We were scurrying around our little starter apartment, my two baby boys and I, just another normal day of mayhem, open mouths and dirty bottoms, TV as background. A glance out the dusty window: another cold, gray November day in the coal mines and steel mills along the Ohio River Valley. Our hometown was called Bellaire. Bellaire, with its soot dusted snow and rust tinged skies.
Early in the afternoon, the pall that always hung over town deepened. Walter Cronkite interrupted the soap opera “As the World Turns” with a bulletin. President Kennedy was shot as he rode in his motorcade in Dallas. It was a thousand, two hundred miles away but TV brought the tragedy home.
The shock was palpable; it simply was not to be believed. But it was true. And it wasn’t very long before there were no soaps, no game shows, and no old movies on TV. It was Dallas and only Dallas.
My sisters and brothers, my mom and dad phoned, visited, and prayed together. We took a special pride in our President. He was, like us, Irish Catholic. He gave us verification. He was one of us.
We knew there were political foes, but this could not be happening. We watched the chaos; sirens howling, cars speeding the President to Parkland hospital, along with Texas Governor John Connally. We saw secret service agents scrambling, people ducking for cover.
We ached while the throngs outside the emergency room cried and waited for word from a doctor, a nurse, anybody who was in the room with the President to tell us he was not badly hurt. That was not to be. It was the first time I could remember the whole country binding together at one point, with one hope, one prayer.
We watched as Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit was shot and killed, as Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, and it was live. It was the whole world gone under.
Dallas wasn’t on my radar, never thought it was in my future. But I have to say I don’t now and didn’t then think ill of the city, and really, I never heard anyone in my hometown circle of friends harbor ill will for Dallas.
Those are bleak days America and I won’t ever forget.
Watch “JFK 50: A Texas Tribute”, streamed LIVE on ktxdtv.com; Friday, November 22nd from 7am-7pm CST (UTC-6 Hours). This special 12 hour broadcast will feature rare video of President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas, live interviews with people who have first-hand connections to some of the darkest days in our country’s history, and live coverage of the observance in Dallas’ Dealey Plaza celebrating the remarkable life, legacy, and leadership of our 35th President. Follow the conversation about the broadcast on social media by following our twitter page at www.twitter.com/JFK50Texas and liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/JFK50Texas.