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Sunday, November 24, 2002

What were you doing?

I've been listening to the recently discovered recordings of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The tapes chronicle the communications between Washington, D.C. and the plane that was carrying six cabinet members who were on their way to Japan.

"Government was being improvised in the air," [Walter] Cronkite says. The small but necessary details -- equipment to transport the casket, an official pronouncement of death -- were being made en route. Each of these details, again, is captured on tape.

You can read more about it and hear the tapes on National Public Radio's web site. And, in case you've never read it, you can find links to the Warren Commission's report on the assassination on the National Archives JFK web site.

I remember the day well. It was a Friday afternoon, November 22, the day after my birthday. I was in Mrs. Murray's second grade class.

Shortly after the class had settled in after lunch, there was a knock at the door. It was the school secretary. Mrs. Murray went into the hall. A moment later, she called me into the hall.

The secretary had been alone in the office when she heard the news. Not knowing whether to make an announcement on the P.A. system or not, she sought the advice of Mrs. Murray. Our classroom was right next door to the school office. Mrs. Murray wanted to test how the other students would react to the news that President Kennedy had been shot.

At that point, here in the Midwest, we still didn't know that the president had died.

I stood there in the hall with the secretary and Mrs. Murray towering over me as she first asked me, "do you know who the president is." President Kennedy, I replied. Then she said, "the president has been shot." I don't recall my reaction. Shortly after that, the secretary made an announcement that school was dismissed early.

I walked home as fast as I could. My mom was sitting in the living room watching the television. By this time, it had been reported that President Kennedy was dead. She pulled me to her and began crying. Of course, I started crying too. A few minutes later, my dad came home early from work.

It wasn't until I was well into adulthood that Mrs. Murray told me why she chose me to tell the news to first. She said it was because she considered me to be the most sensitive student.

Mrs. Murray and I still see each other. Our birthdays are on the same day. We try to get together every couple years. Every time we see each other, we relive our stories of that day.

What were you doing?

Posted by Marie at November 24, 2002 8:34 PM


Well, being -17 at the time, I wasn't doing too much when JFK was shot, but I did get to hear the first half of Cronkite's story on All Things Considered and to call it excellent would not be enough of a compliment. The audio from the White House Situation Room was fascinating.

Posted by: Peter at November 26, 2002 8:04 PM