JFK: Dozens of additional reader memories
Dozens of additional memories from JFK's assassination follow, as told by Capital Region residents. Their stories follow their names:
CHARLES M. AMOROSO, Schenectady
I was in an eighth grade afternoon French class at Oneida Junior High School in Schenectady. Our French teacher, Mrs. Jasenski, in the middle of a lesson, was called out of the class into the hall next to our room by a worried looking administrator standing in the doorway. We immediately started talking among ourselves like we always did, but stopped cold when we heard a loud cry in the hall. Our class became immediately and completely quiet. Mrs. Jasenski came into the classroom in tears saying several times, “Le President est tue” “Le President est tue”. There were all types of exclamations throughout the classroom with several of the girls breaking down crying because all of us understood. Mrs. Jasenski sat down on the top of the desk continuing to cry for a minute or so and telling us that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. She then said to stand and follow her, taking us to another classroom a short distance down the hall where there was a TV on a cart playing and other teachers standing around. We remained there quite awhile, some of us sitting and the others standing, staring at the TV commentator talking about the shooting, until we were dismissed to go home. I vividly remember being depressed and kind of sick to my stomach. Even the normally loud obnoxious kids were all completely unnerved. Everyone was kind of depressed like when a family member or friend dies while at the same time scared.
I remember going home and sitting with my parents and sister staring at the TV and listening to my parents and other relatives who arrived discussing how they couldn’t believe it happened. My father, who was a World War II, Marine veteran, was worried that it might have something to do with one of our country’s enemies like Russia or China. I couldn’t quite understand that then, but now looking back, with World War II ending less than 20 years earlier, it had to be in the minds of many, if not most adults at the time. The following weeks of seeing Oswald killed live, the funeral parade with President Kennedy’s son marching with the casket, replays of the motorcade, etc. had to be the most riveting yet depressing time in our country since the beginning of World War II. Anyone who was over 10 years old will never forget.
REGINA BAKER, Schenectady
I was in the third grade at St. Anthony’s School in Albany. We were preparing for an open house that was taking place that Sunday, all of a sudden the principal came on the loud speaker and made the announcement that JFK had been shot and killed. We were told to kneel by our desks and we began to pray.
FRANCES BARTHOLOMEW, Albany
On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was a sophomore attending Parochial high school. Each Friday afternoon we were marched from our school across the street to the Church, for Stations of the Cross. At the conclusion of the Stations, thinking we were about to be dismissed, the Mother Superior came to the front of the sanctuary and with a trembling voice told us that our beloved president, John F. Kennedy, was shot and killed a short time ago in Dallas. We all gasped in disbelief and horror. We were instructed to kneel down, and prayers commenced out loud for the repose of his soul. Then we were dismissed for the weekend.
Although only teens, we left in silence and in shock, our hearts heavy. We had just lost our handsome, energetic, Irish Catholic President who was loved by all of us, the youngest president our country had ever had, the leader we all admired and looked up to almost in reverence. I remember walking home with a broken heart on that gray and gloomy afternoon, thinking mostly about Caroline and John’John’ losing their Daddy.
RON BECK, Johnstown
Where was I when JFK was shot? This was the question I used to have my students guess when I was teaching history at Johnstown High School ( I taught for 35 years at JHS). I am now retired and I am on the Board of Education. I was in 7th grade math class when there was a knock on the door. The teacher was handed a note to read to the students. The note said that the President was shot in Dallas, Texas, but there was no information on his condition. Some students started to cry. I was really surprised that the teacher never said another word but went back to teaching math.
To this day I still question why the teacher did not do more for the students that were hurting.
RICHARD BOBEAR, Clifton Park
My sister and I were returning to the hotel after an afternoon tour in Amman, Jordan. A rather loud radio was broadcasting from the dining room kitchen. It was in French. I understood the words, “assassinant des etats - unis (Assassination - United States. Knowing we were Americans, they went to the kitchen and switched to the BBC for English. The horrible story unfolded for us. We were crushed, and the staff gathered.
DIANE E. BOLLINGER, Ballston Spa
I was working at Rene French Hair Stylists on Washington Ave. in Albany when the phone call came in. Our receptionist, who had left work earlier, was on the phone and she started the conversation with, “the President’s been shot.” I said, ‘very funny, what’s the punch line?’ I was 18 years old and it didn’t even register with me that that could be possible. ‘No, really,’ she said and her tone of voice finally convinced me. He hadn’t been declared dead yet. I hung up and told my boss and co-workers along with customers the shocking news. Everyone was in a state of disbelief and shock. It was an awful moment and only got worse when we learned he’d died of his wounds. I remember being very upset, crying, and scared, wondering what was happening to our safe little world. I went to my mother’s house that weekend and spent Friday night through Monday glued to the TV. Everyone was crying and horribly upset. People would just look at each other and the tears would start. The deep sadness I felt was almost overwhelming at times. I watched every moment of the funeral, not allowing myself to not grieve over this enormous loss. I couldn’t believe this had happened and now looking back, it seemed like the end of our innocence. Then came the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King. It was a frightening time. When 9/11 happened, the pain and grief started all over again and I knew nothing would ever be the same again. Those history-altering events are still raw and still choke me up.
NICK BOMBA, Glenville,
It was a typical Friday for a fifth-grader at St. Patrick’s School in Watervliet. I was a few weeks short of my 10th birthday. Sister Mary Charles was teaching when the principal, Sister Mary Rosalie, entered the classroom. She had the most somber look on her face. She announced that President Kennedy has been shot and instructed us to pray. We prayed for about fifteen minutes then resumed class. After fifteen more minutes, Sr. Rosalie returned crying. She said that President Kennedy had died. We were all shocked. After a short prayer, we were sent home. I got my younger sister and we walked the six blocks home. When we arrived we found our mother on the couch glued to the black and white TV, tears streaming out of her eyes. I went over to her and put my arms around her, holding her tight. The crying was infectious and I began to cry. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The rest is history.
HANK BOTTIERI, Schenectady
I was a 17 year old high school student on November 22, 1963.
I skipped school that Friday and spent the day with no radio or TV turned on.
When the school bus came I was out in front of my house and my neighbor asked me if I had heard the news? I said “what news”, and he said that President Kennedy was dead. I asked him why he would say such a thing and he said that yes, Kennedy had been shot in Dallas and advised me to check it out on TV. Once I went inside and turned on my TV, I did confirm the unthinkable news that this event had happened. It is amazing that something so shocking in 1963 would be so common in the present day. It was totally surreal, and I was watching my TV for the remainder of those 4 incredible days from that point on. Everything is very vivid in my memory, and it still evokes a strong emotional response that has only been equaled by personal losses, and the events of 9/11 in 2001. There was another shock on Sunday November 24, when I was watching the live coverage at the Dallas jail when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald, and the rumors of conspiracy haven’t subsided since.
I will always remember how sad virtually everyone in the World seemed to be on that weekend. It was an experience unlike any other, and one will always have to wonder how history would have changed if JFK had lived and served two full terms.
WARREN F. BOWHALL, Malta
In 1963 I was living and working in Washington, D.C. On Nov. 22, a promising day dawned. My co-worker and I had arranged a four-day break for skiing in Colorado. Off we went to BWI for an early-morning flight to Denver Stapleton. Upon arrival, we signed for a rental car and drove over the Continental Divide to Vail with great anticipation. Arriving at the ski lodge we immediately learned of the horror in Dallas. Anticipation turned into bewilderment and grief. Without a word we returned to the car and drove back to Denver for a silent flight back to Washington and home.
HELENE BROGAN, Schenectady
On November 22, 1963 my husband and I were residents of Takoma Park, MD, a suburb outside of Washington D.C. On this day in history, I was leaving my doctor’s office, being told all symptoms of my pneumonia were gone. His nurse came running outside to tell me what had happened to President Kennedy. Together, we shed tears and kept repeating that “such a thing can’t happen in our country.” The rest of the day I was glued to the television. Most businesses closed down for the remainder of the day. There was only limited activity in the area, just people trying to get home from work or school.
