Nov. 22, 1963 is often described as a moment in American history that everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing. As part of our coverage of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, The Texas Catholic asked readers to share their thoughts and memories of that fateful day in Dallas.
DALLAS – Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, dawned with rain and thunderstorms over the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Still there was a feeling of excitement, joy and happiness throughout Dallas and (from) its citizens.
President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy were coming to town, along with Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson, Texas Gov. John Connally, and First Lady Nellie Connally.
Everyone in Dallas had looked forward to his visit for quite some time.
Many Dallas citizens rose early that morning to brave the weather and to rush to get good spots along the motorcade route, and to join the thousands of others to greet the president and First Lady upon their arrival at Dallas Love Field. Many people had faith in the young Catholic president; many people loved him, and on that day many hoped to see him as he passed by.
The rain had stopped. The skies had cleared and it was a cool, comfortable November day when Air Force One landed at Dallas Love Field. The door was opened and the president and First Lady emerged to thunderous cheers and applause from thousands there to greet them. Bouquets of roses were presented to Jackie Kennedy and Nellie Connally.
A happy grinning president and First Lady then moved through a happy grinning crowd of people, shaking hands and shouting well wishes, welcomes and hellos.
Oh, it was a happy day!
Hundreds of thousands of happy Dallasites lined Lemmon Avenue and Main Street to cheer, wave and show respect for the president as the motorcade passed by.
Nellie Connally had just turned to the president and said, “Mr. President, you can’t say that Dallas doesn’t love you.”
Then, all of a sudden “pow, pow, pow”. Three shots rang out from the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building. The president clutched his throat. Immediately, after the third shot, he slumped in his wife’s lap in the backseat of the sleek black Lincoln convertible. The president’s right foot was seen hanging over the right rear door of the convertible as it sped north on I-35, carrying the wounded president and Gov. Connally to Parkland Hospital.
The day’s fun, excitement, faith, hope, joy and happiness was over in Dallas.
The president died at 1 p.m.
Editor’s note: Budd Kniesel, a 1955 graduate of Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, was a newsman for WBAP-TV (now KXAS-TV, NBC5) in November 1963 and was prepared to cover the arrival of the president at the Dallas Trade Mart. After the shooting and in subsequent days, he covered other events surrounding the JFK assassination. He is a member of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic Church in Oak Cliff.
I was in the eighth grade at Good Shepherd Catholic School in Garland. We were having a class meeting when Sister Mary Attracta told us the president had been shot and we were all going to the church.
I remember praying the rosary with all the students in the church. During the rosary, Sister Attracta announced that we were praying for the soul of President John Kennedy.
I knew the president had died, but I was not afraid because I knew that everyone around me would take care of me. I was too young to think about hope, but the peace I felt being in church with everyone praying remains with me today.
Barbara J. Kopczynski King
Sacred Heart Parish in Rowlett
I will never forget shaking hands with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson the morning of Nov. 22, 1963 in the lobby of the Hotel Texas. Coming from an Irish Catholic family, my parents took my sister and me to see his plane land the night before at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth.
The next morning we left home early and arrived at the Hotel Texas an hour before President Kennedy was to speak. My sister Judy and I were four rows back from the front of the receiving line, but we made our way to the front (as young kids can do) and delighted in joining the crowd clapping as he and his entourage came downstairs. I remember seeing his freckled face, which I had never noticed before on television.
President Kennedy had a warm smile for each of us, and he was followed by then-VP Johnson, Gov. Connally, and Congressman Ralph Yarborough, who introduced himself to each person he shook hands with (I’m glad he did, because I didn’t know him). I shook hands with President Kennedy a second time after he came back into the hotel from his speech, and I remember our eyes meeting and I had this overwhelming sense of wanting to give him something, but as a 12- year-old I had nothing to give but my utmost admiration.
Hours later I sat in my sixth grade class at St. Alice Elementary School in Fort Worth to hear the news that President Kennedy had been shot….minutes later we were told of his death.
