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How we remember JFK's assassination

Your Turn


To mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, we put out a call on Facebook for your memories. We followed up with a few respondents for further reflections on how they view the tragedy today.

Here are some excerpts; for more, see this slideshow.

Charles T. Jones

Then: I was playing hooky as usual. CBS interrupted an I Love Lucy rerun with the news that the president had been shot. I was 13 and didn't know what death was, exactly. I still lived in a magical world. All through his funeral, I kept half-expecting JFK to rise up out of his casket and say it was all a big joke.

Now: Looking back, I wonder what my world might be like today, had it not been for the gunshot deaths of JFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Bobby Kennedy, Indira Gandhi ... So JFK's death makes me think today about all those people, their lost potential, our lost potential, and guns.

I remember the worries about Kennedy's Catholicism, and the propaganda from his political adversaries that the Vatican might have undue influence. And, like all American men, I was helplessly in love with Jackie.

I remember the national dread during the Cuban Missile Crisis ... what we didn't know then was that a Russian submarine commander refused to fire as ordered, perhaps saving the world's human population. Or how fragile was JFK's health, or of his womanizing, which would have been intolerably scandalous for a public figure in his time.

JFK was my hero, and I had a great deal of trouble accepting his death. I still mourn his passing, though I'm more cynical today, and more prone to question his father's financial influence on his career. For me, those were happy days in the too-short period when Kennedy was my president, and Jackie owned so much of my heart.

Leslie Blair Gallagher

Then: We were sent home from school after the announcement, and it was the first time that I walked home alone. I arrived at my house to find my mother and our cleaning lady clinging to each other over the ironing board, sobbing in each other's arms, and then they gently enfolded me into their circle. My grandparents arrived home from a two-year stint in Pakistan the day before the funeral. We watched it on TV with me sitting in my grandfather's lap for the first and only time I can ever remember.

Now: On reflection, it was the beginning of the end of my innocence as to my view of the world. We actually discussed this over dinner tonight. My companions weren't even born yet. They acknowledged the profoundness of the event, but it had no visceral impact on them as it did on me. I was the daughter of a Democratic Committeewoman. I rang doorbells, made phone bank calls and stuffed envelopes with campaign materials for JFK.

Mary Kay (last name withheld)

Then: I was in sixth grade in a Catholic school. The principal knew JFK personally. We all gathered in the lunchroom and as she was telling us what happened, she broke down crying, and we all started crying.

Now: For whatever reason, the horse with the backward boots sticks out in my mind more than anything else. ... When I was 12, I believed anything anybody in authority told me. Now I believe the conspiracy theories.

Greg Howard

Then and now: When I was in seventh grade, I was given an assignment by Mr. Martinez, my social studies teacher at H.H. Wells Middle School in Brewster, N.Y., to go home and interview my parents as to what they were doing when they heard the news of JFK's assassination. This marked the 20th anniversary. I could not believe that he thought they would remember something 20 years ago.

To my amazement, my mother remembered every detail: where she was, who she was with, what radio station she heard it on, what the day was like, what she was wearing, every detail. It was not until I was 30 years old that I ever understood how she remembered the details so well. It was Sept. 11, 2001, when that memory became such a reality. That was the JFK assassination of our generation.

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