My husband was at work in an office on Wisconsin Avenue, Washington, D.C. He had to visit someone in another office in the same building. As he entered the other office, he saw that the receptionist was crying. He asked her if he could help her with something. She said, instead, “Haven’t you heard? President Kennedy was shot in Texas.” He then tried to call me at our home, and he couldn’t even get a dial tone. He thought that the Russians were involved in some way.
Living close to Washington D.C. you couldn’t help but share with anyone you saw the grief that had overcome the United States. Each day one went to work more reserved and quiet. It continued to be hard to believe that the president had been shot, and then did pass away. The city of Washington D.C., and the cities surrounding it, as well as the rest of the United States, were seemingly paralyzed with quietness the day of the funeral. No one really did anything on that day!
GERRY BUBNIAK, Northville
I was a freshman at Brockport State. As I was preparing to enter the classroom for Rhetoric, a class clown came bounding down the stairs. He shouted that the President of the U.S.A. had been shot. I thought to myself, “what an idiot, and what a sick joke.” After the 50-minute class was completed the hallway was now filled with girls in different stages of emotional distress. Some were crying, while others were in shocking disbelief. It was then I realized what had happened. At that point I went to the Student Union to join others watching and waiting for information on this tragedy. At some point on Friday night the entire campus was closed and we were sent home. Classes resumed after the nation’s mourning was complete.
CORLISS W. BULL, Clifton Park
I am a nurse and was at work in the medical office of Dr. Robert H. Weise on Saratoga Road in Glenville. He had just seen a patient and ordered a prescription. I was to call it in. I talked to Morrie Abramson, the pharmacist and owner of Glenville Pharmacy. The first thing he said was, “did you hear that President Kennedy has been shot?” The radio was on but the volume was low. I turned it up so other patients in the waiting room could listen to the details as they were broadcast. All were shocked as was I.
SUZANNE CANNEL, Schenectady
November 22 1963, sitting in Mr. Campbell’s American History class at Mont Pleasant High School in Schenectady New York, I heard a commotion coming from the hallway. Mr. Campbell stopped writing on the blackboard midstream to see what was happening in the hall. He left the room for several minutes then returned. He stood in front of his desk ashen faced, as he said “Today you are witnesses to tragedy. President Kennedy was shot in Dallas Texas”.
We sat in stunned silence as we absorbed this news. The murmuring around the room started. There were those in the room who started to cry silent tears while others said, “Who will be the President?” “Are we being attacked by the Commies?” “What’s to become of us and the country?” Mr. Campbell took all of these comments in stride and decided to turn an otherwise boring discussion about the war of 1812 into a lively discussion of the chain of command in our government. That discussion calmed some of the fears many of us were harboring. We were impressionable 16 year old students who were mainly concerned about our own selfish lives and we learned that day we were not the center of the universe. We learned how one bullet that brought down one man could change the course of history. That day will forever be emblazoned in my memory as one of the best lessons learned in public school. I thank Mr. Campbell for his quick thinking and ability to create a lesson from tragedy.
JEANNE (DEBRINO) CIAMPINO, Schenectady
On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, I was in the third grade at St. Luke’s School. My teacher was Sister Carmella Ann and we were in the middle of our English class. Sister was standing in the front of the classroom holding the English book when an announcement came over the loud speaker from Sister Mary Elizabeth our principal. She said that President Kennedy had been shot. At that moment Sister Carmella Ann dropped the English book on the floor in disbelief, as all of us were. We were dismissed early that day from school and I remember all of the students, including myself, crying all the way home. I just couldn’t believe that someone could actually kill the President.
VINCENT CIOTOLI, Schenectady
It was an unusually warm day in Schenectady on Friday, November 22, 1963. The windows of the eighth grade classroom at Saint Columba’s school were open. Our teacher, Sister Saint Pierre, was listing the coming week’s spelling words on the blackboard and asking us to write them in our notebooks. She had just sent one of the boys down to the second grade classroom with next week’s milk money. When he returned, he announced that the second grade teacher told him that the President had been shot in Dallas. Many of the girls in the class began to cry. One of the boys said, “What if he is kidding and its just a joke?” Sister Saint Pierre, instructing us to put down our pens, began to lead us in prayer for President Kennedy, his family and our nation. Soon, Sister Amanda, the principal entered the classroom and told us we could get ready to be dismissed. My family and I, except for going to Sunday Mass, spent the next four days, like the rest of the nation, transfixed in front of our television set, watching the events of that weekend unfold before our very eyes.
FRAN COPP, Amsterdam
I was a waitress, and around 1 p.m. that day I was with six to eight ladies waiting for their lunch. When the news came they got up and walked out crying, myself as well. I still relive that time over and over again. His loss stays with me.
LINDA CRAFT, Esperance
When President Kennedy was shot, I was home sick from 1st grade and was watching “Wagon Train.” Then the news came on and I went to ask my mother what it meant. She started crying and I realized something terribly was wrong. I’d never seen my mother cry. A few days later my grandfather (my mom’s father) died and she cried again. I was a very nervous and scared little girl that week.
LARRY DALESSANDRIS, Schenectady
At the time President Kennedy was assassinated I was 12 years old riding home on the school bus. The bus driver had told us at about 2:15 p.m. that the president was dead. I was shocked and thought something more was going to happen to our country. It was a Friday and I worked as a paper boy for the Union Star evening newspaper. I had about 80 customers and it was a day to collecte payment for the week. The papers usually arrived at my stop about 3:30 p.m. That day they stopped the paper to change the headlines so that made the paper arrive about 7 p.m. As I rang the doorbells of my customer to collect I could see women on their knees crying in front of their television. What an emotional night for me.
That week our television was not working so we went to my grandmothers for the days following the assassination to watch the funeral. At that time it was a black and white television set. I will always remember, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
MARCIA DAVIS, Scotia
As a high school junior, not only do I know where I was and what I was doing, I know the same about maybe 1000 other young people. We were all assembled in the Mohonasen High School gymnasium for the kickoff of winter sports pep rally. We were enjoying skits and silliness, cheering the teams, introducing players and coaches when senior, Hugo Bach, emceeing the rally, made the unbelievable announcement. Isn’t it amazing that a student would be given the task? For a brief second we waited for the punch line of the gag, but quickly realized the severity and the gravity of the news that our President had indeed been shot.
We managed to get home from school and all of us embarked on a new experience – sad and terrifying events played out live on TV in a way we had never seen before. With an unprecedented suspension of commercial television thus began days of watching from the hospital to the courthouse, to the President’s plane and eventually to Arlington Cemetery. We saw and felt it all.
GRACE M. DECHANT, Glenville
When word reached us that the president had been shot, I was in Manhattan, with my fellow nursing students. That afternoon half of us were in the clinical area caring for patients. I was in the other half seated in our Community Health course. What made our situation unique was that we would not be able to see what was transpiring on television. The Residence, an 18-story building named Draper Hall, had just opened in September. Our rooms were gradually being furnished, but televisions had not yet arrived for the lounges. So, here we were, in the midst of New York City, unable to view what was happening at this most serious and solemn time.
I recall that most of us expressed varying degrees of shock and surprise. Some of us approached our instructor that afternoon and requested that the remainder of the class be cancelled. Her response, perhaps without time to reflect, was “President Kennedy would want us to go on.” Though this was not the message which we wished to hear, we were dutiful students, so we stayed. I doubt that many of us found the remainder of the lecture to be meaningful. Back in our dormitory rooms, we relied upon our radios for on-going coverage as the events unfolded.
BILL DENISON, Burnt Hills
I distinctly recall the day President Kennedy was shot. From the perspective of an 8 year old, it may be different than most. As my home did not have a TV at that time, I looked forward to our weekly family dinner at my grandparents house. They had a TV! Every Friday we’d go there for dinner, and we got to watch cartoons (Bugs Bunny was prime time then). Imagine my dismay that Friday night when every channel only had this dirge of news, something about somebody getting shot. No cartoons! My night was ruined. So my memory is of the Kennedy assassination blocking me from my once-a-week TV viewing.
LEONARD DEPASQUALE, Schenectady
I learned of President Kennedy’s assassination while returning to my Siena College dorm room following an early afternoon class. But, unlike most Americans, I would not be following events on television. A small group of freshman were scheduled for a weekend religious retreat at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts. All we knew when we left was that the president had been killed, a communist named Lee Harvey Oswald had been arrested, and America’s military was on full alert.
