day so I could see what we hoped was the future president. We were all in love with that man.



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