Friday, November 22, 1963

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Probably the one, most profound thing that leading-edge baby boomers still can recall happened during their high school senior year, fifty-two years ago. What were you doing on Friday, November 22, 1963? For me, it was being bored in a French class conjugating verbs, when the school’s intercom interrupted that drill, and our principal announced that America’s thirty-fifth President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas.

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Shortly after that announcement, Vice President Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as our thirty-sixth President of the United States, with Jacqueline Kennedy standing alongside him on Air Force One just before it departed to return President Kennedy to Washington, D.C.

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The death of Kennedy, our president and a decorated naval officer in World War II, was riveting. The eagerly anticipated weekend before Thanksgiving became especially somber with all the television coverage devoted to what had just happened.

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Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged shooter was captured on Saturday, November 23. On Sunday, November 24, as Oswald was being moved to a more secure jail, an enraged civilian, Jack Ruby, emerged from the crowd of onlookers and fatally shot Oswald.

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President Kennedy was buried on Monday, November 25. The image of his young son, “John-John,” saluting his father was indelibly imprinted on almost everyone’s mind.

To mark the fortieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE reprises The Kennedys, a dramatic portrait of America’s most famous political family, airing Monday and Tuesday, November 17 and 18, at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). Here, John Kennedy Jr., age 3, salutes as his father’s casket is carried from St. Matthew’s Cathedral, Washington, DC; November 25, 1963. CREDIT: © Bettmann/Corbis USAGE: This image may be used in the direct promotion of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. No other rights are granted. All rights are reserved.

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The days of American Camelot were over. Three days after the funeral, on Thursday, November 28, a very somber Thanksgiving was celebrated. And then, it was time to get ready for the holidays.

4 thoughts on “Friday, November 22, 1963

  1. I was in my tenth grade English class when they put the radio coverage over the intercom. We were all so shocked. Then they dismissed school for the day and the rest of the week. I could not believe my eyes at the events that followed either. The funeral was so moving. Keep in mind that I am from the Deep South and probably the only one in my family who like President Kennedy at that time. However, even my parents were shocked at this whole affair.

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  2. Ironically, I was in American Government class when the P.A. announcement was made. Several hours later in Physics the President’s death was announced and our teacher, a retired Colonel, broke down in tears as we all sat in stunned and embarassed silence. Like much of suburban Washington D.C., our neighborhood was populated nearly entirely by families of military or government workers and a quiet and gloomy atmosphere prevailed there through the Thanksgiving weekend.

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  3. I remember it all too well.  Civics class with Mr. Vastine (the son).  He had just begun teaching.  Thanks for sharing.   

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