We were on a closed retreat, meaning no communications with the outside world. Therefore, we had no radio, television, newspapers or telephone. Had there been a coup? Were the United States and the Soviet Union at war? Late Sunday afternoon we returned briefly to Siena, then went to our respective homes. On Monday we joined the nation in viewing the televised funeral. Most citizens were experiencing grief, anger, fear and confusion. But we found ourselves with a sense of calm, forgiveness, purpose and hope. Clearly, our retreat proved to be a well-time counter to the tragic turmoil rocking the nation.
CATHERINE DE SALLE, Schenectady
I’m in a crowded New York City high school and a bell rings. Students flow through the hall in streams heading for the up staircase or down. For me it’s up one flight for American history, last class of the day. Before I get to the stairs I’m intercepted by Janice Topping, a new friend from fifth period lunch. Close to my face she tells me the president’s been shot. I can’t imagine what she’s talking about. Sensing my confusion she says, “President Kennedy.” I nod, trying to make sense of it, thinking Lincoln had been assassinated, but things like that didn’t happen in my lifetime; that was stuff in books.
Mr. Alaggia is the best kind of history teacher. In his soft spoken way he links the past to the present and brings life to events we might think dull. Today we live the stuff in books. Today is a lesson. We talk about the news we have been hit with. Some of us are teary but we are all in shock. Everyone says something because suddenly we all are in something together; and that something has scared us good. I was 16. I’d pledged allegiance a thousand times and sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic, but that grey November day I understood for the first time I’m and American. Will never be anything else.
PAUL DONAHUE, Niskayuna
I was a junior in Mont Pleasant High School. One of my favorite classes was Creative Writing and my teacher’s name was Burns, Mr. Robert Burns.
No, not the famous Scottish poet, he died slightly before then in 1796. Mr. Robert Burns wore a greying crew cut and was lean and fit of figure, and he carried himself with great authority and walked with a quick confident stride, he was always prompt, and of course he was an engaging teacher. That may have been because he had a son about our age and knew what we were thinking, or so it seemed. Maybe that’s why I liked his class. On the Friday afternoon of November 22nd of that year we were all seated in class, but he wasn’t there.
Rather than taking advantage of the situation we muttered among ourselves wondering where he was, speculating on what was the matter and what we should do. I don’t recall anyone even leaving his or her seat. After a while Mr. Burns opened the door and stepped just inside. “The President has been shot…” the rest of his words trailed away behind him as he left the classroom doorway, and left us alone with news. We never had to be serious before; I didn’t know how to react. Nothing like this had ever happened to us. It was our first lesson in what the world would have in store. The news would only get worse as it trickled in that day.
JIM EDWARDS, Burnt Hills
It was late morning. I was working on a math problem in our office at the Lockheed Missile and Space Division in Palo Alto, California, occasionally glancing out the window at the distant San Francisco Bay. This fairly serene scene was abruptly interrupted when some one burst into the office with the news that President Kennedy had been shot. My office mate and I at first thought it was a joke but quickly learned
otherwise. All work ceased for the rest of the day. Workers gathered in groups around the nearest radio (not many offices had them in those days). Telephone calls home were extremely difficult since the lines were all tied up. We soon learned that Kennedy had died. There was disbelief and some crying. My own thoughts were that all the anti-Kennedy talk in some of the media and the prevalence of guns were
partly responsible. This was followed by the shootings of Oswald himself and then of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. Who knows; but the times were sad.
BARBARA EISENSTADT, Albany
I was 16 years old and was staying home from school that day with a bad sore throat. My mother was out shopping, when I saw the newscast on TV. I couldn’t believe it and was so horrified, but I had no one to talk with as all of my friends were in school. What a truly awful and sad that day was.
SALLY FARRELL, Clifton Park
I had just fed my 6-month-old daughter, settled my toddler for a nap and sat down to enjoy, “As The World Turns,” when Walter Cronkite broke the news that the President had been shot.
My husband was working out of state so I was alone with the two little ones. I spent the whole weekend in front of the tv. I saw Oswald shot right in front of my eyes! I will never, never forget the images of that horrible time. What stands out the most is the image of Jackie holding it all together and being so brave.
The day of the assassination, I was a second grader in Miss Claire Murphy’s class at Saint Charles Borromeo school in Cornwell Heights (now named Bensalem) outside Philadelphia. I sensed something was wrong even at that innocent age, and then Mother Superior (principal) of the school announced on the PA that the President had been shot. We immediately said a Rosary (Prayer) for the president. It was a scary time for us children. Many adults, starting at school, were very upset, and it was a time of many tears and prayers for the beloved first Catholic President.
RENIE FEDERIGHI, Niskayuna
On November 22nd, 1963 my husband and I and our two small children were living in Switzerland. Our neighbor across the hall was a Catholic priest from Italy, there to minister to the Italian workers
in the furniture factories. He knocked on our door and offered his television set so we could see the events unfolding back home. We ended up keeping the TV set for the duration of our year-long stay.
We were grateful for the sympathies of our new friends in Switzerland.
JOHN FERET, Schenectady
The day of the assassination, I was a second grader in Miss Claire Murphy’s class at Saint Charles Borromeo school in Cornwell Heights (now named Bensalem) outside Philadelphia. I sensed something was wrong even at that innocent age, and then Mother Superior (principal) of the school announced on the PA that the President had been shot. We immediately said a Rosary for the president. It was a scary time for us children. Many adults, starting at school, were very upset, and it was a time of many tears and prayers for the beloved first Catholic President. In addition, perhaps just as traumatic for a 2nd grader, my great grandmother was buried the same day as JFK. I remember very little of her funeral, or if I even attended, but I remember seeing Little John saluting his father as his casket went by on a little TV in a small room somewhere in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.
MARY FITCH, xxxxx
Many of us recall horrific events with clarity even after fifty years. At the time of the assassination of President Kennedy, I was in a Social Studies class at Draper Middle School. As we were going over our class lesson, our teacher, Mr. Bambury, was called out to the hallway. When he walked back into the class room, there were tears in his eyes. He announced to the class that our President had been shot and killed. Total silence fell upon the room. Shortly thereafter, all students were sent home from school as it closed following the news. How could this be? A young leader with innovative ideas, great empathy for the disenfranchised, and loving dad who was suddenly lost in a random, senseless act of violence. Questions were immediately raised about the assassination being a conspiracy act. Others felt our national security was breached. We all watched and waited with heavy hearts to try and make sense of this tragic moment in American history.
In November of 1963 I was a seventeen year old Freshman at SUNY Albany. We had just finished a history class in one of the buildings on the downtown campus (the new campus was still being built), and we were filing out into the lobby. A crowd of people were gathered there and the mood was distinctly different than it usually was on a Friday afternoon. The word began to spread: “the President had been shot!”. We futilely searched for more information but no one seemed to know any more than that. The crowd was in shock and so was I. We searched each others eyes for more detail or some word that it just wasn’t true, but no one knew more than anyone else. A sense of helplessness, disbelief and isolation filled the room. Some people were crying, some were panicked and some just numb. Everyone was confused. This could not be true! It just couldn’t be!
I ran to my car and began to drive home as I lived off campus. Classes were canceled for the day. I turned on the radio and listened frantically for the words I wanted to hear - that he was alright. It was an accident, he would be OK, just a graze, a mistake. The radio would not give me the information I wanted to hear. I got home and turned on the television. There was Cronkite...I can still hear his words: the President has been shot in Dallas. At that point he was alive, or so I thought, hoped and believed. No confirmation. He was being taken to the hospital. He would be fine I prayed. This could not be happening!!
I waited. More information trickled in. The thought of it began to infringe on my reality. It was true. I cried.
As the afternoon wore on the fateful words were finally announced: the President is dead. In disbelief I got in my car and drove. Not knowing where to go or how to turn back the clock I looked for sanctuary from this nightmare. I stopped at a church. It was almost empty. Doesn’t anyone else know?, I thought. I eventually returned home and spent the rest of the day in front of the television....hoping for a correction, a retraction, a miracle. But it was not to be. The President was dead.
