Jfk2_2_1 A reader reminds us that we almost closed out the day without mentioning the 41st anniversary of the JFK assassination. Indeed — but only because we lost track of the calendar, not because we don’t feel the date is important.

Nov. 22, 1963 was — like the Challenger explosion and now Sept. 11, 2001 — one of those definitive how-old-were-you and how-did-you-find-out events. For the Barista, it was during third-grade, in an elementary school in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC. Our memories of the day itself are a little vague. That day blends into all the black-and-white hued days that followed and somehow seem linked: the non-stop TV coverage, the grave mood of all the grown-ups, the procession of mourners just a few miles away, John-John’s brave salute, the deaths of Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, the RFK assassination, the shooting of Martin Luther King …

8 replies on “Do You Remember?”

  1. There were supposed to be parent-teacher conferences that day at my elementary school. We went home to find they’d been cancelled. My grandmother was hysterical. She kept saying “The president is dead. The president is dead.”
    After she died in 1975 I went through a huge trunk full of stuff that belonged to her. There was a huge stack of letters from JFK. My grandmother organized a very early fundraiser for him about a year before I was born.
    I had no idea.

  2. Mentioning Judy Garland in the same verbal skein is shameful. (Not to mention as big a philosophic reach as your usual Frank Rich Sunday column in the NYT.) Mentioning Marilyn Monroe only gives some credence to conspiracy theorists. You really could have kept those two to yourself. November 22 was wrenching enough for this nation without either of those references, really.

  3. I was sitting in a college physics class at CCNY. Word got around and everyone left classes and tried to console each other on the campus. We couldn’t understand what was happening. The President of the school went to the bell tower, whose bells no one could ever remember hearing rung and he rung them again and again. We, along with so many of our country, were suddenly lost.

  4. I was in sixth grade at Forest Avenue School, and looking back I know that that day was a not only a loss of innocenece for us as children, but a loss of innocence for the country.

  5. There’s nothing shameful about mentioning the deaths of two women who were national treasures in their own right. Both died way too young as did JFK and Bobby. I can’t speak to where I was that day, as I was yet to be born 🙂

  6. “When did Americans begin to suspect that the very idea of ‘truth’ in history might be an illusion? If that great change can be traced to any one day, it would have to be November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was shot. As the investigations unfolded and the reports were published, some of us began to realize that it would go on forever. We√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢d never be sure of the truth.
    “41 years later, it still looks that way. New facts may very well come to light. But the single-shot believers and the conspiracy theorists will each fit those new facts into their own interpretations. No facts will compel either side to change its mind.
    “The Kennedy assassination was the first great event in U.S. history that was widely recognized as a permanent irreducible mystery.”
    Entire article at:

  7. I was in 8th grade math class at GRHS, which is now Ridgewood Ave School. I remember it very well. It was the first time I ever saw grown-ups cry. Coincidentally, my son was in that exact same classroom, (where you could actually see the twin towers) in 4th grade on 9/11.
    And to Cathar – you REALLY get on my nerves – the Barista was just saying how that all blends into her black and white memories from those times – and besides isn’t every human life precious????? Your life must be pretty boring that you have to go around criticizing people all the time. Do us all a favor and go get a life – will ya?

  8. I was in Mrs. Skotcholas’ second grade class, sitting in the front row. Our principal, Ferris Herring, came to the classroom door and called her out into the corridor. She was remarkably controlled as she told us our president had been shot and was severely wounded, and announced we would have a moment of prayer for President Kennedy. We went home soon after.
    My mother called my father at Continental Motors to tell him; he said the phones were ringing off the hook in the office, and they’d turned on the radio in disbelief. It seems he came home soon after, shaking his head sadly when we asked if President Kennedy might still be alive, and finally blasting away our speculation with the flat statement, “They blew his brains out”. My mother hushed him, but he said “Well? She needs to hear! This is history!”
    I raced for the TV, not wanting to believe, still hoping, only to hear Walter Cronkite deliver the awful news with the catch in his voice that said louder than words that it was true. President Kennedy was dead.
    You may have heard that the idealism and innocence of the 50s died as Kennedy did. I think it’s true.

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