We never had to admit our transgression, as suddenly Monsignor Rice appeared on the altar and whispered something to the young celebrant, Father Edward Brockhaus. And then, Monsignor Rice stepped to the pulpit and made the announcement: "President Kennedy has been shot and killed. When our Mass is concluded all students are instructed to return to their home room and be dismissed for the day. You will go immediately to your public bus and make your way home." We sat in shock, going through the motions of Mass and as the final blessing was bestowed on us all, we walked solemnly down the aisle...to be met by local news media, congregating at our Cathedral, the center of the Roman Catholic Church in the San Diego Diocese. Outside I found my older sister, Agnes; she was a high school junior and crying we made our way to the bus stop and took the 16 mile drive to our home.
When we arrived home our parents were waiting for us with our other two siblings. The television was on and remained on for the next three days, non-stop. In 1963 there were only the major networks on the three San Diego channels, NBC, CBS, and ABC. But each network channel covered this life altering event continuously: such as the transporting of the President's body to Air Force One with First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy walking next to the casket. (We did not have color TV, so we depended on the TV anchor to describe her pink suit, with matching pillbox hat.) Later we would see still photos of Lyndon B. Johnson being administered the oath of office aboard Air Force One. And still later we would watch as the President arrived back in Washington, DC. I remember we wept openly for three days. Our parents wept, a sight seldom witnessed by us. We all knew that our lives had changed forever. Within two days we were still watching live coverage as Jack Ruby shot and killed Lee Harvey Oswald (the suspected assassin).
On November 25, 1963, John F. Kennedy, Jr's (John-John)third birthday, President Kennedy's funeral took place. My memory of this day is that of my family sitting in the living room watching the procession, a graceful First Lady, the funeral mass, and dignitaries from all over the world gathering to honor our fallen President. And then there is the heart warming memory of little John-John saluting his father.
Every year at this time I stop and remember President Kennedy. Somehow life has gone on, 45 years since this fateful day. And every year I have wondered how life might have been had November 22, 1963, passed without incident. Today, Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News posed the same question.
|Daniel, John Kennedy, Jr, Aaron - March 1991|
Yes, it is Saturday. This is not a technical blog, but you do have to wonder about a nation that connected 45 years ago today with television, radio, newsprint, photos, magazines and a common bond of a shared loss. This was a day that shaped our lives forever.
Feel free to leave a comment of your memories from November 22, 1963.