I loved President Kennedy and was shaken to the core. The age of innocence was over, Camelot was no more. It seemed to take forever to get the details of what happened; I just stared at the TV, and slowly accepted the unimaginable reality of our loss. I mourn his death every year on November 22, and will always remember the horrible events of that infamous day.
MARY FREDETTE, Niskayuna
November 22, 1963 - I was a fifteen year old high school sophomore home sick from school. My mother had set up the ironing board in the living room and we were watching a news program on TV.
I remember two segments from that TV show. One was a story about President Kennedy’s trip to Dallas. The other was a story about a new band that was creating a sensation in England, the Beatles. That was the first time I’d ever heard of the band. A little while later the news bulletins started coming over the TV and we heard that the President had been shot and soon after that he was dead.
The next few days remain blurred in my memory. Everything stopped as the whole country mourned and sat glued to their televisions. I saw a friend’s father cry, the first time I ever saw a man do so. Afterward everything slowly changed. We lost much of our innocence as a country and President Kennedy’s assassination and the new band the Beatles will always be linked together in my mind.
RON FRENCH, Ballston Spa
I was a member of the U.S. Navy, serving on a destroyer stationed in the Mediterranean Sea. We were in port in Naples, Italy. Several shipmates and I were atg the servicemen’s club, drinking beer and Chianti and eating Filet Mignon. A naval officer entered the room and announced that President Kennedy had been shot and we were to immediately return to our ships. Without any further information, we thought that this might be the start of the war. We all thought of the year before, when we were in the Caribbean as part of the Cuban Blockade aware that a war with Russia could break out at any minute. President Kennedy had kept us out of war, but now he was gone. What’s next?
LUCY FREUDIGMAN, Glenville
The morning of November 22nd started like many other work days, catching the bus to go to my job in Family Court. That afternoon proved to be not like any other. Shortly after lunch, one of the Probation Officers appeared in my office. Known for his wit and funny stories, he started with “Did you hear our President has been shot.” Thinking it was a joke, I quickly said that it was not funny to joke about things like that. When I looked up and saw his face, I then knew he was not kidding. A feeling of disbelief and fear gripped me. Shortly after, we received a call to close the office and go directly home. Walking down State Street to get the bus, people were flocking into St. Joseph’s Church, all had the same look of bewilderment. I too stopped in to say a prayer. It was eerily quiet. On the bus, the talk was of the shooting. Everyone had the same questions, who did this and why, but we had no other information yet. It may be hard for some people to believe, there were no cell phones, tablets or lap tops. Arriving home, my Mother had her biggest pots and pans, (which were used on holidays and when there was a “death in the family”) on the stove. Our house was already filled with neighbors as we were fortunate to have that old Philco TV. It was then that the reality of what had happened set in. It was a sad day for America, the American people, and the world. For those of us who witnessed first hand the events of that tragic day and the days that followed, the memories will always stay embedded in our minds and our hearts.
ANN GABRIELE, Schenectady
Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, began as any other day for me. I sent my children, Michael, 8, and Maria, 6, off to Immaculate Conception School. I remained at home with my youngest child, Vincent, 1. Vincent was seated in his high chair as I was preparing his lunch when suddenly the radio station I was listening to was interrupted with the most horrific and unbelievable announcement. Our president, John F. Kennedy, was shot in Dallas, Texas, while riding in a motorcade at about 12:30 p.m. So terribly shaken by this, I immediately called the principal at the school and susggested that she announce this over the PA system so that all of the school children could offer up their prayers for our president, and she did just that. However, it was following my phone call to the school that the second shocking news came stating that our president was dead! After 50 years, for me this is still a very vivid and poignant memory.
KATHRYN GALLIEN, Saratoga Springs
I was in home economics class, 8th grade, at Glens Falls Junior High. We were sewing. An announcement came over the loud speaker that the president had been shot and school was dismissed. My boyfriend, Charlie Paul, walked me home, carrying my books and my violin for me; he was
always fairly chivalrous, but that seemed especially sweet at the time. I don’t remember talking much on the way home; we were simply stunned. When we went into my house, my Daddy was sitting in front of the TV
crying. It was the first time I had ever seen him cry. A few days later, I was the one sitting in front of the TV when Oswald was shot. I remember feeling as though I was living in history as it happened. For
those of us who were young and optimistic at the time--who believed that anything was possible in a country led by such beautiful and accomplished people--the events of that week cracked something deep in
TERI P. GAY, Charlton
One of my earliest childhood memories is of the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated -- November 22, 1963. I was four, and my family lived on Bowman Avenue in Glens Falls. I was lying on the couch in our living room ready to take my afternoon nap. My mother was ironing next to the couch while watching “As the World Turns.” A news bulletin came across the old black and white TV set saying that the President had just been shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. I remember my mother starting to cry as she listened to the newscast. Even at four years old, I felt the terror and sadness of the death of our handsome young President. Seeing my mother sobbing that day made me feel a deep reverence for our nation and its leaders. My mother’s tears seemed so personal -- as though she were grief-stricken over the death of a family member. The grief was that close.
In the days that followed, my mother, father, little brother, and I watched the television coverage of the shooting -- the heart-wrenching sight of First Lady Jackie Kennedy trying to climb over the back seat of the car, terrorized at the wounding of her husband, and Secret Service men dashing and running after the shots rang out. Then, came the funeral -- and the poignant salute by three-year old John Jr. for his dead father. The entire United States mourned. Lee Harvey Oswald became the most hated man in America. For me, and those of my generation, the day that JFK was shot and killed was a defining memory in our young lives.
MELINDA GREEN, Niskayuna
I was in 8th grade at Van Antwerp Jr High School in Niskayuna. We were changing classes and were all in the hallway when we heard the principal over the intercom, telling us that President Kennedy had been shot. I
think all of the students and teachers were in total shock! It really is weird how we remember exactly where we were at these tragic moments, yet can’t remember what we ate for breakfast!
GERALDINE HAVASY, Clifton Park
Friday, November 22, 1963 is as clear in my mind as if it was yesterday. At eighteen years of age, I commuted to Queens College in Flushing, New York from my home in Queens Village, New York by taking two buses. Queens College was a commuting college. It was chilly outside and I was on the way home to enjoy the weekend. I had just gotten onto the second bus, the Jamaica Bus and it was approaching dusk and lights were starting to come on. The beginning of the bus route was under the elevated trains that went into Manhattan making it even darker. The first few seats in the beginning of the bus faced to the center. That was where I was sitting on the right side. The rest of the seats faced forward.
Someone came on the bus and said the President had been assassinated. I was shocked and very scared. I can remember looking at the people walking around the shopping area and wondered if they knew and were in as much shock as I was. And why weren’t they home instead of shopping in the stores? I felt numb in my mind and body and couldn’t wait to get to where I lived. I was so glad I was nearly to my place of safety. I remember walking very quickly the three long city blocks from the bus stop. I was in shock. How could this be? The President of the United States killed! I was scared and fearful. I wasn’t much into readying about or knowing much about politics, but the future seemed unsure and life unstable.
Queens College never cancelled classes but the day of the funeral for JFK was an exception and all classes were cancelled. I remember watching the funeral on the television while helping my Mother prepare for Thanksgiving, and crying at different times. It was so sad! We lost a President, but Jackie lost a husband the their children were now without a father. The memory is so vivid in my Mind I could even tell you how the furniture was arranged in my parent’s living room that day.
GIULIANO ISOPO, Glenville
On Friday, Nov. 22, I received by normal payroll check. When I opened it I almost fell over. The check was in the amount of $60,000. No one had made that kind of money back then let alone now. Remember, it was 1963. I proceeded to the payroll department to inquire about the amount of the check. While in the office I was surprised that everyone was running around like in a frenzy, saying President Kennedy was shot. I left the payroll department shortly and began tellilng the workers on the factory floor. One fellow said, “you’re nuts,” another said, “you’re crazy,” and a third told me I had too much to drink the night before. No one believed me. After a short time management started coming on the floor to validate the news. There were a lot of apologies said to me. That made me feel better. As for the $60,000 check it was cleared up on Monday. However, it was a Friday I’ll never forget.
