The day Kennedy was shot, I was in first grade
at Fairlawn School, a rather toney elementary school
in Akron, Ohio
. Nothing was said. There were no announcement
The teachers sort of gathered purse-lipped in the hallway, speaking in hushed tones. They didn't know what to do. We sat at our desks, wondering what was happening. Then we were sent out for recess. A long recess, which didn't offend anybody. It was warm, sunny, and kickball was good. Finally the teachers called us back in and told us to gather our stuff. We were being sent home.
I was so happy! I figured Mom would be suprised to see me home so soon, but she wasn't. The biggest surprise was that Dad was home. That was unsusual. Dad didn't get home from work until well after my brother, my friend Kim and I had massacred a couple hundred imaginary Nazi soldiers. But there he was sitting there with solemnity he reserved for those times when I was about to get paddled. "Boys," he began, "the President is dead."
Now I had just turned seven, but I knew who the president was. He was the leader of our country. He had a young wife, a bunch of kids and had recently buried an infant son. Everyone was really sad when that happened, it seemed like we'd lost someone too. And now he was gone. I knew death was final, but I hadn't lost anyone yet. No one I remembered, at least.
TV sucked for the rest of the weekend. Nothing but news, spoken in hushed tones. For endless hours the cameras focussed on a flag-draped coffin in the White House, guarded by stern faced Marines. And my parents kept it on. Okay, the president was dead, but I was barely seven? Surely a presidential assasination isn't enough to pre-empt Woody Woodpecker? But it was.
The only break came one afternoon when a network got smart and played PT-109. That was cool. If the weather hadn't been decent I would have been driven nuts. Then came the funeral. The coffin was carried on a horse-drawn caisson. I watched as Jackie lit the eternal flame. A day after that, television improved.
That, in a nutshell, are my memories of President John F. Kennedy's assasination. I didn't understand until years later what it all had meant. It's hard to be somber when you're seven.