On Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was shot in the head while riding through the streets of downtown Dallas in an open limousine with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Gov. John Connally, and Connally's wife Nellie. Kennedy was rushed to the emergency room at Parkland Memorial Hospital where doctors were unable to revive him and he was pronounced dead about 1 p.m. CST.
Police arrested Lee Harvey Oswald about 1:50 p.m. that day and later charged him with killing the president and a Dallas police officer who tried to stop him from fleeing the Texas School Book Depository where law enforcement officers said the shots originated from. But Oswald was never brought to trial for his actions because he was shot and killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Nov. 24,1963, while being transported from the jail to the courthouse.
Millions of Americans watched the Oswald shooting because it was broadcast on live television as part of a continuous stream of news that started with Kennedy's assassination, the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson as America's 36th president and a three-day state funeral where Kennedy's body was displayed at the White House, carried to the U.S. Capitol on a horse-drawn caisson to lie in state and buried at the Arlington National Cemetery.
The Bulletin asked its readers to send us their stories about what they experienced after the Kennedy assassination and how it affected their lives. We heard from almost 100 people who told us they would ”never forget that day” no matter how old they were, where they lived or what they were doing when they heard the news.
We organized their stories into categories based on how old a person was or what he or she was doing when the shooting occurred and posted them to our web site where you can view them by scrolling below.
Once you've had a chance to read what others have said, we'd love to hear where you were when the president was killed and how it affected your life both 50 years ago and today. If you click here POST YOUR OWN STORY/COMMENTS or scroll to the bottom of this page you can share your story through this website's commenting function.
- Three stories from Dallas -- Stories from three Central Oregon residents who were living in Dallas when the president was killed.
- Children who were scared -- Stories from people who were younger than 11 when the assassination happened and yet remember it all.
- Celebrations turned sad -- Stories from people who had a happy moment darkened by news of the assassination.
- High school students -- Stories from people who were teenagers in high school and just becoming aware of who they were.
- Serving in the military -- Stories from people who were serving at a military base inside the country's borders.
- College students -- Stories from people who were in college when the assassination happened and getting ready to start their lives.
- Watching from a foreign land -- Stories from people who were living overseas and saw how the rest of the world mourned the tragedy.
- Adults -- Stories from people who were adults and had careers if not families of their own to manage.
I graduated from college in August 1963 and took a job with an architect at the Mercantile National Bank Building in Dallas. A group of us from the office went out on the street to watch the motorcade and saw JFK, Jackie and Gov. John Connally smiling and waving to the crowd along the street from the open limo.
They went by our vantage point about 30 feet away. It was a sunny day and I remember looking up after they had left and seeing secret service or police snipers with rifles on top of some of the office buildings. After they passed by, I went into a cafe on the first floor of the building and was having lunch when someone ran in and said Kennedy had been shot.
The boss said for everyone to take the rest of the day off when I returned to the office and at approximately 1:30 p.m. the city was like a ghost town, its downtown area was deserted. It took years for Dallas to get over the feeling of guilt of being the city where JFK had been shot. I left that city in 1967 so I could continue my career as an architect in Portland.
I was living in Dallas and was driving back to my office from lunch when I heard the news on the car radio. I was in a state of shock and when I got to my office they told us to go home.
I went home, got in bed and watched the news the rest of the day. Later, I cried for the President and my beloved city.
I was a junior in high school and living in a suburb of Dallas called Richardson, Texas, when news came of the shooting. That day I had a dentist appointment and was at the local Dairy Queen waiting for the appointment when news came that JFK had been shot.
My father was in the group of business people waiting at the convention center for lunch with the President. They waited for quite some time before being told that the President would not be coming and why.
My recollection is that I still went to the dentist, but then went home and stayed glued to the television. Later that evening I felt a need to go sit in a chapel for a bit, as many others did, too. It was a very solemn night in Dallas, as it was across the country. Like 911, this is a memory that will remain forever.
I was in my fifth grade classroom that crisp and sunny November day. Our teacher, a man who had a passion for good stories, was reading “The Wind in the Willows” with the characters' voices. All the kids were listening as quietly as they could when the door to the classroom opened and the Principal and vice-principal of our school walked quickly to the front of the room.
The expression on their faces was so powerful and determined it made the room fall dead silent.
They delivered the message of the great tragedy and I remember the words being so surreal and hard to immediately comprehend. The silence was broken by the uncontrollable sobbing of our teacher, who had to leave the room. That day, the innocent life of a young boy had changed.
I was in middle school when an announcement came over the loud speaker that Kennedy had been shot, then shortly thereafter that he had died. One girl in class cheered, she was for Barry Goldwater (a Republican senator who ran for president in 1964.)