RAYMOND C. JACOBS, Schenectady
November 22, 1963. Schenectady New York, Goosehill-Northside @ Franklin School. Class was Miss Hattlee’s 6th grade. Warm, sunny day here, when we were let out. Due to the fact that this was emotional, the education directors desided not to let us know what happened @ 1:00p.m. in Dallas Texas, But, waited ‘til we were about to go home. The teacher after getting us all lined up to leave let it be known that President Kennedy while in Dallas was shot and had died. To that, Your parents will explane more and news will be on the telvision. That weekend I thought about wanting to be President, it was a scary thing to an eleven year old to have a man that I thought was “great’ (still is ) be shot and killed like that, with the story that followed. And continues to today. That was a sorrowful weekend for all of us, in 1963.
EMIL JARCZYNSKI, Scotia
In November of 1963 I had been elected vice-president of the seventh grade by my classmates at Saint Michael’s parochial school in Cohoes. This provided me the privilege of collecting the daily attendance list from Sister Alexandria’s desk and carrying it to the principal’s office, giving me five full minutes of freedom and a smile and a nod from Sister Flavian who otherwise was as stern as they come. In the middle of a history lesson, our classroom door burst open and Sister Mary Frances, the fifth grade teacher, rushed into the room, the loose black skirt of her habit trailing behind her. “Our president has been shot!”
I thought, “Who would shoot the president of the fifth grade?” At that age, this was the extent of my sensibility and experience – my mind couldn’t make the connection that it was even possible for our President to have been struck by a bullet. When I arrived home from school I saw my mother, an immigrant from Poland who had lived through the horrors of World War II, weeping over the framed color photograph of JFK that she had clipped from the newspaper and kept hung in the hallway. I started to realize the extent of what had happened.
GERARD KALEMBA, Schenectady
My friend and I had cut school that day and were in a movie theater when suddenly the movie screen went blank and man came out on the stage and announced that the President had been shot . We all thought it was some kind of sick joke . We couldn’t believe it until after the movie, on the way home , we saw a person on the bus reading a newspaper with the headline, “ President Shot”. It was truly a sad day in the life of this young teenager.
MARY M. KILIAN, Scotia
My husband and I had left our home in the rural Glenville area for an early-morning drive to Albany Medical Center, for the arrival of our first born. My due date was Dec. 25 so this was an unexpected drive. We had been waiting anxiously for five years for the arrival of our first born, so we had not expected making this trip at this time. A healthy and perfect daughter, Saralyn Mary, arrived shortly after her mom and dad’s arrival at the hospital. She weighed in at a mere six pounds and eight ounces, and left the hospital five days later weighing an even five pounds??????
The delivering doctor, Michael Brusilow, was to be the bearer of the news about the president’s assassination while I was recuperating from delivery in a private room (the only room available at that time) at Albany Med. Needless to say, we were both incredulous. At the time, my husband and I did not own a television set since we both preferred to listen to the radio or play records. Also at the time, new mothers were ordered by the doctor to remain in the hospital for five days after delivery. The hospital had televisions available in each room and therefore the new mom and dad were able to view the events of the next few days on the room’s television set. We can always remember how many years ago the assassination occurred by recalling the day when we went from the “high” of new parenthood to the “low” of the loss of our nation’s president.
JOYCE KLUMP, Palatine Bridge
I was at home on maternity leave in Washington,DC and 9 months pregnant watching “As The World Turns” when Walter Cronkite came on TV to tell the world what had happened. My husband worked as a tour guide at the FBI and came home to see if I were OK. We watched TV for hours until I couldn’t watch anymore so we took a ride. We were stopped at an intersection while the gray hearse went by us with President Kennedy’s body and Jackie inside. A few days later we were standing at a park to watch the President being brought up to the Capitol with the riderless horse in front of the carriage carrying his body. Someone near us had a radio and it was announced that Lee Harvey Oswald had been shot. I almost fainted and said what kind of world are we bringing our baby into because at that time nothing like that had happened. A week later on 11/30/63 our son was born, he of course will be 50.
RICHARD KOCH, Altamont
On November 22, 1963, I was in my sophomore year at Houghton College in western New York. Having just entered the Student Activities Building and hearing someone say, “The president has just been shot!,” I immediately assumed they were referring to the president of the College! The relief I felt, in learning it was not Dr. Paine, however, was instantly replaced with the stark and numbing reality that President Kennedy had been assassinated! Words of disbelief were uttered by everyone: “This cannot be happening!”
For the remainder of that dark Friday, and the days that followed, a quietness and spirit of reverence seemed to pervade every activity. The day of the funeral found large groups of people silently gathered around the very few black & white TV’s that we’re available on the campus. I remember photographing the flag, located in the College triangle, that had been lowered to half-mast, and was gently waving in the chilly air of the late autumn. That photo subsequently appeared in the section of the yearbook that reviewed the school year in pictures. It bore the captain: “With a sudden abruptness, a glorious fall ends. The President’s death -- the sadness of finality. Winter comes...”
Interestingly, shortly after I graduated, Sgt. Keith Clark, principle trumpet player in the U.S. Army band, who was chosen to sound taps at JFK’s funeral, retired from the military and joined Houghton’s music faculty as Associate Professor of Brass Instruments.
FRANK LARKIN, Esperance
On the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963, I was sitting in 10th grade English class when it came over the PA system at school, President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. The student sitting next to me looked at me and said, “Mr. Bishop was right,” that being in response to our seventh grade history teacher putting some kind of a formula on the blackboard and said, “if history repeats itself President Kennedy will be assassinated while in office.” I shook my head in disbelief. His prediction came true.
SHARON LANGEVIN, Hagaman
In my mind, I can still see the living room with the TV on, where I was caring for my three month old daughter. It was early afternoon, a soap opera was on, when the first announcement that the President had been shot came on; they believed he had been taken to a Dallas hospital. Shortly after that came the announcement that the President was dead. The announcer sounded stunned.
EDWIN LITTS, Schenectady
On that November day I was seated in my eighth grade Social Studies class at Schenectady’s Central Park Junior High School. It was the last period of the day. A teacher knocked on the door and quietly spoke with our teacher. Our teacher then relayed the news of the shooting. We were stunned. The tone of the day and our perception of our safe world had changed. Our teacher knew that his eighth graders had never been asked to process something as huge as this and stopped teaching. Shortly later that same messenger teacher appeared again. Our teacher informed us that President Kennedy had died. We could not believe it. Our teacher was genuinely humbled. We all felt bad. I remember a girl seated in the next aisle to my left and a few seats back. She was crying. She had real tears. I did not think that it was possible that kids could cry over such a distant personality; that they could have tears over the passing of a non relative. I realized then that she was no longer a kid. She had grown. She was in the eighth grade. I knew at this point that I was to enter into a more mature era because I too was also in the eighth grade. I will never forget that crying, caring, and most mature student. It was a most impressionable and sad day.
DAVID LONG, Malta
I was a student at Emerson College in Boston, studying radio and television broadcasting. My friend Bob and I were sitting in and English Class next to our College station Newsroom. We had just learned the difference between a bulletin and flash, and their different bell rings. When the wire service machine started sounding its bell, Bob and I started counting the rings. When it rang the ninth time, we knew it was a flash, and something major in the world had just happened. We both raced to the newsroom and Bob got the flash saying that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. I grabbed a station tape recorder and headed out on the Beacon Street in Boston. As I started out, the second flash came from UPI that President Kennedy was dead. Beacon Street in Boston was very quiet. Cars were parked everywhere on the street, with every driver just listening to their car radios. People were crying, both in their cars and on the streets as well. I walked a few blocks and it was the same everywhere in a normally very busy Boston. Classes were cancelled for the next week and everyone sent home. that’s how my day, Nov. 22, 1963 was.
KIM MCNAMEE, Schenectady
This day is one of my earliest memories. I was in kindergarten. We came out of school that afternoon and I remember all the moms were crying. I asked my mom what was wrong. She told me that the president had died. I knew who he was, because my Irish Catholic immigrant grandparents had his picture hanging in their home next to the one of the pope. We went home from school and watched the news on the tv that day and in the coming days. I remember my mom telling me that everyone felt sad but it was really sad for his family. She showed me Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. and explained that Caroline was a little girl abut my age and John Jr. was my brother’s age. My mom told me she felt bad because they wouldn’t have their daddy anymore. I remember feeling sad. As I grew up and became more aware of the news, I would read about Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. in the news and always had that feeling of sadness that they had to deal with the press and didn’t have their daddy to help them. While taking a child psychology course in college, one assignment was to watch a film of kindergarteners being interviewed about the death of JFK. It struck me watching that film that I had had my “where were you for this day in history” moment the day the Caroline and John Jr. lost their daddy and the rest of us lost our president.
