Darlene Foster's Blog

Where were you?

Posted on: November 23, 2020

One question often asked of those of us who were around at the time is, “Where were you when you heard that President John F Kennedy had been shot?” I remember the day clearly even though it happened fifty-seven years ago.

I’d like to share with you a poem a poet friend of mine wrote.

22/11/63

A shot rang out across the years

embedded itself in a nation’s fears.

November the month with stains on its soul

history stilled near a green grassy knoll.

The New Camelot was shattered

and everyhing that mattered

suddenly not an issue

as fragile as brain tissue.

poem by John McGilvary

John F. Kennedy May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

It was a sad day indeed. I remember it was recess time at school and one of the boys said that Kennedy had been shot. I said that it wasn’t funny and he shouldn’t joke about things like that. Once we returned to class, the teacher was visibly upset and broke the news that the President of the United States had indeed been shot. I couldn’t believe it. I thought about his beautiful wife and adorable little children and cried. There have been many other sad events since then, but this sticks with me as it was the first international news that affected me as a young girl living a sheltered life on the Canadian prairies.

Do you recall that day?

“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” JFK

78 Responses to "Where were you?"

I was 16 years old, just left school, a failure. Started work in the local tannery, we had a black & white tv. Still living in a tiny Lake District village.

Yes, it was all on black and white TV. Which made it even more sombre I think.

I was seven years old. I remember watching the reports on the UK television news and my dad trying to explain it to me.

It would have been hard for small children to comprehend. I was in high school and it hit me hard.

I was in fourth grade and happened to be home sick that day. I’d been watching the Dick Van Dyke show and then Douglas Edwards and The News was on when the program was interrupted with the news that Kennedy had been shot.

One never forgets these things, do they?

I wasn’t born until 1965, but of course grew up seeing the video and hearing the stories. One memorable moment for we was watching the stalwart Walter Cronkite announce that President Kennedy had died.

It was most likely that the first announcement I saw on TV was by Walter Cronkite, although it was our teacher, Mr. McCormick who told us about it first. Those tapes were played over and over for many years.

How could I ever forget? I was 10, and got home from school to find my Mum sitting in front of the tv with tears running down her face. I was just beginning to understand a little about governments and politics at that time, and knew this was momentous. The consequent shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald also got a lot of coverage – those were a couple of remarkable days.

The whole series of events was unbelievable. At 10, it certainly would have made an impact.

It was a very unusual weekend!

Vividly remembered…I was with my first two, young sons, at home in the living room. We had been watching Childrens’ TV and then came the announcement that President Kennedy had been shot Totally shocked, tears streamed down my cheeks, and my three-year old said “What’s the matter, Mummy?”

It is amazing how it is still so vivid in our minds.

Apologies…The poem was certainly apt. Thank you. x

This was my post about where I was and what it meant to me…
https://aipetcher.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/a-life-in-a-year-29th-may-birth-of-a-president-and-a-legend/

A great post, Andrew. To think it had an effect on a nine-year-old boy in the UK.

It was an important day in a young boy’s life

Still a distinct memory, marking the calendar in a stunning way, as the event happened during my first year of teaching. A knock on my classroom door, and an administrator uttered the dreadful words, “The President has been shot.” We paused for prayer. Then, not five minutes later, another knock, and the dreadful words: “The President is dead!” Classes were disbanded. Our world stopped!

Time to pause to thank a God who is with us no matter what horrible things happen in this world, and a time to remember that we are pilgrims passing through to a better life, a life eternal.

What grade were you teaching at the time, Marian? It must have been difficult for you to tell the students. Yes, we are never alone, not even during terrible times. xo

I was teaching high school seniors, who understood the implications of all this, even though we all were initially in shock. During the following week, they learned the meanings of the words cortege, requiem, and so on.

At the time I was 17 and in grade 11. We had just started to write our chemistry exams when the teacher announced that the President had been shot! Tears flowed throughout the class and no one passed their exam that term!
That night I had just started my first after school job working in the toy department at the Hudson’s Bay and the TV department was right next to the toy department. No toys were sold that night as all staff and customers were surrounding the TV’s! An event I’ll never forget.

It’s amazing how vivid the memory is after all this time. Thanks for sharing your memory. xo

Thank you for sharing your memories of this sad day. I was in jr. high when Reagan was shot. I was afraid for his life. Our history teacher brought the tv into our classroom do we could watch the news.

That was a scary time too. No one likes to think their leader may die.

Exactly, we were frightened. Especially because we’d heard the stories about JFK from our relatives and were worried it would be similar.

This was before my time, Darlene, but I know about it, of course. I can imagine it sent massive shock waves throughout the world.

It did affect the entire world. I still recall the blood-stained Channel suit, Jackie Kennedy was still wearing when Lyndon Johnson was sworn in. I felt so bad for her. What a terrible experience to have to go through and with the whole world watching.

A horrifying event that let the world know, no one is truly safe.

That’s true. After that security was strengthened. I don’t think anyone imagined it could happen in this age. Such a shock.

I was eight years old back then and don’t remember where I was. I do remember the many TV images and the shock of seeing a real person actually die.

It was shocking at any age. TV made it all so real, didn´t it.

