Fifty Years Later: One Day We Came Together

I wasn’t a big fan of the school cafeteria in fifth grade.  I always stressed over the
food…where to sit…was the boy I currently crushed on ignoring me…feelings of
inadequacy…and then one day a significant moment.  I was in an argument with another girl when
the principal interrupted our lunch to tell us President John F. Kennedy had
been shot and it had happened in Dallas just a couple of hours away from where
I lived.  Women serving food began to
cry. A teacher fell to a chair and held her head.  For a moment, all of the typical lunchroom
activity stopped…silence…then sobs.  Why
I heard these words spoken over
and over again…why did it have to be Texas?
I was ready to process through this moment with my parents,
but upon pushing the screen door open after school, I knew immediately my
mother wasn’t ready to talk.  Her eyes
were bulging red and the bust of President Kennedy which sat at the top of a
bookcase had been moved to the kitchen table. 
Her loyalty to the young President had annoyed my father, who did not
vote for him.  She didn’t care.  She often quoted his speeches and loved every
outfit Jackie modeled. She was caught up in the story of Camelot.  Her grief that day was as deep as if a family
member had passed away suddenly.  “Why
would anyone want to shoot such a great man,” she sobbed.  “I just don’t understand.” 
She sat and wept with Walter Cronkite, the only man in our
home who shared her deep grief.  Our
close knit neighborhood all seemed uncomfortable about the attention to Texas
as the site of the assassination and as the home of the new President.  The “Why Texas?” theme was said over and over
The mothers of my school friends sat around televisions,
some smoking cigarettes, some drinking hard liquors lamenting over what all of
this meant for America. Scenes eerily similar to those posed for Mad Men. 
I remember one of them so fearful Russia was going to attack our country
as they listened to a possible Russian connection to shooter Lee Harvey Oswald.
We watched the funeral. Mother cried when John-John saluted.  For days, a heavy cloud of doubt and fear hung over everyone. 

Eventually, the bust went back to the bookcase. The
lunchroom remained intimidating, and my mother esteemed President Kennedy until
she fell for Ronald Reagan.  Then she
never mentioned the assassination again.  
But, those moments when an entire nation wept together will forever
remain with me.  For during that time,
there were no Democrats, no Republicans, just Americans who lost a family
member they loved. 

Today’s post is part of a link up from the ladies of Midlife Boulevard.  You may read the other posts HERE.

Image from San Antonio Express News:


  1. I do not remember this day though I was alive. I was but two months old. But I have heard the stories all my life about this day. My mother is from Texas and Dallas is where she did her majority of her school years (grade school and high school) though the family later moved to California. She states that my father came home from work with my grandparents in tow and the four of them just sat in front of the television kind of transfixed. I kind of liken it to the day that Reagan got shot or the Pope got shot in 1981–I remember those days.

  2. What wonderful comments about "no democrats, no republicans" and that everyone grieved that day-especially given the divides in our party politics going on today. I'm not political but it seems that we need to remember that we are all human beings with the frailties that brings. It could all change in the blink of an eye. Great Post! Virginia- FirstClassWoman

  3. It's sad to think that often these immense tragedies are the most powerful way to bring our country together. I'm glad your mother had Walter Cronkite to share her sadness, even if your father didn't!

  4. Touching post Pam. At that young age these kind of memories leave such an impression. Thanks for sharing your personal experience. It's hard to believe it's been 50 years since that time in our country.
    xx, Heather

  5. I always thought almost everyone came together that day. No matter who the person was, to be assassinated the way he was is the most heinous of crimes. Nice post, Pam.

  6. Fascinating to read a Texas account of that day, I had never thought of it. I will never forget our principal, Miss Kelly, coming to our classroom with a shaky voice to send us home, because the President had been killed.

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