JFK: Our memories of 1963

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From: Dorothy Lecker, Dunnington, York.

WITH reference to your request for people’s memories, I can tell you that on that day I was in Dallas, Texas, waiting by the roadside to see President John F Kennedy’s motorcade pass by.

I was about half a mile from the School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza where the President was shot.

Suddenly there was unrest among the police and the crowd and shortly afterwards the President’s car was driven past at speed on its way to the Parkland Memorial Hospital. As well as the President, Mrs Kennedy and Governor John Connally and his wife were in the car. Governor Connally was injured, but survived.

I was working at the University of Texas South Western Medical School in Dallas for six months. The Medical School is next to the Parkland Memorial Hospital where the President died.

It is hard to believe that it is 50 years since that momentous event and that I was there.

From: Lorna B. Young, Kirkby Avenue, Sheffield.

MY memories of the day JFK was assassinated are very clear and profound because I was, at that time, working for two years at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign.

It was a normal pleasant day, and myself and friends had been for lunch in the Students’ Union. I was returning to my lab in the lift when a very upset lady got in and said: “Did you know they’ve tried to kill our President?”

This was before he was officially pronounced dead. It was a tremendous shock – even more so when my boss came to the lab and told us that he was, indeed, dead.

It was astonishing to see the effect it had on everyone. The campus was full of weeping people all in a state of shock , not able to believe this had happened to their beloved President. The streets were full of weeping people. And I remember that my mother also phoned me from England. What rather amazed me was the lack of reaction and emotion of my very distant relatives who were farmers nearby and staunchly Republican “salts of the earth”.

That night we had arranged to go to see a very depressing Ingmar Bergman film, which did nothing to help our mood!

After a few days, we attended a very moving service on the campus, on the day of his funeral.

It was a very special time in my life and, because of the above reasons, one which I shall never forget.

I was very happy during my time there and I felt that the generous and warm hearted Americans did not deserve this tragedy.

From: Mrs Margaret W Whitaker, Rose Cottage, Harswell, East Yorkshire.

I HEARD of the President’s assassination while shopping in St John’s, Newfoundland, one morning. This news was relayed through a loud hailer on a truck that drove very slowly round the square where I was, and everyone came to a standstill in disbelief.

Staring at each other, we kept silent for some moments, before speaking to each other in shocked whispers, then dispersing quietly to our homes to watch events unfold on our television sets. For some days most people remained in their houses until the emotional military funeral came to an end.

After four years with small children living far from family and friends, the tragic event made me more than ever determined to return as soon as possible to my own country.

From: Michael Planchunas, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

I AM an American born in Barnsley of a British mother and an American serviceman during the Second World War, with family still in the area.

At the time I was serving in the United States Air Force and on that fateful day was at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, 125 miles north west of Dallas, in technical school.

My roommate and I and the rest of the barracks had been called to attention. This was the weekly ‘open locker’ inspection by the squadron CO. He and the training NCO had just entered the room when the orderly came in and proclaimed “Kennedy has been shot, and Johnson has suffered a heart attack”.

The barracks was immediately called to ‘as you were’, as the CO and NCO hurriedly left the barracks. My roommate and I were left to announce the shooting to the rest of the barracks.

Sheppard AFB was also home to a squadron of B-52 bombers and KC-135 aerial refuelers. Within a few minutes these planes started taking off. For half an hour the skies were filled with the roar of jet engines at full take-off power. No one at the time knew the full details and the Wing Commander launched the planes as a precaution.