Bradenton-area residents remember Nov. 22, 1963

November 22, 2013 

Stephen Wrzesniewski

We asked Bradenton Herald readers to tell us where you were on the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. On the 50th anniversary of Nov. 22, 1963, we share some of those memories.

I was in religion class at St. Joseph School when we were told that the president had been killed in Dallas. I still remember the shock. How could this happen? He was the epitome of the dreams of so many people. Recently my grandson started school at St. Joseph's and when I walked into that same classroom, I still remember where I was sitting, the sadness of that day returned.

-- Katie Powers

I was 8 years old when Kennedy was elected as the first Catholic president. It was a historic and exciting time for all Catholics. On Nov. 22, 1963, at 10 years of age I was sitting in class when the Mother Superior came into the room holding her stomach with a sick look on her face and announce, "The president has been shot." Classes were immediately suspended.

Two days later while watching the events on TV, we were in mourning. Living in Chester, Pa., only 90 miles from Washington,

D.C., my mother decided on the spur of the moment to join the thousands of people in the line to view the president lying in state at the Capitol building.

Five of us went, arriving around 10 p.m. It was a long, cold night as we slowly made our way to the Capitol. We silently circled through the rotunda to emerge on the other side just as dawn was breaking over the horizon and not until years later did I realize that even though we lost a president, with the light coming in the eastern sky all hope was not lost.

-- Stephen Wrzesniewski

I was a 19-year-old student at Mississippi State College for Women in Columbus, Miss. A group of girls had gathered for a lunch and a game of cards in the lounge. The music on the radio was interrupted with the announcement that our president had been shot. At the time of the announcement, it was not known that he had, in fact, died. The room went silent followed by our gasps of surprise. Then fear, then tears, then numbness.

It was then that I realized, my world as I knew it, was not safe. Little did we all know that this was the first of many terrible things what would happen through some tumultuous times in our lives.

-- Barbara Littell

It was dismissal time at the high school where I was in my first year teaching government and history; when I entered the office everyone was crying. The principal in tears said, "President Kennedy was shot; he is dead." By the time I got home my father had the flag at half-staff. Dad strongly disliked Kennedy but quickly said 'He was the President and he is dead."

Monday was a national day of mourning and I continued to watch television coverage. However, I was being married in a month and I set up a table to address invitations as I watched. To my horror as I was checking the invitation list, I looked up to see Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as he was being transferred to another jail.

Kennedy's assassination and my anniversary are forever linked; we will mourn the loss of a young, dynamic President and celebrate our 50th carved in my mind forever.

-- Judith A. Kreiling

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a proofreader at the Bradenton Herald in the old building on 13th Street West. It was an evening paper then and Gilbert Arrant was the composing foreman. We usually got off about 1:30-2 p.m., but this day Mr. Arrant came to our door to say the president had been shot and we'd have to stay because the wire services were going crazy. I don't know how many times the front page had to be set up. We kept getting updates of the president's condition, headlines and stories. It was very somber for the whole department. The linotypes were really cranking out lead. Finally, word came President Kennedy was dead, then the last page went to printing. I don't remember what time we ended our shift that day, but it was hard to drive home."

-- Barbara Daffer

I was a 19-year-old student at the University of Maryland/College Park, sitting in an empty classroom, waiting for my next class. Another student, crying hysterically and shouting unintelligibly, came running into the room and turned on the television. And we just sat there, a roomful by this time, watching the story unfold, missing our next class, the professor watching it with us, all of us crying, grateful for each other's presence.

-- Lorraine Berry

My first-grade class at North Rise Elementary School in Clearwater was let out early, along with kindergarten and second grade, for some unknown reason. My brother caught up with me and ask if I'd heard President Kennedy had been shot. That afternoon church bells began to ring and I saw my mom walking home early from work. Later in the evening we all attended Mass. The funeral seemed like it was on for a week. Can't believe it's been 50 years.

-- Tim Sanor

I remember where I was when JFK was shot in Texas on Nov. 22, 1963. It was in the afternoon when I was traveling from Racine, Wis., to O'Hare Field in Chicago. I was driving a rental car and was listening to the radio when the news alert came across the airwaves. After returning my car to the proper agency, I was astounded by the solemn, quiet attitude of people in the airport. People arriving from their flights may not have known about the shooting but were quickly informed. I was able to continue my flight on to Syracuse, N.Y.

-- K.L. Deitsch

I was 13 years old in junior high school in New York City when JFK was assassinated. I remember that day clearly, I was in my art class when through the loudspeaker an announcement was made that our president had been shot and that class was dismissed early. I rushed home to tell my mother, but she had already heard and was glued to the television listening to the news. I can remember seeing my mother almost in tears as she was very fond of JFK, and she watched the news so intently that we didn't really speak, we just joined her and watched the news with her in silence.