Many of the girls in the class cried; I didn’t cry, but felt stunned and somber. We all went to the church and said a rosary, and later dismissed. That evening we were glued to the TV, and I saw my father cry for the first time in my life. It was surreal, and a day I will never forget.
Dr. Bob Breen
Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Rockwall
What I remember most about JFK’s assassination is that it happened the day I was volunteering at St. Agnes Hospital in Fresno, Calif., where I lived with my husband Bernard Delafosse and my two children who were born at St. Agnes. You can imagine the emotion, excitement, suspense, and sadness.
I was stationed at the Information Desk with two or three other volunteers when word came that the president had been shot while riding in the motorcade in Dallas. We didn’t have a television that we could see from our booth. So the other volunteers and I took turns to go look at the closest TV. Information wasn’t very clear at first of what actually happened. Where the shots came from? How seriously hurt was the president?
As it developed, we all got more frantic… We were so anxious to know more, but it took a long time, it seemed! Work was at a standstill. All personnel that weren’t busy with life-threatening issues seemed to be stuck in front of the hospital televisions. Or running aimlessly. Confusion everywhere!
My next shift and job that day was to deliver mail and plants or flowers to patients. In every room the television was on, unless the patients were in serious condition. Everyone wanted to know more; everyone was asking questions. Some people were crying; some people were praying, lots of emotion around.
Then it was time for me to go pick up my kids at school, and the rest of the day was spent either listening to the news on the radio, or when possible sitting in front of the TV.
St. Francis of Assisi, Frisco
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was taking part in an English language Cursillo in Corpus Christi, Texas. This was the second Cursillo in English. As a member of the Cursillo team I was scheduled to deliver the 1:30 p.m. Rollo that afternoon. Hearing of the assassination early in the noon hour, there was considerable disruption for a short while, but it was soon decided to have a moment of prayer, then proceed with the Cursillo. This we did, I did, but I doubt that anyone of us there remembers what was said for the rest of the afternoon.
Francis Lamar Sachnik
St. Paul the Apostle Parish
My husband was in the military and we had been transferred to the Panama, Canal Zone. We lived in an apartment in the city of Colón on the Atlantic side of Panama, while we waited for quarters on the military base. On that day my neighbor and I were sitting outside in the apartment courtyard watching our little ones play. I had a 14-month-old and was nine months pregnant with my second child. As we sat there, the manager of the apartments passed by with some workers and asked if we did not know that our president had been shot. We immediately went to our apartments to listen to the news. We only had the Air Force radio station to listen to. I listened in shock and was sad that it happened in Texas. My son was born on Nov 29, seven days later. It was amazing how many people gave us their condolences when we went about the city. They always exclaimed of how much they liked our president. It was a sad day, indeed. So I will always remember where I was on that day.
B. E. Vela
St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Frisco
I was in 8th grade in Jacksonville, Ark., when I heard over the speaker system that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. All of the kids, including myself, as well as our teacher were all in shock. The teacher stopped class and we talked about what the president had done in the past three years while we awaited further news.
I thought about the election campaign of 1960 when both Richard Nixon and John Kennedy visited Selfridge Air Force Base just outside of Detroit, Mich., on their way to speeches inside the city. I had seen pictures of both of them and my father and mother would talk about the election politics at the dinner table. My father was stationed at Selfidge AFB at the time and I was in the fifth grade.
One day the whole elementary school was told to go outside and line up near the main street in front of the school. I happened to be in front of all of my classmates and near my teacher when three black limousines pulled up alongside of us and stopped.
Several people got out but I kept my eye on the tall, tanned John Kennedy. He came and stood right beside me and started talking to my teacher. I looked up at him as he talked to her. He was more handsome than the pictures I had seen of him. He had movie star looks. I was quite impressed at how charismatic he looked. He looked down at me and seemed a little startled. He resumed talking to my teacher but as he talked to her he put his left hand on top of my head and began rubbing my short cut red hair. He kept rubbing and rubbing my hair for what seemed to be minute and a half. When he stopped rubbing my hair he turned and got back into one of the limousines and all three cars went out toward the front gate. That evening he was scheduled to talk to a convention of Protestant ministers about his Catholic beliefs. I learned years later that it was an Irish folk belief that if you rubbed a red head you would have good luck. By the length of time John Kennedy rubbed my head I think he was in need of a lot of luck. He got it as I learned later that the speech went well.