We were all 13-year-olds and this assassination was a life changing moment for us. Nothing this terrible had ever happened in our neighborhoods, or our lives and we really had to grow up. This event has had the same effect that 9/11 must have had on others in our country, especially young people who are just beginning to understand the permanence of death and that disasters happen. We were a protected, sheltered lot until this terrible tragedy happened.
I was in eighth grade and, for some reason my mom gave me money to buy lunch that day, which was a very rare occurrence. When I walked in the cafeteria I noticed the TV was on, which was another rare occurrence, and then I heard, “President Kennedy has been shot.”
I couldn't believe how a bunch of students could be so quiet.
I have thought many times about the consequences of that date and not all of them are positive: 1) After Kennedy died the Vietnam War ramped and that tore our country apart; and 2) We also got President Richard Nixon, who with the exception of Title 9 did nothing honorable thing except resign. I honestly believe the people of my generation stopped trusting our leaders that day.
In November 1963, I was 8 years old and in Mrs. Lancaster's third grade class at Altamont elementary school in Klamath Falls. I remember there being an announcement over the loudspeakers announcing his being shot.
By the time school let out people were crying and were talking about what went down in Dallas. My parents talked about what a good president he could have been. Later, we watched all the funeral stuff on television and it made me cry because everyone else was crying.
Thirty years later, I got a chance to visit the grave site of JFK with my then 9-year-old son in 1993. People were still very respectful and teary eyed.
I was in the 8th grade, home sick and my mom let me lie on the living room couch and watch TV. I remember seeing Walter Cronkite, with as much composure as he could muster, announce the “president was pronounced dead at (whatever time it was) at a Dallas hospital.”
As a pre-teen, I was enamored with Kennedy and saw him as someone young and energetic with great ideas for our country, but in a brief instant those hopes were taken away due to the actions of some deranged person. A very sad day, indeed. I cried.
The news that President Kennedy had been assassinated came over the intercom into my 6th grade classroom in the Los Angeles suburb where I grew up.
My teacher looked horrified as we noticed tears well up in his eyes. In a small, shaking voice, he suggested we all put our heads down to pray or just be silent because that's what he was going to do.
No one moved. We all sat in stunned silence. We were profoundly moved by both the news that our president had been killed, and by the sight of our teacher openly sobbing. These were two of my heroes - now one was gone, the other visibly shaken to his core.
As upset as we all were, there was one notable exception in the classroom that day: The girl who sat directly in front of me and bragged that her parents were members of the (ultraconservative) John Birch Society, turned around and with a half smile/half smirk let me know the news bulletin and our teacher's reaction somehow pleased her.
These two very polar reactions - my classmate's disrespectful insensitivity and our teacher's heartrending sadness - to this tragedy that became the catalyst for so many changes that would define my generation are with me to this day.
I was a second grader at Allen School in Bend and can't remember if we were sent home early due to the shooting. But I do remember my teacher crying as she was standing outside with all of her students to make sure that we got on the buses to go home. I didn't understand why she was crying.
I was in the 3rd grade at Brush College Grade School in West Salem the day our President was killed. Mrs. Boardman was my teacher.
A message came across the intercom for all teachers to report to the office and when Mrs. Boardman returned, she was crying. It took her some time to compose herself and tell the class that the President and been killed and school was over for the day.
The word “assassinated” was mentioned, yet we were not sure what it meant, because in 1963 that was not an everyday term as it unfortunately is today. None of us were quite sure what had happened, but we would soon learn, and learn what assassinated meant.
I walked home and found mom crying too. I watched the T.V.; there was only news and replays about the President on the 3 channels. I went out to play with my friends, and even though we were home early for a couple of days, none of us really had that much fun playing. All these years later, I now know why.
I was a 10-year-old 5th grade student in North Bend, Wash., when Kennedy was killed. At some point in the day, the teachers were made aware of what had happened in Dallas, although I am not sure whether the principal spoke with the staff individually or held an impromptu meeting, perhaps at lunchtime.
We students were not told what had happened, but we could sense something terrible and momentous had happened based on our teachers' behaviors. A somberness settled over everyone, and several women teachers choked back tears or intermittently, and quickly, wiped away tears. It wasn't until I arrived home after school that day that I learned of the tragic happening. For many days afterward, whenever possible, I watched events unfold on television.
The world changed for me that day; until that day, the idea of a president being assassinated was only in the history books. My innocent trust in our political system — and in people behaving in civic-minded responsibility — was irrevocably violated. In the ensuing decades, assassinations of leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere have only reinforced a growing sense of jaded cynicism.
I was thirteen years old, in eighth grade and living in Portland when Kennedy was killed. I was eating lunch in the cafeteria at Mt Tabor school when the schools loud speakers came on to announced that the President had been shot and we were all to go home immediately.
