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The Kennedy Assassination Was The Most Public, Yet Most Personal Moment Of Our Lives

Kennedy Motorcade
Keystone/Getty Images

December 7, 1941.

November 22, 1963.

September 11, 2001.

Those three dates are the one’s that, if you were on the planet and old enough to remember, you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

Pearl Harbor was bombed.

The President was assassinated.

The Twin Towers were hit by airliners.

In each instance, the event changed the world.

I was 8 years old on November 22nd, 1963.  Hard as it is to believe these days, I attended a two-room school in a very small town named Leota, Minnesota.  We had just come in from noon recess.  We played pretty much what every kid played ‘in those days’…it might have been ‘Red Rover Red Rover’.  We may have been on the swings, maybe the Merry-Go-Round.  Perhaps we were throwing a football around, or shooting a few hoops on the outdoor cement basketball court.  If I recall, those hoops needed new nets.

We had come in, taken our desks and Mrs. Gunnink was getting ready to have one of the grades (there were four grades in each room, eight grades in all) come up to the big table when she looked out the window….

Jake was outside waving at her.  Jake was our bus driver, stopping at all the farms around the area picking us kids up and bringing us to school.  He was waving his arms out there on the schoolyard, wanting Mrs. Gunnink to come out.

That was strange.  But out she went to see what Bus Driver Jake needed.  She was gone for, oh, I don’t know, a short while.  And when she came back in, I was shocked, shocked like I suppose only an eight year old child can be shocked.

Our teacher was crying.

Teachers don’t cry.  But she was.  She was crying.

The President of the United States had been shot.  They said he was dead.  Someone had shot the President.

At eight years old, I didn’t, of course, realize what that meant.  I didn’t realize this was an historical event, an historical tragic event.

But I did know this.  I knew teacher’s didn’t cry.  And if they did, something bad had happened.  Something more bad than anything I had ever known.

That afternoon newspapers around the world put out special editions confirming the news.

Kennedy Newspaper
Three Lions/Getty Images

Beginning that Friday mid-day November 22, 1963 and running through Monday November 25, there were no commercials on TV…only coverage of this awful event.

Mrs. Kennedy, draped in black, with those two little kids…

Kennedy Mourbners
Central Press/Getty Images

The funeral on Monday, a funeral like none of us had ever seen, young or old…

Kennedy Funeral
Central Press/Getty Images

And the gravesite, with a flame that burns eternal, an image that still solemnly resonates with all who see it…

JFK Grave
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It would be later that other images would emerge….the motorcade, the President waving, smiling, Mrs. Kennedy with the famous pink dress and pillbox hat…and later still, pictures from the so-called ‘sniper’s nest’….

Sniper's Perch
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

And then, of course, the most famous film sequence in history, the Zapruder Film.  And even today, as it was when it first became public, it is extremely disturbing so please view at your own discretion…

I pray that my son and daughter and my 5 grandchildren never have to experience a national tragedy like the one that occurred on November 22, 1963.

And with all that being said, the thing that burn’s in my memory the most:  My teacher cried.

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