We continued to hope for the best until what seemed an hour and a half later when the news of his death came over the speaker system. The class did little for the rest of the day. Even at my young age I realized that we had lost a remarkable man and I cherished my memory of him even more.
Holy Family of Nazerath Parish in Irving
Until I read your column in The Texas Catholic, I had never looked up the year of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination to know how old I was at the time. Hard to believe that I can still remember the day President Kennedy was shot when I was only 5 years old living in the small town of Highland, Ill., and today I reside in Dallas, where the assassination took place. I probably remember this day because I had never seen or heard my mom cry before, or saw my dad come home from work early. I don’t recall my parents listening to further news on TV, although I do recall from when I got older that my father always watched the evening news. I remember that it was a solemn day in our house that day, and that something big and terrible must have happened. As I got older, and saw replays on TV, I was able to piece together what had happened on that sad day, which left a lasting imprint within my long-term memory.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a 10-year-old Protestant fifth-grade girl living in Austin, Texas. (I was to convert to Catholicism during my college years, which is a different story.) The plan that day was for at least some schools to let out early as Austin was to be President Kennedy’s next stop after Dallas. My family and I had no plans to go and see him, though. On that day I was home from school with a bad cold. Late that morning my mother was hurriedly getting ready to go to my school and get the day’s assignments from my teacher. We clearly heard an insistent rapping on our door; it was our neighbor lady, who called out my mother’s name and shouted through the closed door, “The president’s been shot! And L.B.J. and his wife!” (She was wrong about the latter part, of course, as the other person shot with President Kennedy had been Texas Gov. John Connally.) There followed, naturally, four days of incessant TV news-watching.
There was no school on Monday because new-President Johnson declared it a national day of mourning. So with Thanksgiving coming up, we school kids wound up with a two-day school week, just Tuesday and Wednesday. I was the only child of older-than-average parents. My retired father got the news while at the golf course. He said he and his friends got the news from a young man who drove out from the clubhouse in an electric cart to inform golfers. For them and me there unfolded, as for the rest of the country, the unforgettable drama of President Kennedy being pronounced dead, the swearing-in of President Johnson, the arrest and shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald, President Kennedy’s (to me at that time very exotic) Catholic funeral, all in Latin, and the funeral procession and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
My parents had not liked President Kennedy, for reasons I won’t belabor here, and they were no fans of President Johnson. But like most people of their generation, they had respect, if not for the man, at least for the office. They were horrified that someone had taken it upon himself to murder a president with whom he disagreed. I remember well that same neighbor lady saying to me on Nov. 22, “Lesley, I hope this will teach you NOT TO HATE.”
It was a sad and thought-provoking four-day weekend, and one I’ll never forget.
Lesley B. Dannelley
St. Luke Catholic Church in Irving
We lived in Houston in 1963 and attended Corpus Christi Catholic Church on the southwest side where I was a member of the Altar Society. My children were at school and I was at home when I got the news. I drove to church and lit the candles on the side altars. People began coming to church to pray when they heard the news.
All Saints Catholic Church
I was 6 years old and in the first grade at St. John Catholic School in Ennis, Texas. I remember an announcement on the overhead PA system instructing every class to process in single file to church. I didn’t understand why we were going to church, but as we were processing down the long aisle of our church, I looked back to my right and saw our coach sobbing. I realized then, that if he was crying, that something really bad must have happened.