Absolutely. After that event, the shock factor somehow dimmed in me, I think, with every assassination, or attempted assassination, after that.

I was 12 and in 7th grade sitting in English class. Never will forget that time. Then Nov. 23, 1982, at age 31, I was run down on the street by a drunk and drugged driver. I survived. So it is a day to celebrate the life I nearly lost. But strange to have to events so close.

Oh my! A day for us to celebrate that you are still here with us. xo

I remember it vividly. I was in school, and the principal made the announcement over the loudspeaker. I watched the wall with the loudspeaker and the clock above, thinking of the exact time he was shot. We all went home and were glued to the television for the next two days.

I think in many cases the announcement was made by the principal over the loudspeaker. We didn´t go home until the end of the day but I´m sure we didn´t learn much. I do recall we read about and discussed Abraham Lincoln. We also watched the events on TV that weekend.

We were glued to the TV all weekend.

I remember it very clearly. I was in the second grade, and we were in the first grade classroom for some reason. The principal came to the door and announced that the president had been shot. I don’t think I’d ever seen grown-ups upset like that before. We were sent home and had the next several days off school. I remember being fascinated by the television coverage.

It was a Friday and that weekend was spent in front of the television. I think the funeral was on Monday. So sad.

Yes, it was. Jackie’s face was haunting.

I was five years old. My grandfather picked me up from Kindergarten and told me as I was getting into his car. This is one of my earliest memories.

This is something that sticks with you.

I was about to turn five, and I didn’t understand the event’s significance at the time. We hardly ever had the television on in our household, but I remember it being on a lot during that period. I didn’t understand anything about hatred at that age.

You don´t at that age do you? I was a teenager but I was not aware of such hate either.

I was six. In my head, we’re in the little front garden of our semi in north surrey. Dad is digging and mum comes out and tells him. They both stop gardening. It’s the memory of that – them stopping what they were doing in the garden that makes it memorable. But then I wonder how faithful this memory is? Why wasn’t dad at work and me at school as the shooting happened at noon on a friday? But that’s 5pm in the UK. So maybe it was the next day, Saturday morning and his death was being confirmed when mum brought out the news which interrupted their gardening and stunned a little boy that there was something so momentous that it made his dad put down his spade.

Thanks for sharing this. It is amazing all the memories of this event from all over the world. It´s likely your parents heard about it the next morning due to the time difference.

I wasn’t alive when he was shot, but I’ve heard my mother express her sadness of hearing the news. Obviously Kennedy had left a positive impression on her.

President Kenndy was well-liked which made the fact that someone so ruthlessly shot him in front of his wife and while so many people were watching. all the more upsetting.

My mother came home from the hospital with my brand new sister on that day. She laid her on the chesterfield, turned on the TV to watch her stories, and there it was.

Oh my. Such a happy event to be spoiled by such awful news.

What a beautiful poem, Darlene. It captures the day. I remembering being confused. How could someone hate a President who had done so much?

I felt the same. My heart broke when I saw Jackie and the children at the funeral. I too felt the poem said it all.

What a powerful poem, and your memories hammer home the shock it was.

I was so impressed with the poem. The event was the end of innocence for many of us.

What a poignant post, Darlene. I too, was in grade school and remember the day vividly. We were sitting at our desks and Mrs. Osborne had just started our English lesson. There was a knock on the classroom door (never a good thing), she went to the door and spoke with the school principal. A sudden gasp and hand to her throat – she was visibly shaken. She came back in and delivered the sad, shocking news in a trembling voice. We didn’t know what to think … or do … or say. It was truly beyond our comprehension.
It’s a very difficult day to recollect, but we must never forget. We can’t let it come to this ever again. ~Terri

Thanks, Terri. it was a terrible day in history and had a profound effect on so many of our generation.

I was barely 4 years old watching TV with my younger brother when Cronkite announced it. 😦

Even at 4, I’m sure you could sense the seriousness of the situation.

I was in 4th grade and the teacher made an announcement. We were all shocked and then I remember being glued to the TV with my family for the next few days….very sad time. Thanks for the post, Darlene!

As 911 has been for the younger generations, this event really had an impact on us. I guess the constant television coverage really imprinted it on our minds.

that was a sad news indeed

I was in my last week of basic training in Fort Knox, Kentucky. I described it in the second half of this blog post, which is mainly about 9/11.
https://operasandcycling.com/the-afternoon-of-9-11/

Thanks for sharing your memory of that awful day.

I wasn’t born yet, but I have a huge fascination with the whole Kennedy/Camelot story. I often wonder what their lives would be like today.

I have often wondered about it too. The Kennedy family certainly had more than their share of sad events.

They really did, and I think that’s the mystery of it all.

I was a senior in high school. Everything came to a screeching halt when word reached us.

It was upsetting for the kids in Canada. I can only imagine how it affected those in the US.

Darlene,
I’m wanting to get my stepson one of your books. Alex is autistic but reads well. He loves his books. Which book would you recommend?
Thanks!

Thanks, John. He might like Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone. Readers enjoy the landscape, cowboys, stampede and dinosaur museum. Alberta is a pretty unique province. There is also some First Nations info woven in the story.

Yes, even in Australia we heard the news and were shocked.

A shot that was heard around the world has often been used to describe the event.

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