Thursday, November 21, 2013

Almost six ... I remember ... JFK assassination

May 29, 1917 - Nov 22, 1963
Arlington National Cemetery
Eternal Flame

I remember ...
Waking up ... November 22, 1963.
How many days until my birthday? Eight, right?
Yahoo, going to finally be six! Just about everyone is already that age.

Tired of being the baby of the class.
Better get out of bed. Up for school.
1st grade ... Mrs. Zavodny's class. I really love Mrs. Zavodny. She is the best teacher in the world!

Breakfast ... hope we are having Cream of Wheat ... Mom makes the best!
Wash face ... brush teeth. Pick out dress ... socks ... shoes.

Make sure to have lunch and school books.

Hope it's peanut butter & jelly. Really don't like lunch meats. They get slimy! Yuk!

Warmer coat. Mom says it's really cold. Oops ... where are my hat and gloves?

Mom reminds me to get milk money.

Look at clock ... better get going.

Walking to school can be such a pain!

No talking with neighbors or looking in store windows.

Mom says "straight to school!"

Catch up with friends.

Head in school building. Make sure not to run. Walk.

Hang up coat ... quietly to desk.

Stand to say "The Pledge of Allegiance".

Mrs. Zavodny takes attendance.

Go over subjects ... head to lunchroom.

Coats back on ... out to the playground.
Orderly line back into room, coats off once again.
Shortly after ... the world changed.
Something is wrong ...

Principal came into the room. Talks with Mrs. Zavodny. They are both crying.
Whispering starts ... students realize something is wrong.

Something happen to a parent? To another teacher?
Mrs. Zavodny tells class to prepare to leave for the day.

Our parents will have something to discuss once we arrive home.

Coats back on.
Walking home ... grown-ups crying. Very sad looks on their faces.

Start waking faster ... start to run.
Get home ... Mom is crying.

Sitting in front of the television with a box of tissues. What is wrong?!
"Debbie, this will be very hard to understand."

"Someone shot The President."

"He has died."

Very scared. What does this mean.
Mom tries to explain ... sounds like grown-up words.
Will we be ok? When will Dad be home? Will feel safe when he gets here.
School is cancelled ... everyone is very quiet.
Dad reading newspaper ... watching television ... not sleeping.
The President's funeral will be on television.
Have never been to a funeral ... this will be very strange.
Mom said the President's daughter and I are the same age ... just saw in the paper her birthday is three days before mine!
Poor little girl.

Sitting in living room ... November 24, 1963. Mom is in the kitchen.
Television is on ... gun shot!
"Mom ... that Oswald man was shot!"
"No, Debbie ... Oswald shot the President."
"No, Mom! Another man shot Oswald. Come here!"
Mom runs into room. Terrible look on her face.
"Will this sadness never end?" she says.
Feeling scared and confused.
Almost six years old.
The world changed forever.
I changed forever.
I remember ...


  1. Powerful. I was just a little older than you, and we only had radio, not TV, but I remember it vividly too.

    1. Judy,

      Thank you! This was the day I realized there were "bad people" in the world. The images surrounding that week will forever be in my head.

  2. Oh wow. That was beautiful & sad at the same time. I wasn't alive then. Reading your perspective of it, being a little girl at the time, just, wow. Thank you for posting.

    1. Caitlin,

      Thank you for stopping by to read the post and leave a comment. Sadly, this is one of my earliest memories. That entire week will always be part of who I am. Each generation has these moments of innocence lost.

  3. I was a little older, and maybe little sadder, because I had an idea what it could mean. All these years later, I still wonder...was it really "just" Oswald?

    I don't think there's any way to explain to the much younger generations just how sad it was...With so many tragedies since then, they understand sadness more in terms of "multiples', not just based around one person, no matter how personable or powerful. May they never have to learn our lesson!

  4. I was just approaching my 9th birthday and remember that day well. An end of our innocence, that's for sure. And the sadness - I will never forget the sadness.

  5. Excellent story telling. The detail is great. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  6. Great post, Deb. Our innocence as a nation and, to an extent, as individuals ended on that fateful day in Dallas. I was 11 years old and in class at Westover A.F.B, in Massachusetts. One teacher came into our room in tears and quietly told our teacher what had happened. She broke the news to us though I don't remember what she said. We sat there in shocked disbelief. I had just seen President Kennedy 3 weeks previously when he flew in for a brief address on the flight line. I had been cheerleading at a football game right across the street so the game stopped and everyone ran over to see him. Such a tragedy. I'll never forget that day.

  7. Deb, excellent post, I love the perspective. We are same age, I think, but I have no memories from the day. I remember going to church with my mom that night. All the adults were crying and I just remember wondering why they were all crying but not explaining the reason to me.