Rita Krajca Holland
St. John Nepomucene Parish in Ennis
When President Kennedy was shot, I was in the fourth grade in St. Timothy’s Catholic Elementary School in Philadelphia. I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was announced over the loud speaker and all the children in class started crying. They dismissed us from school and I walked home as I normally did. When I got home, I saw that my mom had been painting the wooden banisters on the inside staircase going up to the second floor of our row home. The TV was on, of course, and she was crying. She had stopped painting and instead began to carve into one of the banisters — in a vertical pattern — Nov. 22, 1963 with a straight pin. It was a poignant reminder of that day until we moved from that house. What I remember from a political perspective was that my parents, forever Republicans, felt it their obligation to vote for John Kennedy because he was a Catholic.
Prince of Peace Catholic Church
On Nov. 22, 1963, about 9 a.m. Honolulu time, I was a newly commissioned U.S. Army Infantry officer fresh out of ROTC at Georgetown University, leading my platoon in jungle training exercises in the Koolau Mountains on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Shortly before noon, we received emergency orders to return to our garrison at Schofield Barracks, pack our gear, draw our weapons and ammunition, and prepare to deploy to an unnamed destination in the Pacific region. We were quickly moved to Hickam Air Force Base, boarded propeller-driven Air Force transports and awaited orders while sitting on the runway.
Only then were we informed of President Kennedy’s assassination. Back in the early 1960s, Hawaii had no satellite TV, therefore no “live” TV from the mainland. So in the days following the president’s death, we had to wait for TV film to be flown from the U.S. mainland. Then we stayed awake most of each night watching the day’s TV coverage of the assassination, Oswald’s death and Kennedy’s state funeral. It was a very unsettling time, especially for those of us deployed in the military, since conspiracy theories involving the Russians, Cubans, Chinese, North Koreans, etc., were rampant. Needless to say, I remember vividly where I was and what I was doing on that fateful day in November 1963.
St. Rita Catholic Church
In 1963 I was employed by Sandia Corp. in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the prime contractor for the Atomic Energy Commission.
On Nov. 22, a friend and I were returning from lunch and wondered why the flags were at half mast. We turned on the radio and there was no special announcement of any kind. Needless to say, Sandia Corp. was one of the first, if not the first, agency to be notified of the death of the president.
Prince of Peace Catholic Church
I was a third grade teacher in the San Antonio Independent School District and I was teaching at Kate Schenck Elementary School in the far southeast corner of San Antonio. Our school was not very far from Brooks Air Field. The day before the president came to Fort Worth and Dallas, he had flown to Brooks Air Field to make a stop in San Antonio. When he flew to Fort Worth/Dallas, his Air Force One plane came right over our school. We went out and saw them taking off into the sky headed to Love Field. That was an exciting time for third graders, 8-year-olds. The next day right after noon I went to the office and we were told that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. I immediately went back to my classroom and shared the sad news with my class. We all began to pray. I again went back to the office later on and the news of his passing was shared with everyone. This was a very sad day in my classroom when I came back with the news. I knew that we would not have school again until after the funeral. I told the students to listen to the radio and watch television until we returned to school. Many of my students began crying when they heard the sad news. My classroom was the quietest it had ever been. There were many questions from these 8-year-olds that day. Everyone was just stunned that anything like this could happen.
St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church
We were migrant workers until we settled in Dallas in August 1963. I was 16 years old and had quit school to help my parents financially. I was working at a packing company packing carrots when our supervisor came out of his office shouting, “KENNEDY HAS BEEN SHOT.” It was a sad day for our country. President Kennedy was the only person my dad voted for in his whole life.
Maria E. Fjeseth
St. Monica Catholic Church
It is a November evening at the Ursuline Convent School in Chester, England, six hours ahead of Dallas, Texas. Along with other members of the Upper Fifth (10th Grade) I am taking part in the annual Public Speaking event. Chester is noted for its Roman and Medieval history but is rather quiet. Most of the girls are day students who have known one another since kindergarten. So, we are fascinated by the boarders — whose parents obviously live exotic lives elsewhere — and by a new girl, Paulette Torville. Her father is on assignment from the USA!
