Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It Was 48 Years Ago, Today

Where were you when President Kennedy was assassinated? I was working in Fayetteville, Arkansas, while my hubby attended law school. He and another student and one of their Law Professors had gone to Little Rock to do some research. It was my habit to walk to work at the Court House, as we only lived about 3 blocks away. On this day, I decided to home for lunch.

With the changing leaves, the Fayetteville square was beautiful, and I was enjoying the walk back, when I noiced something very unusual. A few of the businesses had placed television sets in their windows, facing outward. Pausing for a few moments to watch, I could tell something momentous was happening, but, not wanting to be late, I hurried on.

My desk in the Court House was at the end of the hall, just outside the Clerk's Office. As I passed by, a women in on of the offices called out to me, "Did you hear what happened to Kennedy?" For some reason, the question sounded like the beginning of a joke.  I stopped to hear the punch line, and couldn't believe my ears when she said, "He's been shot."

A few minutes later, we heard that the President was dead. The Clerk came out and to my desk and said my boss wanted me to go to the office, the Abstract Company, which was just next door. When I got there, he said the office would be closed until after the funeral.

I practically ran back to the apartment, wishing my husband hadn't gone to Little Rock. He told me later that when they heard the news, his professor said, "Pack up. We're going home. Now."  When he arrived, he found me glued to the television, and that's where we stayed, hardly sleeping or eating, until Tuesday, the day after the funeral.

What a horrible weekend that was! It had started out bad and just kept getting worse. We saw Lyndon Johnson sworn in on Air Force One, flanked by Mrs. Johnson and a blood-splattered Jackie Kennedy. We watched as heads of state from all over the world arrived in Washington, and heard messages of condolence from our eleced officials, all of them appearing a bit shell-shocked. We watched and listened as details of the funeral arrangements trickled out, all directed by Jackie Kennedy, herself. We watched, horrified, as Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down by Jack Ruby at the Dallas police headquarters.

We watched the funeral procession, culminating with little John-John saluting his father's casked as it passed, a gesture that brought America to its knees.

And, through it all ran the underlying fear that the country might be under attack. Still, we remained glued to our television sets, trying to understand what had happened. In the ensuing months, we waited to hear if Oswald had acted alone, or if he was one of a more complex plot. Hardly anyone was satisfied with the outcome of the Warren Commission appointed by President Johnson, to determine exactly what had happened.  By the time the commission issued its final report, everyone had already formed an opinion or a theory.  To this day, we don't really know, for sure.

What do you think?


Arkansas Patti said...

It was one of those days that is burned into our memory. Like you, when I returned to the bank after lunch and a girl told me Kennedy had been shot, I too thought it was a tasteless Kennedy joke and told her "not funny".
The shock was physical when we learned he had died and like you, every spare minute was spent glued to the TV. When Ruby shot Oswald, I thought the country I knew had disappeared. "What are we coming to?" consummed me.
I just bought Steven King's new book about going back in time and stopping the assignation. Can't wait to read it.
Your account was so similar to mine and brought it all back.
Well done post.

Grayquill said...

I was in the fifth grade. Third row back and the farthest chair to the left. The announcemnt came over the loud speaker...I can still see that speaker on the wall next to the ceiling.

Sister--Helen said...

I think LBJ's hands were unclean....I am not sure how much or how little but I truly believe he was dirty...

Lisa said...

What an interesting post, Betty. Thanks for writing this. Having lived in Dallas for several years, I have been keenly interested in the events surrounding that terrible day. If you haven't already done so, you might find the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas an interesting place to visit.

Karen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Karen said...

was a senior in high school and after lunch in English the intercom interrupted class and announced that President Kennedy had been shot. Stunned silence enveloped the classroom and we could not continue the subject matter. Our teacher's face mirrored our despair and disbelieve.

Yes, if you are old enough to remember that day, you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing. The days that followed were filled with more violence with the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald and his murder by Jack Ruby, the funeral of President Kennedy, and his sad, brave widow and his children.

Was it a lone gunman? Was there a plot planned by others. We will probably never know the whole truth in spite of all that we have learned over the years.