JFK

November 22, 1963

I was seven years old. We were living in England, but I was an American. Because we had left the United States when I was very young, I did not have too much knowledge about America. So on this day, I was alone in the kitchen and the television was on. My mother was taking a bath. All I remember about this historic moment was that the news interrupted whatever show was on and I knew that I had to tell my mother. I went into the bathroom and said that someone in America had been hurt and that it was bad news. My mother wrapped herself in a towel and came into the kitchen. I looked up at her and saw how upset and shocked she was and I knew that this was a very bad thing.

It is the one thing that is asked of Americans (of a certain age): where were you when Kennedy was shot? Sadly, there have been many more memorable days to ask about, including 9/11.

President Kennedy’s death was obviously international news, but I must admit being surprised at how many memorials there are for him throughout the world. In Europe there are just too many to mention. In the Netherlands, there are streets, town squares, bridges and schools that bear his name.

In the summer of 1937, a twenty year old Jack Kennedy was on a Grand Tour of Europe and he visited The Hague. Here he is with his dog Dunker. He had to give the dog away to a Dutch family as his traveling companion was allergic.

JFK 1937 The Hague

Because I lived in Massachusetts, I was lucky enough to meet people that had known Jack Kennedy. They had great stories of him as a campaigner when he was just starting his political career. This skinny young man going door to door to introduce himself to the voters. Everyone who personally knew him said the same thing: that he was so charismatic, so charming, smart and very witty. They remembered him in glowing terms and it seemed like everyone felt so fortunate to have known him, even if it was for a brief time.

To all my friends in America, as you face this 50th anniversary of the assassination, I want you to know that there are people all over the world who are marking this day as well.

I asked a Dutch man what he remembered about that day and he said “it was like the world just stopped. We were all in such shock and just could not believe it happened.” Feelings shared by so many.

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Comments

  • judy savage  On November 22, 2013 at 12:18 am

    I had just turned 22 and what I most remember was going to Washington to be a part of this very sad event. My parents and I were at my father’s friend’s house and I kept saying we should fly down to Washington. They finally agreed to go. In those days, we did not have credit cards or much cash lying around so we went to see someone in town who owned a store and borrowed some cash from him. Also, in those days, you could take what was called a shuttle flight and you could pay on board the plane. We found a hotel room (which I never actually visited) and wandered around trying to find something to eat. We had a hamburger that wasn’t very good and then went to get in line to go into the Capital and pass by the coffin in the Rotunda. People were selling all kinds of food on the streets as well. When we got near the Capital I thought we were almost there except that the line then turned left for 13 blocks away from the Capital. And then it turned around and went 13 more blocks. Police tried to keep people from jumping the line at the intersections and, all in all, everyone was pretty patient. Oh, and I had dressed up, of course, and was wearing heels! If I remember correctly, we stood in line for 12 hours in the cold and, just as the sun started to come up, we entered the Capital. I had a brand new camera with a flash bulb attachment that I hadn’t yet used and I took one or two photos of the flag-draped coffin. Very soon after that, they did not let anyone else in as they had to transport the coffin so we were some of the last people to get in. I had breakfast, I believe, and then we went to stand by the road where the coffin went by and I took a photograph of the riderless horse and the coffin on the caisson. Everyone was in large black limos at that point so we did not see them all walking by. I still have the photos. My parents and my father’s friend’s wife could not stay on the line and I refused to leave so my father’s friend stayed with me. What can I say? I’ll remember it always. I loved that man and I always regretted I just missed being old enough to vote for him. I did, however, stay up all night at our town’s Democratic headquarters waiting for the results of the election and I remember singing “Happy Days are Here Again”!

  • LadyGregory  On November 22, 2013 at 3:30 am

    I saw JFK on the floor of the Senate in 1958 when as a high school freshman I was visiting D.C. and touring the Capitol with my uncle. He pointed out a slight, red-headed young man speaking below us and said, “Pay attention. That man may be President some day.”

  • krunn7  On November 22, 2013 at 7:35 pm

    Yes. We all remember. I must have been 19 and was crossing a parking lot to the cafeteria on Victoria’s university lands. A group of young men were hanging out of a car door obviously listening to the radio. A friend, Rupee, pulled himself out and told us President Kennedy had been shot. My first reaction was, “This has to be a joke, Rupee is always joking.” He wasn’t. Every class we went to that alfternoon was cancelled. There were American hunters being guided by my husband (for deer and big horned sheep) that just broke down and bawled when they heard the news. The lodge living room was full of crying men huddled around our Canadian radio in the boonies.

  • Jean Langley  On November 23, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for the international perspective. I remember the day well, and my diary entry for the day (I had recently turned 11) started “Dear President Kennedy Was Shot Today.” I was visiting relatives in Connecticut. The next day, amongst the news of birthday money I received and mention of my first box of 64 crayons, was a single sentence, “Also, Mr. Oswald is the murderer of President Kennedy” The next day: “Mr. Oswald, murderer of the late President Kennedy, was shot today. (When will this shooting stop?)..Nothing but news [on TV] on President Kennedy,Mr. Oswald, and “Ruby”, murderer of Mr. Oswald.” The subject came up over the next several days as well, and probably accounted for the Nov. 29 entry about a dream I had about Communists taking over America. The next few years were tough ones for America, when we seemed to be turning on each other whilst fighting against real or imagined threats from other countries.
    I’m glad to hear that some of the world had great hopes for our President as well.

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