One by one we give our speeches. Parents clap for their offspring. The winner, an Irish girl with the “gift of the gab,” gets our genuine applause. Then Reverend Mother appears on stage. We girls are quickly silent.
The news is stunning, but seems somewhat remote: an assassination 5,000 miles away! Immediately, the Torvilles, weeping aloud, fall to their knees to pray. I watch them, confused by such a display of raw emotion. I shed a tear — for them — and imprint that image in my memory.
In early 1982, my husband is offered a “temporary” transfer to the Dallas office of his company. It is with mixed feelings that I watch the moving truck leave and head to the airport with two small children. By this time I “understand” a little of American politics, but Dallas is synonymous with the events of 1963. Once in Texas, I ask questions and read all I can in an effort to learn more and understand how the death of one man could resonate in so many lives.
It is now 2013. Dallas is my home. Many of my hopes and dreams have been realized here. As November 22nd approaches and I picture the Torvilles I think I may now comprehend their grief, their hopes for a better future seemingly dashed.
Prince of Peace Catholic Church
It was first period after lunch around 1 p.m. The thought of going downtown and missing school was not even in our minds — I do not think anyone in the freshman class at Bishop Lynch even had that thought —we would have been punished for skipping.
We were two sections boys and girls and I was in Girls Freshmen English taught by Sister Dominico and the door flies open and it is Sister Dorice, and she falls to her knees on the floor and she tells us that President Kennedy has been shot — pray for his recovery. So we all get on our knees and pray for President Kennedy led by Sister Dorice, also on her knees. Everyone is scared and really does not know what to do.
An announcement comes over the speaker system that school will be dismissed early; it was a Friday and the president had died from the gunshot wound. Many of the girls had planned on going to a dance at the Forest Hollow Club that evening and I was spending the night with my girlfriend and fellow classmate Michelle Lambert — never in a million years did we think all activities would be cancelled for the next several days as the nation would go into mourning for the assassination of the president and at the time no one was aware of the background and reason for the assassination.
We were glued to the television for days and watched the next few days play out with Ruby killing Oswald and the funeral and little “John John saluting his father’s casket.” Several years later, 1970, as an Emergency Room nurse at St. Paul Hospital I would meet many of the physicians who provided emergency care to our president that day and learned how devastating his injuries were from the gun shot that day and how he died immediately from the major neurologic damage.
As a school, we prayed for the recovery of our city and our nation and here we are 50 years later, still remembering that devastating day that changed our city and our lives forever.
Joan Polakoff Colgin
Bishop Lynch Class of 1967
It was just after lunch and we were in Father LaPata’s religion class. As I remember, he was late coming into the classroom for some reason.
Of course, we soon learned the reason because Father O’Connell made the announcement of what had happened over the intercom. Everyone was in a state of shock. Father LaPata led us in prayer for President Kennedy and the country. Some of my fellow classmates were even in tears.
I was concerned about my father because he was planning to be at Love Field when the president and First Lady arrived and then drive downtown to watch the parade. We did not know the details of exactly where the assassination had occurred until later and I was concerned that my father might have been nearby and possibly hurt also.
Another upsetting detail of the assassination was that the following day, there was to be a football game between the freshmen and sophomore football players. We had been looking forward to that game for weeks and, needless to say, it was cancelled and never played.”
Bishop Lynch Class of 1967
On the day President John F. Kennedy was shot, I was in the fourth grade at my elementary school in Garland, Texas. I was at recess on the black top area and everyone stopped playing when a young Marine in his formal uniform came to our teacher and announced that President Kennedy had been shot.
I’m not sure why he came to our school, if he knew someone there or was from the area. I remember looking at him and being so impressed with how he carried himself. I went home and told my Mom the news and all weekend we watched the repeated events on our “black and white” TV. We all felt a huge loss and were deeply sadden. To this day, when I see a Marine in uniform, it reminds me of that very historic and moving experience.