I walked home and called for my mom, who was usually down in the basement sewing. I went down the stairs when she didn't answer and saw her sitting in her sewing room, crying as if her heart were broken. She said she was so saddened and upset because she felt he was the best president we ever had.
I had never known of anyone to die and felt my childhood beginning to slip away as I watched the nation grieve with the televised funeral of John F. Kennedy.
I was sitting in my first grade class in New Milford, N.J., when my teacher went to investigate the commotion going on outside the classroom. She was crying when she returned and we were dismissed early from school.
I went home and found my mother ironing in front of the TV and she was crying as well Later, I saw on TV that JFK had been shot. I also remember watching the funeral on TV and seeing Jackie Kennedy, Caroline and John. But because I was only six years old, I did not comprehend the significance of what this meant to our country.
I was in school in Virginia Beach, Va., on the day Kennedy was shot. When we got on the bus to go home, the bus driver was crying and told us the President had been shot and killed. Before my family moved to California, we went to visit his grave and pay our respects.
The day President Kennedy was shot, I was in 7th grade sitting in study hall in Bloomington, Ill. My study hall was in the basement of the school in a shop classroom and fortunately the teacher had a radio. He turned on the radio and the broadcast was that the president had been shot.
The teacher never said a word and I remember it took me awhile to realize this was OUR president. When study hall let out, I went to my next class. The teacher had written on the board – “The President Has Been Shot.”
I don't remember anyone telling us any details. We all just sat there, remarkably well behaved, until an announcement came over the loud speaker that school was dismissed.
On Friday, November 22, 1963 I was in my fourth grade class at Palms Elementary School, in West Los Angeles. I remember that it was a sunny day. At some point in the afternoon, all of the students were assembled on the playground where we were told that the president had been assassinated.
Once I got home, my family was glued to the TV for days. I remember focusing on Caroline as she was the same age as my younger brother. The images from those intensely emotional days are forever etched in my memory.
I was nine years old and in 4th grade when Kennedy was shot. A friend carried a transistor radio because she was obsessed with the Beatles, and she always turned the radio on at recess. We were out on the school playground on a nice sunny Friday afternoon when she came running up to us and screamed that President Kennedy had been shot. We thought she was making it up!
When I went home the news was everywhere on television, and the next day every newspaper had huge headlines in solid black: “KENNEDY DEAD.”
Businesses took out large display ads in the paper mourning the loss. All weekend the coverage continued and the funeral dominated every TV channel. Everyone was in extreme shock. It was scary for a young child. How could this happen? My world and my sense of safety changed forever.
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was in 7th grade language arts class at the old Cascade Junior High School with Mr. Hollinshead as a teacher. Mrs. Blakely announced his death over the P.A. System and then sent us all home. As 7th graders I don't think that we totally understood the implications of this event in history until later.
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was home sick from my 4th grade class in Burnt Hills, N.Y., and way lying in bed, listening to my favorite station, WROW, on my transistor radio. The station had already interrupted a nice song for some announcement, and when the music was interrupted for the second time for a new broadcast, I was considerably annoyed.
Then the announcement came that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in the motorcade in Dallas, Texas. I was numb with disbelief when it was announced that he had died at the hospital. My mother and I had turned on the TV and heard Walter Kronkite's emotional announcement.
All Americans followed the news coverage of his funeral, of the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, and the subsequent shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby, and the grief was widespread and deep for the American people.
Although history has revealed that JFK was human with human flaws, to a young girl, he was a great, charismatic leader and an American hero. His death left lasting impressions on me on what good leadership is and how precious life is.
In 1963, my family lived in Seneca, Ore., where father was busy with his first school principal position, and my mother took care of our family of five children. On the day President Kennedy was shot, my mother was folding laundry and watched our first black and white television. My sister and I helped her to fold diapers while the youngest twins slept. When she dabbed her eyes on her apron my sister and I asked her what was wrong.
She worked to remain composed, but Becky and I were terrified to see tears streaming down our mother's face. She looked at us and said” “A great man has died. I feel so sad.”
We cried too.
I was 12 years old and in my junior high school gym class in Orleans, Mass., when they made the announcement about Kennedy's death. I remember we were shocked, crying and couldn't understand what had happened. Being from Cape Cod we felt a connection to the Kennedys even though my family were Republicans.
Days later, I was traveling to Long Island, N.Y., for Thanksgiving and we stopped in a diner in Connecticut for lunch where people were watching the funeral procession on a small TV. Everyone was glued to the set. I remember the tears starting all over again.
