Many of you no doubt were not alive when President Kennedy was shot. However, fifty years ago many of you were. It is one of those important times as a nation, we are so shocked by an event that we remember it quite vividly. I was sitting in front of the TV set, watching my favorite soap, As The World Turns, in Houston, Texas. There was an interruption in the broadcast and Walter Cronkite came on the screen and told of President Kennedy being shot in a parade in Dallas. He did not have much other information, but did say he was in a most critical condition. But it wasn't long before he came back and said that he died at 1:00 PM Dallas time, as he took off his glasses and wiped his eyes in a moment in which he was visibly shaken, as most of the world was, when we heard the terrible news. I cried and just couldn't believe it. My husband was calling on a customer in his home in Houston and asked to use his telephone when he heard the news flash on his customer's TV. He called to share the grief that he knew I was experiencing, as well.
We were big admirers of John F. Kennedy. We had seen him twice in person, the past two years, when he came to Houston. One time, he spoke at the Rice University Stadium, in 1962. I was big pregnant with my third child and it was a hot day, but I was determined I would see him. Another time he visited Houston, we went to Hobby Airport when he arrived in the city and saw him pass by in a open convertible, on a street, near where we parked. As he stood up in the car to greet the onlookers, I was impressed by his handsome looks. He had, what appeared to be, a golden suntan, light sandy hair and light blue eyes. It's hard to believe I saw his light blue eyes at that time, but over the years of seeing his photos, I guess I filled in the picture in my memory. But I do remember his youthful beauty. Before his presidency, we had old men, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Harry S. Truman, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. None of whom, you could call dashing or good looking, not as John Kennedy was.
Kennedy was also considered one of our most intelligent presidents. I remember Kennedy's press conferences on TV. Kennedy sparred with the newspeople and always seemed to have a smile on his face. He created laughter among the newspeople as he answered their questions in a clever manner. But there were scary days with the failure of Bay of Pigs Invasion and when the Cuban Missile Crisis became a standoff with the Soviet President Krusheff, as the Soviet President was sending battleships to Cuba. After several days, the Soviet battleships turned around and headed back to the Soviet Union. For about a week, we were unsure whether the crisis would lead to a nuclear war. People in Cuero, where I stayed during part of my pregnancy, rushed to the grocery stores to obtain surplus food to fill up their pantries, in case such an event were to occur. As if that were the logical thing to do. The show down with the Soviet president resulted in the Soviet's withdrawal and it seemed Kennedy won.
Kennedy's family appeared exceptional. His wife, Jacqueline, was beautiful, educated, and a cultured woman who appreciated the arts, history, and fine music. Her figure and dress were immaculate and her good taste led to the renovation of the White House, where she gave us a tour on TV. We heard her speak for the first time. It was a gentle voice, soft as a young child's. Their children, Caroline and John John were adorable. The White House couple was not flawless, as we learned later, but to us they appeared to be. We soaked up every bit of news on them. It was an exciting time in history to see.
There were so many things to admire and learn about this Kennedy couple, who often met with their extended family of siblings and spouses and their children. The grown Kennedy siblings played football on the lawns of the White House and their homes at Martha's Vineyard. They were constantly going and doing exciting and interesting things. They practiced their Catholic faith in a most open and loving manner. The parents had experienced an exciting life, as well, with their nine children. Rose and Joe Kennedy themselves came from an interesting background. Rose Kennedy was reared in the Fitzgerald family, who were politically involved Irish Amercans, and made a big success in their country. John Kennedy's father was an ambassador to Great Britain during Franklin Roosevelt's administration and had been an extremely rich man in his work and investments.
In the week that followed Kennedy's assassination, we sat glued to the TV and watch the filmed events first hand. The horrible events that took place in Dallas that beautiful autumn day on Friday, November 22, 1963, became a week I will never forget.
Ask your parents and grandparents for their reflections on where they were on that fateful day, if you weren't around or too young to remember. This is just a snippet about where I was and why I had these emotional feelings about a very sad day in history.
P.S. This morning I watched a few Sunday morning talk shows and saw my favorite historian, Robert Caro, being interviewed. He had some glowing adjectives to describe John Kennedy. So, I looked him up on Facebook and found that he is on an NBC show airing next Friday night at 8:00PM (Central Time), called, "Where Were You: The Day JFK Died?" I swear, I didn't get my title from his FB before I wrote this essay. Sometimes, inquisitive minds have the same ideas. Please click on this link for a clip of Friday's show. http://nvcdn.nbcnews.com/_util/jfk50/#category-2