Sacred Heart Parish in Rowlet
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a sophomore at our new high school which had just opened its doors in September. I was in Sister Marion’s (now Sister Geraldine) Latin class. Latin class was well under way when there was a knock on the door. One of the sisters on the faculty came into our room, and whispered into Sister Marion’s ear. I will never forget the gasp, and the shocked look on Sister Marion’s face. Sister Marion instructed us to gather our things, that we would be released immediately, and our parents had been called to pick us up (these were the days of phone trees).
The hallways of Bishop Lynch were always filled with high energy, conversation and laughter, but on Nov. 22, 1963, I will never forget the silence as we made our way through the hallways to the front door of the school. You could have heard a pin drop.
At home I remember watching the news reports with my mom and sister. When dad arrived home from work, our family joined other families at the only comforting place to be that evening – our parish church, St. Patrick’s. We prayed for the Kennedy family, our governor, and the nation. Once again, silence filled the air to and from the church.
Our family like millions of other people spent the entire weekend glued in front of our black and white television set. We were in absolute shock and grief. On Nov. 22, 1963, our carefree and innocent life filled with the magic of ‘Camelot’ was changed forever.
A sidebar, our late father, Ed Hogan, was a Staff Announcer/On Air Personality at WFAA TV. After eating lunch, dad and his friend, WFAA director Jack Drabant, caught a glimpse of President and Mrs. Kennedy as their motorcade passed by. They were walking back to the TV station when a passerby told them the horrible news that President Kennedy had been shot.
Dad and Mr. Drabant ran all the way back to WFAA. Dad was immediately sent to Parkland Hospital for a remote report where he conducted interviews with people who were waiting outside the hospital for an update on the condition of President Kennedy.
Our mom, Grace Hogan, who had volunteered to help with the luncheon for the Kennedys, was at home instead of at the Trade Mart. My dad told mom in no uncertain terms that she would not be volunteering at the luncheon. (I might add that this predated “women’s lib” and my mom’s rise to power in our family!). There had been talk of disruption and possible protests, and he didn’t want her to get caught in the fray. He had no idea what horrific events would take place that day.
Bishop Lynch Class of 1966
I was in the first freshman class at BL, graduating class of 1967, and I’ll never forget that day! My dad had just been transferred to Dallas from the Kansas City, Mo., area nine months before, so we were very new to Texas.
Mom and dad were both staunch Democrats and loved President Kennedy, so, of course, us girls did, too. I had twin sisters who were in the first sophomore class as well. Dad happened to be downtown at the time and saw the motorcade pass by the bank he was visiting.
I was in my first or second period class when Sister Norbert came over the intercom to tell us of the shooting; there was stunned silence.
We sat and softly talked to one another and it seemed like forever before she came back on the intercom to tell us of his death. Hysterical crying began from the girls and no one seemed to know what to do. It was announced that school was cancelled for the day.
My family spent the next three days in front of the TV as most families did. What was sad, the next day after the shooting was my mom and dad’s 15th wedding anniversary!
Fourteen was an impressionable age and the whole why it happened for my family was met with wanting to go back home to KC. My family has now been proud residents of the Dallas area for 50 years. My sisters and I celebrated in January and made a visit to BL and other spots to recall the years well spent in Dallas!
Joan Ellinger Bertucci
Bishop Lynch Class of 1967
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a Carmelite novice at the Monastery of Marylake outside Little Rock, Ark. We were on retreat that Friday morning. Our retreat Master was an Irish Carmelite from Boston, Fr. Thomas Kilduff. He had just begun his afternoon conference when someone comes in and interrupts him with the news, “The president’s been shot!” What president? “The president of the United States: Kennedy!” Where? “In Dallas!” What is he doing in Dallas? “I don’t know. It’s on the radio. Come listen.” Well, that ended the retreat. Father Thomas was so upset that the native son, with roots in his own Boston neighborhood of Brookline was shot, he could not continue his conferences or finish our retreat.