I was 10 yrs old when President Kennedy was killed. I remember watching it on our black and white tv with my parents. I remember my mother was crying. We lived in Maryland on the outskirts of Washington D.C. My mother took my brother and I to watch the funeral procession in D.C. I still remember the casket going by but my biggest memory is the black riderless horse with the backward boot in the stirrup. Something about that was hauntingly sad.
When President Kennedy was shot. I was in the fifth grade at Duffy elementry in Tucson, Ariz. I remember coming in from recess and seeing Mr. Doran sitting at a table crying. I did not understand what was going on as all the teachers were sad about something.
Then, someone told me that the president was shot. Next I remember Sandy Brown was running in the hallway and someone opened the door and she ran right into the doorknob and broke her jaw. After that all the tv stations (all 3) were nothing but news of President Kennedy's death. I think it lasted for a week.
I was in the 5th grade. We were in line for lunch when the 6th graders came in right behind us, they listened to the news on the radio most days right before lunch, and they were talking about how JFK was shot. We didn't believe it.
Later that day it was officially announced that he had been shot and indeed died. It was a very sad day, hard to comprehend as a 5th grader.
I was 8 years old and in third grade when I heard the news that Kennedy was shot. I remember going through the cafeteria line and waiting to get the little glass bottle of milk with the hole punched in the top. I believe a teacher came up to us to tell us and at that point he had been shot but was still clinging to life. I remember being surprised by the news and hearing that he had been shot.
When I got home from school my Mom told me that President Kennedy had died and I immediately thought of Caroline because she was close to my age. I remember how bad I felt for her because I imagined how I would feel if someone had shot and killed my Dad.
The images that were shown on TV of when the shot rang out and Jackie in her pink suit trying to help him will remain in my mind forever.
I was in 2nd grade at Kenwood School in Bend and Nov. 22 just happened to be my 8th birthday. My mother had planned a small party at our house after school would be out that day. Around lunch time, our teacher, Mrs. Darlene Cooper, was called out of the room for a moment, and returned in tears, saying that our president had been shot, and school was dismissing early. Everything was a bit of a blur after her announcement.
And the birthday party just fizzled. I think maybe one friend showed up, but understandably, we didn't celebrate.
My husband, my son and I had just crossed the border and were new immigrants from Canada with our visas intact. When we heard the news about the terrible tragedy that I was so upset that I didn't want to have a dinner for my husband's birthday which was the 22nd of November. All restaurants were closed and we were lucky to get a cottage in Lincoln, Nebraska to rest our weary bones.
On the next day we were heading for Sacramento, Calif. It was a very sad beginning for our new life.
On November 22, 1963, my late husband and I were in downtown Seattle for the final interview before adopting our first child. We left the caseworker's office to find all the employees clustered around the radio on in the main office listening to the scary broadcast.
We knew that JFK had died, but not really what might happen next. The two of us, from Vancouver, Wash., left Lutheran Family Services and drove fairly aimlessly around the city - there was no traffic at all, and a lot of offices and businesses had closed down.
Being in a large city, with several military bases located in the area, was definitely frightening. We kept the radio on so we could listen to all the news reports and commentators as we finally headed home to southwest Washington.
It was quite a sober journey, not really knowing what to expect in the coming days.
Like everyone else, we were glued to the television for most of the weekend and next week. On the positive side, we were blessed with a 7 day old baby boy about 3 weeks later and that trip to Seattle and back was definitely a much happier experience.
My Dad had just been promoted to being a US Naval Commander and was accepting it on the day Kennedy was shot. Because of this, my three sisters and I (ages 4, 7, 10, 13) were out of school that day and in downtown Washington D.C.!
Being in the hub of the capitol of our country in the heart of all the political goings-on, you can imagine the chaos. I have never seen tears and crying from adults as I saw that day! Looking up into the faces of those strong adults that you look to for comfort, it was quite disturbing. What was to be a joyous day of no school, and then lunch out with Mom and Dad at a fancy restaurant turned out quite differently.
Two days later, on November 24th, we lined the streets along with hundreds of thousands of others as JFK's flag-draped coffin was carried by horse-drawn caisson to lie in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.
My memories of this, looking through adult kneecaps and everyone grieving to see it pass by is quite clear in my mind, and that day I took my first pictures with my Kodak Brownie camera.
November 22, 1963 was a very memorable day to me because it was my 28th birthday and I had a 1-year-old little girl and a 3-year-old little boy. I was watching television and mopping my kitchen floor in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Our company at Fort Ord, Calif., where I was fulfilling my Oregon National Guard active duty requirement, had been on an all night training exercise and we were allowed a few hours of sleep on the morning of Nov. 22. We were abruptly awakened around 11 am with the news that the President had been shot.
Not knowing the details of what had happened, the fort was immediately placed on highest military alert. I was