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November 22, 2013



I was a week from being 6 Lesa, in first grade & at school the day President Kennedy was shot. I remember seeing my teacher & the other teachers crying, then the principal came over the loud speaker telling us we had to go home as our President had been shot. That walk home seemed so long & scary but my mom met me before I got very far.

It was the first time I'd ever seen her grieve & I think that stuck with me more than anything. I recall sitting on our sofa with her, watching the funeral. Such a sad time & a sad memory.

I have a dear friend whose cousin is the law officer who was handcuffed to Lee Harvey Oswald when Jack Ruby shot him. I too like to watch the films, read the books & keep up with the information about this event that forever changed our country.


Great post, Lesa. I was the last one out of the locker room after PE (some things never change.) I remember indistinct sound coming though the PA system as I made my way to lunch, not registering the empty school grounds. It wasn’t until I stepped inside the cafeteria that I began to grasp something very bad had happened. Dim lights, everyone stunned or crying, someone whispering “The President’s been shot.” My mother was at home on the phone with a friend when her friend’s neighbor broke in to share the news (there were “party lines” in those days.) I have a vivid memory of sitting in front of the TV and seeing Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. Fifty years ago, so unlike today, momentous world events didn’t happen in “real time” on your television screen. It was the end of innocence, an innocence our children have unfortunately never known.

Donna Andrews

Lesa, my experience was similar to yours. I was in school, where our class was working on a Thanksgiving mural, cutting pilgrims and turkeys out of construction paper. The principal came in, visibly holding back tears, and made an announcement, and then we went back to our work with very little holiday excitement left. And I, too, was home sick--with a cold--for the funeral. I still remember how shaken all the adults were, even those I knew had been bitterly opposed to Kennedy during the election

Charlaine Harris

I certainly remember that day, one of the saddest of my life. Unfortunately, Kennedy was not loved in my home state (Mississippi) and many children who had only heard their parents denigrate him were quite cheerful about it . . . until the awfulness began to sink in.


I was in school, too, and I remember all the teachers clustered together in the hall, feverishly talking about something. When my teacher didn't come back into the classroom, our class became wild and noisy, as kids often do when the teacher isn't there. Our teacher, who was a really miserable guy who seemed to dislike kids, finally came in, looking terribly pale, and told us the President had been shot. He added that our rowdiness was disrespectful, and made it sound as if, by being noisy, we had brought it about. He was clearly shocked and grief-stricken himself, but it was a lousy thing to say. I didn't learn he'd died until after I went home and my sobbing mother told me.

Lesa Holstine

That day stuck with all of us who were in school or older on Nov. 22, 1963. And, I'm always curious to see how much people remember, and where they were. Kay, I never thought about the police officer who was handcuffed to Oswald. There were so many people on the periphery who really were eyewitnesses to tragedy. Donna, Your experiences do sound similar. That funeral is one that will always echo with me. Oh, Charlaine. I knew there were some places were people were not as upset as most of the country, but I didn't think about the effect on children in those places. There's so much we just don't recognize or remember because of our young age when Kennedy was shot. You're right, Kris. That was a lousy way to treat children, and a terrible thing to say to them.

Lesa Holstine


I did like your comment that some things never change when you said you were the last one out of PE. That is SO you. Hugs, my friend, and thanks for sharing your memories.

Pat Browning

I was at home (Hanford,CA) dressing to go into town for lunch with a friend. Phone rang. My friend said, "Turn on TV. Someone just shot the president." I turned on TV, stood there yelling, "Where the hell was the Secret Service?"

When I went on into town it was eerie. People stood in stunned silence everywhere. Nothing moved. The only sounds were radios and TVs.

I spent the next week watching TV and crying. I was stringing for the Fresno Bee then and my assignment was to do a Thanksgiving story for the cover page of the Women's Section.

I had slaved for weeks over that story. When I went out to the driveway to pick up the paper I looked at my story and thought, "Why did I ever think this was important?"

I sound like a broken record here but the best fiction novel I ever read about the assassination is Thomas B. Sawyer's THE SIXTEENTH MAN. I usually read it every year.

Pat Browning

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Oh sure..of course I remember. I was 13 or so--in school, in a science class, I think. In a lab? I remember everyone got every quiet. Then--I went home. And I think I watched TV with my parents. It's difficult to remember--and what seems like a memory.

SO lovely to see you Lesa! Even on this tender day.

Lesa Holstine

Thank you, Pat, for the memories, and the book recommendation. It's nice to hear from two journalists, you and Hank. Thank you, to both of you.

Judy Dee

I was switchboard receptionist in the advertising dept. of the old Herald-Examiner in L.A. My mother called me from home before I ever heard it from the newspaper. That was the amazing part. That is the only time I vividly remember what I was doing when a disaster struck. The shock of a sitting president being murdered hit me hard.

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