The priests ran up to their recreation room of the monastery. Father Evarist, our holy novice master, after a short briefing over the Father’s radio, began to pace up and down the driveway praying for the life of our dear Catholic president. We novices were dumbfounded over the whole thing. Father Evarist was pacing down past our lake’s spillway when I finally caught up with him and asked if we too could go into the Father’s section and hear the news. “It’s better to pray,” he said. “But if you wish, just tell them I gave you permission.”
Father Herman, our prior, had erected a stone pedestal outside the monastery for our monastic bell which had previously hung on a wall by our chapel stairway. When news of Kennedy’s death was officially confirmed at 1:30 that afternoon, I went out there and tolled that bell—forever it seems. It tolled for the passing of our Catholic president, who had youthful energetic dreams for the future of this nation. It was the first time that bell had tolled, and to my recollection, the only time it has been tolled. That mournful sound, with long silence between each lonely ring, would carry memories that would last through a lifetime. Silent sorrowful prayer, at times, is the only solace to carry one through life’s unexpected tragedies.
Monastic discipline gave way that weekend to national ritual. Our prior, Father Herman, rented a television set. Since we were forbidden to have TV in the monastery, he carried it over to the guest house where we sat glued to the screen watching the funeral in Washington. When I was sent to study theology in Washington, every building on Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House to the Capitol reminded me of that sad funeral procession. When I was stationed in Dallas, I was drawn to see the School Book Depository, and try to piece together what had happened there from the images I had seen on television that weekend. When my Mom came to visit her son studying for the priesthood in D.C., the first place I took her was to Arlington to visit Kennedy’s grave.
Father John Michael Payne, OCD
St. Mary of Carmel Parish
I was in the Bishop Dunne gym. Karen Johnson came running in shouting that Gov. Connally had been killed and President Kennedy had been shot. She was crying and Mrs. Rumbley sent us back to homeroom. As we dressed, girls were crying and trying to make sense of it. We returned to our homeroom and the radio was being broadcast through the loudspeakers, and we learned that the president was dead and Gov. Connally was wounded but expected to survive. We were all like zombies the rest of the day, as teachers and students shared what they knew.
St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Lancaster
I was in the gym as well and remember Karen’s “announcement”. Mrs. Rumbley calmed us down and sent us to our homerooms. I immediately thought about a movie I had recently seen, “The Manchurian Candidate,” and thought maybe the whole country was being “overtaken” somehow. We dressed—in fact I remember some girls couldn’t even get themselves to do that, thus there were a few blue gym suits wandering the halls! For me the whole atmosphere was surreal—there was shock, sadness, fear, confusion, concern for the students who went downtown and all was clothed in a kind of reverence. Many of those emotions continued to be reinforced over the strange and sad days that followed.
I remember hating that it happened in Dallas. When I arrived home I found my mother and a black woman who worked for us for many years sitting together on the sofa watching television and consoling one another through their tears.
Bishop Dunne Class of 1965
I was in class at St. Joseph’s Nursing School in Fort Worth. The school and hospital are both gone now. One of our instructors, Miss Gammon, came in and announced President Kennedy had been shot. We all got up and went to the nearest radio to listen to the news. Needless to say we were unable to go on with class that day. I have kept an album of my family memory described below regarding my connection to JFK on that November day. I knew my Uncle Vincent was going to lead the meeting in a prayer but never anticipated how God was going to minister to President Kennedy through the power of prayer.
My uncle, Msgr. Vincent J. Wolf, two hours earlier in Fort Worth had said the invocation at the Chamber of Commerce Breakfast honoring President Kennedy. Msgr. Wolf gave President Kennedy a Spiritual Bouquet Card from his school children at St. Alice Parish, which became Holy Family Parish in 1965. President Kennedy had that prayer card in his suit pocket when he was assassinated in Dallas. The nurses at Parkland put all the clothing along with the card in a paper bag taken by the Secret Service. It is a consolation knowing of the many prayers of the children for President Kennedy. How much grace from these prayers flowed out in the tragedy will remain unknown but the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the rosaries offered had an eternal impact on the soul of President Kennedy.
