I remember, well, where I was on November 22, 1963.
It was a Friday and I had just finished lunch at school. I was a drummer in the school band and this was the weekend I was going to get my first set of drums, thanks to my generous grandmother, who lived in Canada. As a result, I was most excited, almost like a young boy on Christmas morning.
It was early afternoon on this Friday and I was down in the band room, adjacent to the stage in the school auditorium talking with our conductor, Mr. Robards, when the principal came over the PA system and said the following. “Students… please return to your homeroom. We have received word that President Kennedy has been shot. Therefore, we might be dismissing all students from school earlier than normal. Please return to your homeroom immediately.”
Pandemonium instantly erupted in the halls as everyone hustled to their homeroom. As it turned out, we were dismissed early. I remember squeezing into one seat of the packed school bus with my two younger sisters as we headed home, bringing them up to date on what had happened to the President.
When we exited the bus, I remember seeing my mother standing behind the large picture window of our living room, expressionless. She tells the story to this day how the three of us slowly walked towards the house, heads hung low, obviously in great disbelief. She knew then we had heard the news.
As we reached the door, we were greeted with hugs and her motherly suggestion to come into the kitchen while she made us all hot chocolate. I reminded her of the school paper I had written just weeks earlier about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. And, now this!
It wasn’t long before my Dad arrived home early from his office, as we were headed to Canada for the weekend. As you can imagine, all the conversation in the car centered around the President, as it did throughout the weekend.
And then, early Sunday afternoon, following church, we all watched live in utter shock as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald to death. How could this be?!? It was 1963. Things like this just didn’t happen, especially to our President.
I recently returned to the same school I grew up in to address the student body. As I began to speak, I shared with the students that close to 50-years ago, I stood right there (pointed to spot) and heard the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. Chills raced up my back! It was a reminder of a distant event that, forever, changed our nation, yet a reminder of an event, that, seems like just yesterday, that it actually took place.