Reflections on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

by Rich Weatherly

For anyone old enough to remember the JFK assassination it’s one of those significant emotional events we’ll never forget. It’s much like our memory of the attacks on 9/11.

I began my day on Friday November 22, 1963 preparing to return home from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center north of Chicago. Having just completed the US Navy Class A Radar School, I’d packed my sea bag, taken care of last minute administrative details and found myself sitting in the waiting room of the dispensary over the Noon hour, getting ready to retrieve my medical records. Our school was one of many graduating classes at the training center; some returning home while others transferred directly to a new duty station. Conversations centered on plans for the transition. The room filled with the low hum of chatter. Each person waited for his name to be called from a clerk at the front desk. At about 12:30 p.m. someone patched a Chicago radio station broadcast over the public address system.

Dealey Plaza

Dealey Plaza (Photo credit: Miradortigre)

The first announcements only mentioned an attack on the presidential motorcade and that Texas Governor John Connolly had been injured. As the facts began to be sorted out, we learned the truth. Shock and dismay spread across the faces of everyone gathered and the chatter transformed into silence when we learned that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated.

English: John F. Kennedy, former President of ...

English: John F. Kennedy, former President of the United States. Slightly modified from original (right eye darkened to match brightness of left). Türkçe: John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963), Amerika Birleşik Devletleri’nin 35. Başkanı. 1961 yılında Başkanlık görevine başlayan Kennedy, 1963 yılında hâlâ görevdeyken bir suikast sonucu hayatını kaybetmiştir. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Later that afternoon, I boarded a Santa Fe passenger train on my way to Union Station in Dallas, Texas only a couple blocks from the School Book Depository. The train was scheduled to arrive almost exactly forty-eight hours after the assassination of the president but minutes before arrival at the station, our train pulled off to a siding. When we finally arrived at union station we learned why we were delayed. Jack Ruby had shot and killed the alleged assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Ruby shoots Oswald. Robert H. Jackson won the ...

Ruby shoots Oswald. Robert H. Jackson won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography for this photograph. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That was quite a blight on the six-week leave I’d taken before returning to active duty. Speculation reigned for a time over the meaning of the events that weekend of November 22-24, 1963. The entire nation mourned this popular president, and we watched as the media covered events leading up to his burial in Arlington Cemetery. It’s hard to believe fifty years have passed since the terrible sequence of events.

If you were old enough at the time to remember the impact this  event had on your life, I encourage you to leave a comment. This was a pivotal event in the  history of our country.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Reflections on the Assassination of John F. Kennedy

  1. Hi Rich,

    A very personal and reflective piece. Being from the UK and born after the event, it’s hard for me to imagine what effect living through it would have had on someone who did. That you remember the time so vividly, and feel motivated to recount it so clearly now, is testament to how much JKF’s death can still touch the lives of people today.

    • Hello T. James,

      Thank you my friend. It seems that terrible event marked the beginning of a major cultural shift in this country. The City of Dallas is hosting a solemn tribute to the life of JFK today, one that should be insightful while showing his contributions to this country in a positive light.

  2. A very good post, Richard. I think that day changed a lot of things in America.

  3. Angie Mc

    Thanks for sharing your personal memory of this tragic event. I do have my mother’s memory which includes me. She was pregnant with me and heading to a prenatal visit at McConnell Air Force Base hospital when she heard the news. She remembers every detail of that day to include the unity she felt on base. And she tells me how she tried to stay calm as not to upset me. Such bittersweetness.

    • You’re welcome, Angie. I’m glad your mom discussed this tragedy with you and expressed her concerns about your welfare. I suppose that in someways your mother and I shared the event in common to the extent we were both at a medical facility operated by the military. That was a somber experience and subdued my enthusiasm about returning home.

      • Angie Mc

        Exactly. I’ll call my mom today and relive the day with her. Blessed am I. Also, I sent you a DM via Twitter regarding a small detail.

  4. Thanks for sharing your memory. I can imagine how a navy man must have felt as those days unfolded. I was in gym class. The coach actually told us all to sit down on the grass outdoors. There the man who was mostly a human rock, had to wipe his eyes as he told us what had happened in Dallas. They let us all go home early. I agree with those who’ve posted above, that America changed on that day in many fundamental ways. We can’t return to the hopeful bliss we all grew up in, ever again.

    • You’re welcome, Richard. It seems that day changed the way we look upon the world around is in unprecedented ways. Thank you for taking the time to share your personal experiences from that day. The sense of loss that day affected us beyond measure.

  5. Such a powerful memory, Rich. Thanks so much for sharing. I was in study hall in my sophomore year. Stunned, so sad, and scared. I still remember it very vividly. The world changed forever that day.

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