Msgr. Wolf kept a copy of the prayer at this historic breakfast. The prayer Msgr. Wolf said at the last official meeting of President Kennedy is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.
“Oh eternal God, Father of these United States of America. We are a nation grateful to thee for having blessed us with a high destiny. From the day of our initial consecration to thee we have relied upon thy omnipotent providence, and under thy protection we have become for the world a beacon of hope and a shrine of liberty and justice for all.
Our founding fathers proclaimed thee as creator, and by that fact our country promotes for each resident a liberty most absolute and equality most entire. Oh God of might and wisdom, assist with thy spirit of counsel and fortitude the president of these United States, that his administration will be eminently useful and fruitful to thy people over whom he presides.
May we, with him, be thine instruments in establishing divine harmony throughout the world so that thy sons and daughters from one end of the Earth to the other may be free to join the glorious hymn of worship, ‘Glory to the highest, Oh God, and peace on earth.’”
Jane Wolf Robertson
All Saints Catholic Church
Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, is a day that is forever seared in my memory; for that day transports me back to my 17 year old self and my senior year at Bishop Dunne Catholic High School in Dallas, Texas.
For, that day, our Senior Class (all female) was given the privilege of being the school’s representatives to the activities in downtown Dallas. I remember the morning and the rain as I walked to the city bus stop under the protection of an umbrella, and my praying a short prayer for sunshine, for I knew that if the rain continued the bubble top would be placed upon the limousine and there would be no hope of having an undistorted and clear view of the president and First Lady.
After taking the city bus to my parish church and boarding the parish bus for my ride to school the sun broke through the clouds and the day became glorious. I knew then that our field trip would be successful. So, as school bells rang, and roll was taken, our senior class boarded the chartered City of Dallas buses for our destination and perch high above (Main Street) where we would have a bird’s eye view of the day’s activities.
I can still see the swell of the crowd below, the excitement, and the joy of our city greeting the president and the First Lady. I remember seeing them pass by our location waving and smiling to the welcoming crowds.
When we returned to the buses I recall learning the dreadful news about the vibrant man I had just seen only a few minutes before. I remember sitting in an almost stone-like shock unable to comprehend what I had been told, the grief I felt and the inconsolable tears being shed by some of my classmates. I remember thinking that a day that had encompassed so much joy and promise had ended in a tragedy for not only a young family, but also for our city, our nation, and the world.
Juanita (Hartman) Mitchell
Bishop Dunne Class of 1964
I was working in the USAF 43rd Bomb Wing (SAC) command post at Little Rock AFB in Arkansas. Returning from lunch, my NCOIC had me bring in my portable radio from my car. A group of us stood in silence as we listened.
I still have that radio.
Seven weeks prior to the assassination I shook President Kennedy’s hand as he was preparing to leave the base. He was there dedicating a new dam at Heber Springs. I am happy to have the base photographer’s 8×10 black-and-white glossy of that “greeting crowd.”
Anthony J. Schrick
St. William Catholic Church in Greenville
On Nov. 22, 1963, I was an intern at Parkland Hospital. I had started there in July 1963. It turned out that in November, I was assigned to work in the surgical section of the Emergency Room. I was there on that day with one other physician, Dr. Carrico.
Then the speaker in the surgical area of the Emergency Room came on and a voice said, “The president has been shot.” That was our first awareness. Then the double doors of the Emergency Room fly open—I see the gurney with the President on the gurney. The gurney is pushed into a procedure room. Dr. C. James Carrico and I went in. We were the first and second people there.
I placed an intravenous line in the president’s ankle area. I took his sock and shoe off and ran the tube into it and started an I.V.
By that time, the room was packed with all sorts of staff people. I went to see if help was needed with Gov. Connally.
I saw Jackie Kennedy. I wish I had said something to her, but I didn’t have the presence of mind to do that.
Dr. Martin White
former intern at Parkland Hospital