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.
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.
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.
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.