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If You Were On The Planet On November 22, 1963, You Know Exactly Where You Were When You Heard The News

Kennedy Assasination
Three Lions/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

There are certain events that happen where everyone knows exactlywhere they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. It doesn’t happen often and thank God for that, because often the event is not good news.

I recall my Dad telling me he remembered exactly where he was when he heard that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Others have said they remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard that FDR had died. For many of them, he was the only President they had ever had.

My kids will forever know where they were and what they were doing when they heard about the planes, the buildings, the deaths that defined 9/11/2001. None of us will forget that day.

And then, for those of us of a certain age, we will never forget what happened that Friday, November 22nd, 1963.

I was in grade school, a little farm boy without a care in the world. I went to that little 2 room schoolhouse with my brother, back those many years ago in that little town called Leota. Three grades in my room, about five or six kids in a grade, most of us the children of the farmers around the area.

In was just after recess, around one in the afternoon, we had just come in from playing tag or maybe a late season game of softball or maybe “Red Rover, Red Rover”. It was a carefree day, just another day at the little schoolhouse.

No one, not a single one of us, knew that we would remember that day for the rest of our lives. That’s how it is, of course, on those most memorable days. They start out as…just another day.

We had just come in from recess, had just found our desks and settled in for a final afternoon of school for the week. Mrs. Gunnink was standing by the table at the front of the room, just about to call up the first class of the afternoon when she looked out the big window behind us.

There was Jake, our school bus driver, out on the school lawn, waving his arms and motioning for Mrs. Gunnink to come outside. She told us to stay at our desk, be quiet and she’d be right back.

Mrs. Gunnink went outside and talked to Jake while we waited, probably talking, whispering, doing anything but having that schoolbook open. We waited. It seemed like a long time, but maybe it wasn’t. Mrs. Gunnink came back in and…

She was crying. Our teacher was crying. She sat behind that front table, wiped her eyes and said…whispered really…that President Kennedy had been shot. And that President Kennedy had died.

I don’t remember the rest of that afternoon. I don’t know if we had classes, or if we just talked, or what we did. I don’t think we went home early, but we might have. I don’t remember doing chores that night or what me and my brother and my parents did. I don’t remember that.

But I remember my teacher cried. At my young age then, I didn’t realize the importance of what happened. I didn’t realize the magnitude of what happened that day in Dallas, Texas, I didn’t realize the tragic history that had been made. I didn’t realize that “Camelot ended”, that the world had changed, that questions would still be asked 50 years later and perhaps forever. I didn’t realize any of that.

But my teacher cried. I knew it was important, whatever this all was. It was important because my teacher cried and teacher’s don’t cry. Maybe it was the first time I realized that teacher’s aren’t just teacher’s. Their people that hurt just like we all hurt.

I’ll never forget that day. I suppose every generation has one or two of those, where everyone knows exactly where they were and what they were doing when they…heard.


Another Bizarre Day: November 24, 1963

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