On Friday, November 22, 1963, I was a sophomore at Edinboro State College doing what many college students have a tendency to do. I was sleeping in… way in. I had no classes until late in the afternoon. Therefore, I’d stayed up the night before. I doubt if I was partying on a Thursday night. Most likely I’d stayed up late watching a movie on television; I doubt that I was up late studying. I’m trying to be honest here!
When my clock radio went off shortly before two in the afternoon I was stunned by what I thought I’d heard. The disc jockey had interrupted the music to report that the President had been shot. At least that’s what I thought he’d said.
My roommates were all in class, so I couldn’t get verification from them. Meanwhile, the DJ had returned to spinning records and, being about twenty miles away from any town with a radio station, searching the dial would’ve been fruitless. Most radios of the time did not pick up FM stations.
I had no choice but to get out of bed, get cleaned up and dressed, and walk the mile or so into town. By the time I got to Liz’s Restaurant, further reports had come in. The President had been shot and killed!
As soon as word reached the college administration, all classes were canceled for the remainder of Friday as well as Saturday morning. The nation was in shock and just beginning the mourning process. There was no sense trying to hold classes for a bunch of young adults trying to make sense out of a senseless act.
John F. Kennedy was elected on November 8, 1960 and was inaugurated on January 20, 1961. As I recall, although my parents seemed to lean toward the Republican party, having a Democrat elected President was not the big deal it is today. The only problem perceived with JFK by many Republicans was a fear held by many others – as a Roman Catholic, would Kennedy allow the Pope to take over the running of our government.
It makes me wonder how many of our fellow citizens are currently worried about our government falling into the hands of Black Power advocates or, worse, Muslims!
The fears regarding Kennedy being controlled by Rome were baseless… as are any concerns about Obama today.
The young people of the sixties quickly got behind JFK and his “New Frontier”. We also loved the idea of the Peace Corps. John Kennedy had some great ideas and was an extremely charismatic leader. The only problem I’ve come to recognize in him is a problem that could also face President Obama; simply stated, he hadn’t been in Washington long enough to gather a lot of dirt on his fellow politicians. Therefore, it was difficult for him to get Congress to support his initiatives.
Sadly, it took the experience and treachery of Lyndon Johnson to make Civil Rights a reality after the death of the man who so bravely fought for such legislation.
We college students had fretted for days when JFK led our nation through the Cuban missile crisis and walked miles in an effort to be physically fit. Suddenly, the body of our brave young leader was being carried in a caisson through the streets of Washington, DC, and we all shed tears along with his wife and children.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like when President Franklin Roosevelt announced that December 7, 1941 was a day that would live in infamy. I know the queasiness in the pit of my stomach on November 22, 1963 was repeated on September 11, 2001. I pray that I can live the remainder of my life without experiencing any more similar events.
This may be my last post for a few days. My bride and I are headed out for a short vacation. If I have access to the Internet, I may add a post or two and let you know what we’re up to. Otherwise, take the opportunity to catch up on some of the other articles here.