IRMA MASTREAN, Schenectady
I was on my way to the dentist. My husband was home with our two young children. A report came over the car radio that Governor Connally had been shot. Since I didn’t recognize the name I wasn’t too concerned. When I reached the dental office, I realized what had happened. Our president had been shot! Everyone at the office was talking about it and could hardly perform their duties. From then on we followed all the events that weekend on television.
RITA MION, Hudson Falls
On Nov. 22, 1963, I had just begun my nursing career at Roosevelt Hospital in NYC. That day we were practicing giving injections and learning how to bandage, taking turns on each other. Suddenly our supervisor came into the classroom and announced, “Our President’s been shot.” We all gasped, and then followed her to the conference room where a TV was showing the news.
No one spoke. We were all in shock, and all classes were cancelled for the day. I left the hospital and walked down to Broadway, looking at people’s faces to see how they were reacting. Apparently most of them were unaware of the tragedy. I kept walking and repeating to myself, “The President’s dead.” It was a bad day.”
RICHARD MURRAY, 1358 Rosehill Blvd., Schenectady
I was in the air conditioning business, and I was down in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with my wife, Helen, taking some dealers down there on an incentive trip. We went to the rainforest to see some monkeys; people there wanted us to see the monkeys, and we heard on the radio that Kennedy had been shot at in Dallas. We returned to town right away, and we found all these people in the street, crying and carrying on. Evidently they had a great love for the president there. We had a big party scheduled that night but everything was shut down. Everybody just stayed in their rooms and watched television. My wife and I had always felt close to the Kennedys because we got married on the same day, Sept. 12, 1953. It was so sad. We came home the next day, and we always think about them on our anniversary.
LISA NARGIS, Galway
I was a Freshman at Tufts University, located just outside the city of Boston. Classes were suddenly cancelled in mid-afternoon. It wasn’t the decade of free-flowing information but word-of-mouth propelled us to our one television set in the dorm. At word of Kennedy’s death, some of us went to the rooftop fenced enclosure. As Tufts was located on top of a hill, we had a clear view of most of Boston. Every church bell in the city was ringing, the sound reverberating for miles outward. What we felt..... chilled by the sound and scared. At eighteen, we had been spared the horrors of WWII and didn’t have the life experiences to understand that the strength of the nation would survive this, even though we were under the constant threat of nuclear anihilation during the cold war. And the bells kept ringing, on through the night.
BYRON NICHOLS, Schenectady
In Los Angeles, JFK’s assassination was a mid-morning event. I was a senior at Occidental College, having morning coffee when a friend barged into the Student Union, yelling that the President had been shot. We rushed to the “Quad,” a central outdoor gathering place amidst towering eucalyptus trees, flower gardens, and Spanish architecture. The college radio station began to broadcast a network news feed through outdoor speakers, and the crowd grew quickly as the next set of classes let out and heard. JKF shot? Badly? … Now what?
For many of us, JFK wasn’t just the President. He was the President who carried the torch to a new generation – to us! The televised debates with Richard Nixon in the fall of 1960 were formative, collective moments as our freshman year began. The Cuban Missile crisis in 1962 had brought us to the same Quad just one year earlier, when we stopped going to classes to await together our nuclear devastation that we realized could happen at any moment if the USSR attacked the extensive aero-space industry in the LA basin. Months later, as graduation grew closer, classmates were debating whether to join JFK’s newly minted Peace Corps. Kennedy’s phrase about “making the world safe for diversity” appealed to our geo-political idealism, although we were too naïve to see any connection to a civil war in Vietnam. But there had also been JFK’s Bay of Pigs fiasco, his inability to push his legislative agenda forward, and doubts about his response to the Civil Rights movement. By the fall of 1963, JFK and the “Kennedy years” seemed so momentous that a small group of us seniors were organizing a national student conference for the spring of 1964 to evaluate Kennedy’s presidency prior to the 1964 election. We had just held a planning meeting the day before. Now what?
The crowd in the Quad numbered several hundred by the time the radio feed announced that JFK had died. It was just after 11:00 AM in LA. We heard the news together, faculty and students, alone in our thoughts but connected closely by a sense of community. We milled about aimlessly as the broadcast continued, several people crying, some caught up in fear, and all stunned into silence as we touched hands or put our arms around shoulders. A revered senior history professor, a WWII refugee from Germany, stood alone with an unlit cigar in his mouth and tears on his cheeks. The College president came to the Quad to announce in person that classes for the rest of the day were cancelled and that an impromptu memorial service would be held that afternoon. Almost nobody went to lunch as noontime arrived. We just stood in Quad, listening to the radio feed, waiting for someone to tell us the meaning of that morning. Now what?
LOUISE OKONIEWSKI, Middle Grove
My family was at Earnest Harmon Air Force Base in Stephenville Newfoundland. My Dad was on “Alert” at the base. My brother, sister and I attended St. Stephen’s School, when they announced all American students to meet at the Principal’s Office as the President had been shot. After my Mother picked us up, we went on the base. I remember the guard going into the base had tears in his eyes as did all the people we saw. The Newfoundlanders, who admired President Kennedy were sad and upset. It was a sad day for all.
FRANK L. PALMERI, Guilderland
On November 22nd, 1963 I was three and a half years old, living on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Williamsburg, NY with my parents and younger brother. Most days my mom would do errands with us, my brother in the stroller and me walking alongside (or being carried when I got tired). On that beautiful, sunny day - why do tragedies always happen on sunny days - I remember everything just stopped. The stores were all closed, there was no traffic, there was hardly anyone on the streets. The people you did see, neighbors and friends, were in shock. There was an eerie stillness in the air; the only thing remotely similar was 9/11. Back home on the black and white TV I vividly remember the somber announcer sitting there, chain smoking cigarettes and holding back tears, speaking in a somber, dire manner. If I’m not mistaken I believe even the phones were dead for a while. Even at that young age it was easy to see that something very serious had happened, and that things would never be the same.
JOAN KEHOE PLANKIS, Schenectady
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in the same place, doing the same thing that I’m doing today: title searching the real estate records of the Schenectady County Clerk’s office. My friend and co-worker had just returned from lunch and made the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot and may not be alive. I can’t really say what I was thinking at that moment, I was so stunned and overcome with grief to comprehend what was happening, and of course everyone began to cry. I’m still working in the record room and think of that day often.
LORI PREDDICE, Schenectady
I was only 3 on 11/22/63. I have memories of sitting in front of our old black and white TV, engrossed in the events unfolding. I didn’t yet understand the significance of what was occuring. I remember watching the adults around me observing their looks of shock, disbelief, and tears. I knew this was big. Little did I know how big. I don’t have many memories at that age, but this memory became etched in my mind forever.
WAYNE QUILL, Amsterdam
I remember vividly where I was that day. I was a teller at the manufacturers national bank in Amsterdam (my first job) and, as I recall, was about 2 in the afternoon. the front door of the bank was open, as it was a very warm day for November. I was standing at my station when a woman walked passed outside and told me the president was shot in dallas. I asked her if he was dead, but she stated she didn’t know. I was 20 at the time and devastated.
ARLISS A. RAFFERTY, Schenectady
On Nov. 22, 1963 I was 13 years old and an 8th Grader at St. Luke’s School (now Keane) on Albany Street in Schenectady, NY. I was in Gym class that afternoon along with 60 other children when the nuns of St. Joseph came in and told us the news. Being a Catholic School and Kennedy being the first Catholic President the nuns were in tears and sobbing. They told all of us (students) to get on our knees and pray, which we all did. I remember walking home alone that day (the weather was gorgeous), upset that someone would shoot the President of the United States. That moment in time and the difficult days that followed have stayed with me all of my life.