-- Martha Garcia

It was my first day of school, as a junior at Palmetto High School. It was a day one could never forget! Going to a new school was stressful enough, but then to hear your president was shot, was more than I could bear. But thankfully, I was assigned, by our dean, Gene Witt, a very special girl, Nikki, to show me around. Being from 'up north', I was not used to open hallways. We heard people screaming from the windows that President Kennedy was assassinated. I will always remember my 1st day at PHS, and the comfort of Nikki.

-- Barbara Kurz Keen

On the day President Kennedy was shot I was living in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, and attending the seventh grade. While sitting in Mr. Hoppel's health class, the principal, Mr. Jesse Rankin, came over the PA and said we were in a national emergency as the president had been killed. I initially reacted to Mr. Rankin's words, "national emergency," as a warning that the Russians were coming. When that passed my teacher engaged us in a Q and A session in a teachable moment. Weeping dominated the remainder of the day.

-- Robert Thomas

When JFK was shot, I was getting ready to take my 3-month-old son to the pediatrician. We were living in a little cottage in Coconut Grove in Miami. The TV was playing in the living room, a woman's talk show. Suddenly I heard the voice of Walter Cronkite. "Nuts!" I thought, "Now what?" Then I heard him say, "The president's been shot." Stunned, I watched for a few seconds, then I grabbed up my baby and rushed to the doctor's office where we all stared at each other until we heard the final news.

-- Fern Williams

I have never forgotten that day. I was a waitress at a restaurant that was just off the base at Ellsworth Air Force Base (South Dakota). Seated at the counter were five top brass military officers. I turned around to pick up the coffee to refill their cups and every one of them had left without a sound. We had no idea what had happened, but found out later Kennedy had been shot.

-- Naomi Coleman

I was a medical student at the University of Missouri Medical Center at the time. It was in the middle of Dr. Jerry Brown's neuro-anatomy class (I was a first-year student) when a courier came into the class and interrupted his lecture to give him a note. Dr. Brown proceeded to say to the class, "The president has been shot!" I believe the class continued.

-- Ron Bopp, M.D.

I had just left the driveway to go to a weekly hair appointment. As always, the car radio was on and the electrifying news of President Kennedy's shooting came on. As soon as I reached the shop, I called my husband at home. We immediately canceled a planned card game that evening with friends to stay mesmerized in front of the TV.

-- Barbara Gullett Anderson

The back room in the Western Union telegraph office in Winter Park where I worked contained a large teletype machine with a red light on top. The equipment was to notify our office in case of a national emergency. An employee noticed the red light was glowing and yelled for me. The message contained information about the president being shot. Our entire office gathered around and we were all in shock. One of the girls was very upset and crying, so I sent her home. The red color intensified as more information about the shooting came in.

-- Carl Welch

I remember the fateful day of Nov. 22, 1963, when I sat in my American history class at 1 p.m. EST at the University of Dayton. In class, we discussed the "20-year curse." A U.S. president either had died or been assassinated approximately every 20 years beginning in 1840 when William H. Harrison died a month after being inaugurated. Other presidents elected/ re-elected in 20- year increments who lost their tenure included Abraham Lincoln, 1860s, James Garfield, 1880s, William McKinley, 1900s, Warren G. Harding, 1920s, and FDR, 1940s. Could it happen again????

Following class, I went to my job and learned that Kennedy had just been rushed to the Parkland Hospital in Dallas. The class coincidence was even covered in the Dayton Daily News which actually produced an EXTRA Edition delivered later that Friday evening. (It's the last time that paper produced an EXTRA.)

Americans were shocked. However, when JFK's casket was placed in the Capitol Rotunda on Sunday afternoon, some 250,000 Americans paid their respects.

It was the first time that TV covered an event in such detail.

-- Terri Kemper

I was in freshman gym class playing basketball. For this class, the gymnasium was divided to accommodate four half-court games. I was playing on the SE court and was just outside the foul line when the PA buzzer went off. The announcement put us all in shock.

-- Tom Woods

I was walking into a math exam at the high school that JFK attended, the Choate School in Wallingford, Conn., when I heard that he had been shot. I remember being upset because the school decided not to postpone classes on a subsequent day of mourning.

-- Jaime Canfield

I remember very well where I was when President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in the Woolworth's store on Route 66 in Albuquerque, N.M.

The news of the assassination was announced over the store's loudspeaker, stopping everyone in their tracks. Everyone was shocked by the announcement. Some cried and others refused to believe the news. People rushed home and stayed glued to their TVs for days afterward following the developments.

That horrible act of violence was a huge blow to our country, and this United States of America has never been the same since that horrendous day of infamy.

-- Carole Briesacher

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