Friday, November 22, 2013

11-22-1963

I remember within 10 feet of where I was on November 22, 1963. I had PE just after lunch in the old
gym at Dora High School.
An announcement came over the PA saying that President Kennedy had been shot in the Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas.
The echo of bouncing basketballs and squeaking tennis shoes on a varnished gym floor faded into almost total silence.
I remembered dropping onto the bleacher, almost in shock, trying to get my mind around what I'd just heard.
What happened next seems almost surrealistic. A kid came running into the gym shouting: "Kennedy's been  Shot! Kennedy's been shot!" What was so strange is that it wasn't sadness in his voice but it sounded almost as if he were celebrating.
Apparently his parents were against the president's progressive civil rights policies, and voiced their feelings around the kids.
What's interesting is that Jilda had a similar experience and she was miles away at a different school at that time. You know what they say about little ears.
The next few days were a blur, but I do remember the school assembling in the auditorium to watch Kennedy's Funeral.
As it happens, the shouting kid sat a few seats away from me as we watched the horse drawn coffin ease down Pennsylvania Avenue.
When Kennedy's young son John John stepped closer and saluted his father's coffin as it passed, the boy who'd been joyful a few days before, sobbed openly as the scene transpired. Our country changed that day.
Lem Johns is the dark-headed man second from the right.
This photo was taken on the presidential aircraft shortly
after Kennedy died.
A few years ago I had the opportunity to interview Lem Johns who was there in Dallas that day in 1962. He was one of the Secret Service agents on the presidential detail. He was two cars back at 12:30 p.m. when the shots rang out.
As we talked during that interview, there was a sadness in his voice. Of course there was little he could have done, but the president was assassinated on his watch.
I got a Linkedin request from an actor last year asking how he could get in touch with Lem. Apparently he'd gotten the part of Lem in a movie about the assassination. He Googled Lem and saw that I'd written a story about him.
I never give out contact information without checking first, but Lem said he'd be happy to speak with the actor, so I hooked them up. The movie was in theaters this summer.
I hope you all have a remarkable weekend. Wish us luck -- Jilda and I are doing a CD release show tomorrow night.


12 comments:

  1. I remember where I was, too.
    I imagine all remember exactly where there were when they heard the news.
    I also want to add that I love the photo of the leaves on your blog this evening. It is beautiful!

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    1. It's one of those iconic moments in history that people remember.

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  2. JFK's assassination played an important role in changing our perception of ourselves and the world. What's sad is he, who called upon us not to respond to challenges, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans seeking solutions, wouldn't even recognize the political landscape of today.

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  3. That interview with Mr. Johns must have been fascinating. I have been riveted by the coverage of this all week. I find it fascinating. In 2 1/2 as President years he changed our nation forever.

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  4. That was a very sad day even in Canada Our teachers were upset and my parents were crying at home.
    Such a waste . To talk to some one who was there that day is even more interesting. I am sure Lem must be still feeling bad. but it was stupid of the President to drive in an open car. Made him an easy target. I am sure he was told not to do that. I think I heard that said . He was told by his guards not to do that but he wanted to be a people President. So sad.

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  5. All of us who were old enough to realize what happened have VERY sharp & sad memories of that terrible day. Love your photo!!

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  6. The silence--that is what I remember as well. All the days after were a blur.

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  7. I wasn't born until 1963 but I remember each year that was commemorated ...

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  8. I was four years old. I don't remember learning that the president had been killed, but I remember watching the funeral procession over and over again. One of my strongest memories is of a little girl I played with (I even remember her name), who told me she hated Kennedy and it was his own fault he'd been killed because he'd insisted on riding in a convertible. Obviously, she heard that from her parents. Even though I was so young, I knew that it wasn't right to talk that way.

    Love,
    Janie

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  9. Funny. I was only three, but I have memories of the seriousness and shock of what happened and the way my home felt as the adults reacted ….

    I love the autumn leaves pictured in your post…. and the haunting photo of that day….

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  10. I remember this day vividly as well. I was in 8th grade and in class when the principal made an announcement over the PA. I will never forget the loss we all felt on that day or the days that followed.

    On another note, be sure you and Jilda make a great memory for yourselves and your audience with the CD release show tonight!

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