FRANCIS RAKVICA, Schenectady
On what would become a very memorable day in my life, I was a nine year old, 4th grade student at Hamilton Elementary School here in Schenectady. It was about mid-afternoon and my class, as well as I believe all of the other classes at the school were assembled in the auditorium to see a play performance by some upper grade students. After the performance there was still some laughter and applause as the curtain was closed. Then walking out from the right side front of the auditorium, just below but to the center of the stage was our beloved principal, Miss Leona Merry. Always very recognizable, tall and with her all white head of hair, she raised her arms for silence in the auditorium by all there which almost immediately occured. She then asked the stage hand at the curtains to reopen them, surprising the kids still on the stage set, then in this very hushed auditorium announced to all of us that news from Dallas, Texas just said that our President Kennedy had been shot at and that she wanted all of us that could to join her in a prayer for the President. She then began to recite the Lords’ Prayer. Being a Catholic youth, I joined in with the other teachers and children as we prayed along with her . I remember thinking this must be a very serious thing that has happened as I never remembered praying at school ever before this day. The only other time we kids would recite anything else in unison, was our daily Pledge of Allegiance to our flag in our classrooms.
JOHN REICH, Johnstown
In the 6th grade classroom at St. James the Apostle school in Carmel, NY. Our Nun head conducting class when another Sister burst through the door saying, “children, kneel down and pray, President Kennedy has been shot.” Not long after we were all bused home and stayed in front the black and white TV for the next three days.
VINCE RIGGI, Schenectady
I was a senior in a 6th period Spanish class at Mont Pleasant High School, when the classroom phone which was connected to the main office rang around 2pm. Our teacher Mrs. Armstrong answered it and after a few seconds of listening hung up and told our class that President Kennedy and the Governor of Texas were shot during a motorcade in Dallas, and then said he’s been rushed to a hospital and that’s all the information that was available as of now. Everyone was silent and nothing else was said by my classmates or myself because of the utter disbelief and shock that we all felt, including our silent teacher. We didn’t do anything else in class that period, until the 7th period bell rang about 10 minutes later. We then all proceeded to our next class, and mine was History. Our teacher told us to read or do homework until more news became available. Just before that class ended which was the last class of the day, the classroom phone rang again and ironically it was our “History” teacher that gave us the news that President Kennedy had died. The one thing that sticks in my mind till this day is the eerie silence when the dismissal bell rang just a few minutes later, to signify school was out for the day. Normally there would be a lot of commotion, laughing and chatting especially since it was a Friday afternoon and the whole weekend was in front of us, but since we were in the middle of a “cold war” with the frightening Cuban Missile crisis only one year earlier and also growing up with air raid drills being a common event, lots of things ran through our minds. The rest of that Friday and the whole weekend was very surreal in many ways. Not many thoughts of dates, drive-ins, or diners that were normally at the top of the list of everyone my age, because many of us were glued to our TV sets, as a huge unbelievable saga unfolded right in front of our eyes for the next 3 days through a medium that we “Baby Boomers” grew up with, network television.
Since I was at an age of heightened political awareness, and because John Kennedy was the first President that I really connected with, I felt that my President, not a president that I read about in history books as was the case in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, but my President was assassinated, something I still recall today as if it were yesterday. As a lasting tribute a full page picture of John F. Kennedy adorned a special place in our yearbook that spring, the 1964 “Montaneer”.
CLINTON W. SAGER II, Schenectady
I was in Miss Adinolfi’s first grade class on the first floor at Franklin School overlooking Mason Street in Schenectady when our class learned the President had been shot. I remember most of the teachers crying and then our principal, Miss Hagadorn sending us home early. After walking home from school to our house on Lenox Road, I found my mother crying in the kitchen. My father watched the events on our black and white TV most of the weekend. Being a first grader I asked my father if President Washington had died. He corrected me and explained that our current President had died, President Kennedy. I think it was probably the first time I say my father cry. I was only six years old at the time, but still have very clear memories of the day and weekend following Kennedy’s assassination. It was a very sad time for our country.
EDITH SANDERS, Delanson
Living in an apartment in DeWitt, near Syracuse, I was at a laundromat and had walked over to a department store nearby and had selected some items to purchase, when over the store radio came the news that President Kennedy was shot! I became numb, in shock, and put down the things in my arms on a counter and walked out of the store with my child. It seems everyone in the store was in shock as well; in silence left their carts and walked out. I got my clothes and headed home to await my other two chidlren coming home from school. The TV was on almost constantly as a shocked nation watched events unfold, grieving for ourselves and the Kennedy family. While watching TV — then another shock — as Oswald was being transferred he was shot by Jack Ruby. It was all a very emotional time and can never be forgotten.
CATHY SEMCZUK, Amsterdam
In November of 1963, I was a sophomore in high school, sitting at my desk in English class. When the announcement came over the PA system that President Kennedy had been shot, I remember the outbursts of screaming and crying from my fellow classmates, some of us not realizing what happened, and some of us just sitting in total shock; all of us praying and sitting quietly awaiting further news.
As we left the school, some of us were silent, some of us just sobbed, and others just had this look of despair on their faces. I lived a short walk from school, and when I arrived home, I found my mother on the floor painting a chair, sobbing uncontrollably. I think the next few days were surreal most of the nation’s schools were closed to allow us to grieve. We stayed glued to our televisions for three days, and watched the outpouring of sympathy from the world, and the lasting impression of John John saluting his father, and the grief of Jacqueline Kennedy’s face will be forever in our minds. Our Camelot was forever gone.
BARBARA SAGLIMBENI, Schenectady
I was a 7th grader at Central Park Junior High School in November 1963. On that Friday, I had just entered the girls locker room for gym, when my cousin came up to me and said, “President Kennedy got shot.” I thought she was kidding because I was such a Kennedy fan and she was a Nixon fan. I said to her “you’re kidding.” A short time after when we were doing floor exercises in the gym, a cleaning woman came to the balcony area of the gym and shouted “The President is dead.” If I remember correctly, I think our gym class came to a halt. I felt so sad. My parents were shopping at the Two Guys Department Store on Nott Terrace when the loud speaker announced that the President was dead. I will never forget watching the funeral on television for what seemed like several days. All Americans were glued to their television sets. One of the saddest things I will always remember was seeing “John-John” saluting his father’s casket. To this day, when I see footage of the assassination and funeral, I remember where I was when President Kennedy was shot and still feel a lot of sadness.
PETE SHERIDAN, Albany
On that fateful November 22nd Friday, as was my wont before the snow flew, I rode my trusty “one-speed” bike home at noon where mum would provide a nice fresh lunch. Shortly after my return to school that afternoon, the teacher was called to the classroom door. She returned to the classroom and gravely announced that the President had been shot. What was the first thought that ran through my mind? In the naive mindset of the thirteen-year-old, I assumed that the incident was the result of some type of a hunting accident. Within the hour, Mother Bormeo learned of the President’s death and shared the disturbing news with the class. Being that this was 1963, classrooms were not equipped with television sets, so we all rushed home after school to be transfixed with the rest of the nation as, over three days, the post-assassination events were visually documented. Two days later, as our TV was tuned to NBC, my family viewed the Oswald murder live from the Dallas police station.
ELDON J. SMITH, Jr., Scotia
On November 22, 1963, I was a 13-year-old, eighth-grader attending a parochial school on Chicago’s southwest side. At 1:00 p.m. (Central time), we had just returned from lunch and Friday afternoon classes were about to begin. Students were restless, anticipating the weekend. Suddenly, one of the sixth-grade teachers entered our classroom. Nearly hysterical, she blurted out to our instructor, “The President has been shot!” After a brief pause, he tried to calm her down. Soon, several other faculty members rushed in and out of our room. Just two months earlier, our school had opted to participate in a pilot program for distance learning by installing televisions in the upper-grade classrooms for science class broadcasts. Without hesitation, our teacher turned on the TV and told us, “This is history.” Quietly taking a seat in back of the classroom, he said nothing more as we watched the Dallas tragedy unfold. Instead of teaching his prepared lesson, he gave us one of the more memorable learning experiences of a lifetime, for which I remain grateful. At about 2:15 p.m., school was dismissed early to allow students to go home to grieve with their families.
