November 22, 2013

PUBLIC FORUM: Where were you when JFK was shot?


---- — We asked readers where they were when Kennedy was shot. Their answers appear here:

November 22, 1963 will always be a memorable day for me. I had just turned 19 and was working at a sewing factory in Rochester, Indiana. I didn’t feel like going to break, so stayed at my sewing machine. My best friend Deana went to break, and when she returned, she said, “President Kennedy has just been shot.” I looked at her and asked her, “So, what’s the joke?” She said, “I’m serious, he was shot!” That was when I noticed that everything around me was so quiet. We hugged, cried, and even said prayers for President Kennedy and his family.

This is a day in history that will never be forgotten. Anyone who lived during this time, whether Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter, everyone was devastated on November 22, 1963.

— Waynetta Douglass


It is easy for us to remember the date, November 22, 1963. I was a captain in the United States Air Force and a co-pilot of a Strategic Air Command B-52 Bomber stationed at Carswell AFB, Ft. Worth, Texas. I had brought my wife, Kay, and our four children to the base to do our grocery shopping. As we were entering the commissary, we were able to see President Kennedy and his entourage driving through the base to fly to Dallas Love Field while we completed our shopping.

Kay was to have induced labor the next day to deliver our fifth child at the Carswell Base Hospital. When we arrived home, my sister, Justine, who was visiting, said that she heard on the radio that President Kennedy had been shot. We had just seen him about an hour before. The next day, November 23, 1963, Kay delivered our son. We considered naming him John Frederick Kovacs, (JFK), but decided to keep the name originally chosen, William Albert. Our son, Bill, a 1982 LHS graduate, is now a science teacher at Whiteland Indiana High School. He will celebrate his 50th birthday knowing that he just missed seeing President John F. Kennedy.

— Stephen F. Kovacs


After seven days on a troop ship crossing the North Atlantic, and eight hours on a train three days later, I arrived in Hanau, Germany, November 19, 1963. I didn’t know anybody there, but after settling in, several other recruits and I found the Enlisted Men’s Club, where we could sit and drink a beer legally. I was only 19.

It took a few days for us to be assigned to our shifts, platoon leaders, etc. Fast forward three days and several beers to November 22. We were again in the EM Club. That evening, the club manager came out on stage and announced “Ladies and gentlemen, finish your drinks and report immediately to your assigned bunk. Our Commander-in-Chief, President Kennedy, has been shot, and we will be going on full base alert shortly.” At that time, nobody knew yet that the President was dead.

As instructed, we all started running toward our barracks, most of us in shock. As I was exiting the club, one soldier, probably from New Jersey, grabbed the stage mike and shouted, “We’ll get the [expletive] who did this. I thought, “Sure buddy, we’re only about 8,000 miles from Dallas.”

— Jack Fultz


On November 22, 1963, I was teaching at Kewanna High School. Patricia Zellers was the school secretary. When she heard the news on the radio that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, she went door to door and announced to all the classes that President Kennedy had been shot. It came as a great shock to all of us, and seemed unbelievable.

I was teaching the eighth-graders and what I recall is that Tom Overmyer laughed and Jenny Garner cried. I think I scolded Tom for laughing and tried to turn their attention back to their literature books as soon as possible. Later I asked Tom why he laughed. He said he thought it was a joke. For Pat to just open the door and announce the president was shot, it sure seemed like a joke. I asked Jenny why she cried. She said she thought about his little children and how sad it was for them.

It is burned into my memory that moment of history alive, when Pat opened the door and announced the president had been shot, and Tom laughed and Jenny cried. It is kind of a microcosm of America’s feelings that day: unbelievable, a bad joke, and then sadness and crying.

— Shirley Willard


It has been fifty years, but I remember the day like it was yesterday. I was in the back row of the combined seventh and eighth grade classroom at St. Bridget’s School at the corner of Wilkinson and Linden.

Sister Paula, my teacher and the principal of the school, had been called out of the classroom. When she returned, she was ashen white and you could already see the tears forming in the corner of her eyes. We didn’t know what was going on, but we did know it wasn’t good. When she announced to us that we were being released from school early to our parents, we were both excited and scared.

As the news sank in that our President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been assassinated, we felt the same sorrow that every American was experiencing. As a Catholic, I believe it hurt deeper to know that the only Catholic ever elected President of the United States of America was assassinated.

While the vivid images that followed that next week in the media will forever be emblazoned in my memory, over the years I have come to focus more on the 1,000 days John Kennedy spent in the presidency and the hope he instilled in the youth of this nation for a better tomorrow.

— John R. Davis


On Nov. 22, 1963, my family and I lived on Indiana St., Delphi. It was my daughter, Valeska’s, fifth birthday. I was preparing for her party for later that day. I watched the TV when they announced the President’s motorcade was coming. We were so excited to see the president, but when he was shot, we were stunned! Then I cried, my daughter cried, as my son Tony watched us crying! We really had lost all interest in celebrating or having a party. A few days later an address was announced so people could send notes of sympathy. Together we wrote an expression of sympathetic and sent it.

Years later, my son was in the Air Force in Fort Worth. My daughter and I visited him. We drove to Dallas to see the “grassy knoll,” the actual Dealy Plaza and took pictures of each other in front of the Schoolbook Repository. We will always remember Valeska’s fifth birthday, and President Kennedy. My son’s birthday was seven days after the assassination and I prayed it would be a quiet birthday. Some things stay in your mind forever, Nov. 22, 1963, was one of those times.

— Berniece Swigart


I was in a classroom in the 3rd grade when President Kennedy was shot. I got the mixed-up child’s version of the news from some older kids on the school bus heading for home. One boy said the president was shot. Another added that it must’ve been a hunting accident, and then it seemed all of the kids were talking at once. I was too young to understand what had really happened and the seriousness.

My family was gathered around the TV. It was upsetting to me that my favorite afternoon cartoons were replaced with the news. About the time my older sister had heard enough of my whining about it she grabbed my arm and jerked me out of the TV room. She explained to me that our President had been killed. She was crying. I had no idea how government worked or what a president did, but having experienced losing our own dad in a car accident, I understood that the nice looking man with the pretty wife and two little kids was not coming back.

Unsure what I should do, I did the only thing a child of 8 knew to do – I went to my room and prayed for the family.

— Thelma Conrad


I was in fourth grade at Columbia elementary school that day. As we exited the building and awaited our turn to cross the street the crossing guard told us that President Kennedy had been shot and killed! I walked home to find my mother watching the newscast on TV and crying.

At the young age of just-turned-9 years old I was taken back by seeing my mother cry! It was this that gave me an inkling that this was something really significant in all our lives. I believe children today are world-wise beyond their years, but at the time I was not that aware of world news. President Kennedy’s death changed all that.

On another note about the Kennedys, Robert Kennedy’s visit to Logansport by train was an event that made a huge impression on me. We were allowed to leave the middle school with our parent’s permission and walked to await the train. I felt I had “met” him and so his death made a great impact on my life as well. I knew at a young age that America would never be the same at having lost both of these great men.

— Patti Dooley