Where were you on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963?
Here is a chronology of Friday, Nov. 22, 1963 (all times Eastern Standard Time)
12:39 am Air Force One arrives in Dallas
12:55 am Motorcade begins, the Kennedys and the Connallys are in the second car
1:29 pm Presidential limousine enters Dealey Plaza
1:30 pm Witnesses report three shots fired
1:36 pm ABC reports three shots fired
1:37 pm NBC radio bulletin, sniper fired three shots fired
1:39 pm Radio bulletin on Dallas KLIF: shots fired
1:40 pm CBS bulletin by Walter Cronkite: President has been shot, wounds could be fatal
1:45 pm United Press reports President Kennedy and Gov. Connally shot
1:45 pm NBC TV breaks into regular programming to report Kennedy had been shot
1:57 pm NBC begins continuous broadcasting
2:00 pm CBS, ABC join continuous radio, TV coverage
All regular programming and commercials canceled for the next four days
2:00 pm President Kennedy pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital
2:10 pm Dallas police officer JD Tippit fatally shot
2:22 pm CBS reports that President Kennedy died of wounds from assassin’s bullets
2:33 pm President Kennedy’s death announced. “He died of a gunshot wound to the brain.”
2:50 pm Lee Harvey Oswald arrested at the Texas Theatre
Sunday, Nov 24
12:21 pm Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed at Dallas Police HQ by Jack Ruby on live TV
I was coming back from one of the practice rooms in my high school music department when the first announcement from our school principal came over the loudspeaker: “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. We don’t know anything more at this point.”
I was alone in what had been a locker room off the below-ground gymnasium in the old high school on Main Street in East Aurora, New York. I sat down, alto saxophone in hand, stunned, saying something like “Oh my God.” I don’t remember talking to anyone, or even seeing anyone, although I’m sure instrumental instructor and band leader Charlie Gange was around. I was alone with my thoughts of the young President. I slowly put the saxophone into its case. If I had another class that day I don’t remember what it was. I am sure I didn’t go to it. I sat and waited for Mr. McPherson to make the next announcement. The only radio was in the office. There was no TV in the school. Portable radios were still the size of lunch boxes, and were not allowed in school. I remember praying a little, hoping for some good news.
About 20 minutes later, there was a second announcement over the loudspeaker. This time I was sitting on a folding chair in the cavernous rehearsal room, the old school’s World War I-era gymnasium, when Mr. McPherson’s voice echoed off the high ceiling: “CBS is reporting that President Kennedy is dead.” If the principal said anything after that, from a thoughtful prayer for our nation or even an announcement that school was out early, I don’t remember. My memory of that fateful half hour on a Friday afternoon in my junior year of high school is so intensely clear. My memory of the next nearly 48 hours is practically non-existent, consisting of flickering images on my family’s black-and-white console TV, repeating over and over. I don’t remember walking home (I lived across the street from the school), talking to my parents or friends, the headlines in the morning and evening Buffalo newspapers that landed in our driveway twice daily or the words said at the Sunday morning service at the First Baptist Church. Nothing. Just those TV images. The motorcade. The crowds. The waving president. Jackie. Until Sunday after church.
We had just arrived home from church, and I immediately went downstairs to our basement family room where the TV was located. I turned it on just in time to see the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, escorted down a hallway, then suddenly shot – on live TV – by a guy later identified as strip club owner Jack Ruby. I remember yelling to my parents in the kitchen upstairs, sitting on the rug in front of the TV wearing my tie and sport coat, watching the chaos in Dallas continue to unfold. The memories end there.
It had been a year of inspiration. An astronaut spent an entire day circling the earth in a tiny Mercury capsule. Martin Luther King gave the famous “I have a dream” speech at the March on Washington. I had decided to become a doctor, to spend my life helping people. The world seemed to have bounced back from a real threat of annihilation in October 1962, and, despite wars in Asia and Africa and walls in Berlin, all had seemed optimistic and purposeful, symbolized for me by a youthful, brilliant, eloquent, handsome president. Now, with the death of that president, a whole new world lay before me: a decade of riots, wars and more assassinations, and a lot of growing up.