DEBORAH FITCH SNYDER, Round Lake
I was in my freshman English class at New London High School, NH, taught by Mr. Crowder. The one story brick school had an intercom system. The intercom crackled and then we heard an announcement that the president had been shot. The exact wording is not remembered..but when class ended, I went down the hall to the pay phone and called my parents to turn the TV on. The strongest, most emotional memory for me was the riderless, stately black horse with the boots in the stirrups facing backwards. We were all glued to the set that weekend. We were a republican family at that time, but even my conservative father was quietly distraught over this traumatic criminal act.
DR. JOHN SPRING, Glenville
Fifty years ago this November, I was a 25-year-old surgical resident at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., with one two-year-old and a nine-month pregnant wife. That afternoon everything stopped when the news of the assassination came. People were openly and silently weeping. But as the afternoon waned, life resumed at the hospital. The mundane and heroic things we did on a daily basis began again.
Three days later after a Mass at St. Matthews for the president, the caisson was directed to Arlington Cemetery. Our small apartment was in Roslyn, near the cemetery. This was a historic moment for our country and we were determined to be there. We walked with throngs of other people to the cemetery. There was a nice spot on the hill where we could watch the procession come over the Memorial Bridge. Washington was strangely silent. The caisson with JFK’s body was preceded by the clip-clop of horses and a riderless horse in the lead. A group of F4 fighter planes flew overhead in the “Missing Man” formation, and then Kennedy’s Air Force One, a huge Boeing 707, flew over and dipped its wing in a tribute to JFK.
The thing I remember most was “Taps.” As a trumpet player myself, I realized how difficult it would be to play. Emotions were high. The bugler had played “Taps” a thousand times before, but when he played the G in the call the poor man cracked. Musicians call it a clam. I’ll never forget it. In the New York Times, Rich Goldstein wrote, “the ‘Broken Note’ was the perfect embodient of our sorrow.”
WILLIAM STATLER, Scotia
I was serving on shore duty in the Navy at Yokosuka, Japan (about a 12 hour time difference). My wife and I were awakened by the clock radio set to the Armed Forces Radio Service with quiet classical music instead of the usual DJ banter/pop music. It took a while before the local AFRS DJ took over with what was at that moment, a preliminary report about the assassination. When I got to work at the Naval Repair Facility (ship yard) my Japanese civilian assistants were all in tears. I recall one asking me “What does this mean Statler san?” I had no sensible answer.
BERNADETTE STEELE, Charlton
It was a day I will never forget. I was 19 years old at that time. My sister Marie was to be married the next day. My Mom, sister & I were at Rita’s Beauty Shop on Saratoga Ave. in Mechanicville to have our hair done for the wedding. The radio was on and the news of Kennedy being shot, sent shock waves through the salon. Tears started to flow & oh my Gods were heard through the the beauty salon. Someone muttered to my sister “maybe you should call off the wedding.”
Needless to say, the wedding still occurred the very next day. It was raining & cold the day of the wedding & the topic of conversation was all about Kennedy’s assassination,
On a brighter note, my sister & her husband will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on November 23rd.
PATRICK STRACK, Ballston Spa
The morning of Friday, November 22nd, 1963 started out like most others for me except that it happened to be my birthday. My tenth. It was my favorite time of year. The holidays were approaching, which meant family gatherings and time off from school. I recall that it was not very cold for late November and there was no snow on the ground. We took the bus to school, St. Peter’s in Saratoga, where I was in the fifth grade. When we got to our classroom, we found out we had a substitute teacher for the day, who was not a nun, but a lay person, which was a bit unusual. Unfortunately for her, we kids took advantage of the situation and became somewhat, to say it mildly, unruly. No, we were not all saints, just kids and we were probably getting an early start for the weekend. The morning flew by and we went to our half hour lunch around 11:30.
Upon return, the mayhem continued until shortly after noon when there was a knock at the door and an older person, probably an eighth grader, came in and whispered something into the ear of the teacher. She said to the person, “I see” and the person left. Just as we were ready to return to our fun she said that she had an announcement to make. Very calmly she said, “The president has been shot. Maybe ‘that’ will settle you down.” It was like more than a switch had been thrown. It was the main breaker. Except for a few murmurs, there was complete silence. About an hour later another person came in to say that President Kennedy had died and that we were being dismissed from school. As each class lined up to leave the school (All classes lined up together to enter the school at the same time and lined up to leave at the same time, class by class), I could see some of the girls crying. The nuns were in shock. After all, this was “their” president, a Catholic president. How could this happen to him? I don’t believe anyone knew exactly how to react.
I do not remember if we took the bus home or just walked. The local newspaper, The Saratogian, was an afternoon publication at the time and one of my older brothers, either Mike or Marty, delivered it to the surrounding neighborhoods. Somehow they got word that this day’s edition would be very late. It was. The papers got delivered and we at home were among the last to see it. I will never forget the largest, blackest headline I’ve ever seen, “Kennedy Slain.” The rest of the weekend was spent like most folks around the country. We were engrossed by the TV coverage. While it remained clear for the next few days, I do remember that it turned noticeably colder that weekend.
CHRISTINE SUTPHIN, Clifton Park
I was in 10th. Grade in Beacon High School in Beacon New York. The Dental hygienist called our math teacher to the door and began whispering to him. The bell rang and we went to our last period class. I had French. They announced it on the loudspeaker near the end of the period. Our gym teacher insisted that we still had our volleyball intramurals after school so I went and played. In the course of the game I think I broke my finger.
I went home and my father, who was a big John Kennedy fan was glued to our one tv set watching all the news of the assassination. At this point I really knew my finger was broken and he would have to take me to the emergency room. This is before VCRs and my mother did not drive. I remember standing in the doorway to our living room saying “Daddy I really think my finger is broken and we have to go to the hospital.” It was another time obviously and although my father was a wonderful father, he did not want to leave the tv. He got up and said to me, “you better hope that it is broken!” He took me to the hospital emergency room and fortunately I had broken my finger in the volleyball game!
CAROLYN TYLER, Amsterdam
On that Friday afternoon I was a senior in high school sitting in bookkeeping class when the announcement came over the P.A. I was stunned that this could happen in this day, so as I walked home from school I knew what I wanted to do. I sent Mrs. Kennedy a sympathy card. It wasn’t long before I got this card in the mail.
BOB VAN BUREN, Schenectady
Sitting on front steps of Riverside School, Front St., Schenectady. First year as principal, youngsters all back in classrooms following lunch and sunny Nov. day too lovely not to experience it out of doors. Secretary notifies me of a child calling me on the telephone from his home where he was out ill that day.
Knowing Danny to be a fine student, I understood immediately that his call was not a hoax. What to do with the knowledge? To notify the children would be too much for them or me to handle (Kindergarten through grade six school); better let parents help them through it. Teachers needed to know and were informed by a note delivered to each room by me. It asked that youngsters be allowed to leave at regular dismissal without knowing; my brain already reaching for how I would deal with my own five kids.
GRANT VAN PATTEN, Saratoga Springs
I was a TV director at WRGB (now CBS6). We had set up the studio for me to videotape a 15-minute fashion show called “Solomon’s Fashions on Parade” to be played on the air in a few days. There were TV monitors in my booth as well as in the studio which were showing what was on the NBC TV network. Both the models and I saw the very moment when NBC interrupted their regular morning programs to announce the breaking news from Dallas. I stopped our Fashion taping for thirty minutes so we could absorb what was happening. The final take on the “Fashions on Parade” show was never shown on the air.
Our local programs on WRGB were all cancelled for the next four days. while we stayed with the NBC network, which included the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald. During those days my job (and the job of the rest of the production staff) was to simply cut away from the network once an hour for 5 seconds to show our station’s call letters which was mandated by the FCC. We ran no programs nor commercials for those four days. This was the one time in my 20 year career as a television director that I have never forgotten the details as to what happened during four days in a row on my job.
GREGORY WILSON, Clifton Park
Over the 50 years I often think what our world would be like if the assination never happened. I was in typing class at Shenendehowa. When someone said over the loudspeaker everyone was going home early. No one knew much at that time or why we were being released early. At 17 years old I certainly wasn’t sure of anything bad happening. When I found out that our president was dead, I just didn’t feel like being a part of anything for the next week. He gave us so much hope and dreams of what could be.