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March 1st, 2010
11:00 AM ET

'Letters to Jackie' captures a nation's anguish

Editor's Note: 1.5 million letters were sent to Jacqueline Kennedy after JFK's assassination in 1963. Author Ellen Fitzpatrick's new book, "Letters to Jackie,” highlights 250 of those condolences. It is published by Ecco and goes on sale at bookstores March 2, 2010.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=""Letters to Jackie" is a first-ever compilation of condolences received by Jacqueline Kennedy after President John F. Kennedy's assassination."]

By Ronni Berke, CNN

(CNN) – The 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an act of violence that shocked the collective American conscience, sparking an outpouring of grief that transcended racial and economic lines.

That grief has now been cataloged by historian Ellen Fitzpatrick in a new book, "Letters to Jackie," a first-ever compilation of some of the 1.5 million condolence letters the first lady received after Kennedy's death.

Most of the letters were originally destroyed by the National Archives, which felt it would not have enough room to store them. Fitzpatrick combed through more than 15,000 of the remaining letters at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, to choose 250 for the book.

"The letters that were most compelling to me were ones that encapsulated some sense of Kennedy as a president, or it was someone who had something very powerful to say about the day of the assassination … or someone who talked about an experience with grief in their own life," said Fitzpatrick.

Letters express JFK grief Video

There was also great diversity among the letter writers.

"I am but a humble postman," wrote Henry Gonzales. "Please try to find it in your heart that we Texans of Mexican origin love all of you."

Henry Gonzales emigrated from Mexico to Texas with his parents at the age of two. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he joined the U.S. Postal Service. (Photo scan courtesy the JFK Presidential Library and Museum)

Martha Ross, the 74-year-old daughter of a slave, wrote: "I am a colord lady but he seam clost to me as my own and he was apart of all Americains..."

Martha Ross was a sharecropper and daughter of a slave, born in Georgia, who settled in New Haven. Although she had no formal education, she taught her great-grandson to read using the Bible. Ross died in 1981. (Photo scan courtesy the JFK Presidential Library and Museum)

Her great-grandson, Winston Lucky, said he remembers as a boy watching her grieve.

"She took the death of the president really hard," he said. "She was crazy about the president. She thought he was a great man and that he was going to do great things for the African-American community."

The book also contains letters written by children, like eight-year-old Kevin Radell.

"I know you should forgive your enemies, but it is hard to forgive Lee Oswald," he wrote.

Kevin Radell, an eight-year-old when he wrote his letter, comes from a family of artists in rural Michigan. On the day of Kennedy's assassination, his mother was "distraught and crying," he says. "At first it was shock and being scared, especially when you see your own family emoting that way." Kevin is now an investment banker and fine art adviser in New York. (Photo scan courtesy the JFK Presidential Library and Museum)

Today, Radell remembers the period as a "terrifying time." Kennedy, he says, "was such a protector of the nation and such a leader and we all loved him."

Some letters were strikingly prescient. One, signed simply by "A Negro Who beleave in God," blessed the first family, and added: "In the next Forty to Forty-five Year A Negro from Louisiana will be come President of the United States."

For Fitzpatrick, the letters show not only the raw emotion of the time, but the way that Kennedy "had incorporated this message of hope, of vitality, of change, of possibility," with his young family.

"It was a sense of here was a couple, a family who had everything. They were sitting on top of the world. And in an instant it was gone." That is what made the death so devastating, she said.

"It was a loss of innocence, it was a terrible encounter with irrational violence of the kind that I think Americans today are much more used, to, unfortunately."

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (162 Responses)
  1. Gena

    I was 8 years old the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I came home from school and wrote a letter to Mrs. Kennedy. I received a letter from her acknowledging me. I have it framed and hanging on my living room wall. This is probably the most important piece of memorabilia I possess.

    March 10, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
  2. Larry in Tucson

    I was a senior in high school back in November 1963. I was also a
    station captain for The Milwaukee Journal. I remember that after all
    the paper carriers picked up their paper route deliveries, I was told by our station manager that the Journal was running a Special Edition that we would sell on the street corners. It felt like I was back in the WW2 days when news came out that the war had ended!

    Those small papers sold FAST! Seemed like everyone who saw us bought one or two. Everyone wanted the very latest news, and as much information as they could get their hands on. All the radio stations played somber music, and people just walked around in a daze trying to understand it all. What a dark period in our history.....

    March 9, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  3. Lee Ann

    I was in the 2nd grade in St. Mary's Catholic school in northern Michigan, running in the halls was NOT permitted. All of a sudden someone was running down the hall and was shouting into each class room, it was 8th grader Eugene Farkus, he yelled that President Kennedy was shot, we immediately started praying the Rosary, and could not believe what we had heard, a few minutes later, Eugene came running down the hall again and let us know President Kennedy was was silent, or so I remember...we filed single file into church, finished the Rosary and were sent home. Like the others when I returned home my Mom was crying and we were glued to our BW tv for the next several days. I do not know any of the names of my classmates from that day, but I will never forget the words from Eugene......

    March 3, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  4. Patricia in Va

    I was born in Mass, and when I was 4 yrs old, Sen Kennedy came to our house, as my Dad was instrumental in the election with Jack Kennedy and Henry Cabot Lodge.
    I was too little to remember that, but the Kennedy's were always an important part of any Mass resident.
    Years later, on that fateful day, I was a Senior in HS, having moved to Va in my teen yrs.
    I remember everyone crying in the halls, the weight of death all around us.
    My older brother, who adored Jack, took me to his Funeral at Arlington Cemetery.
    He hoisted my up on the huge stone pillars gracing the entrance.
    I watched as all the Dignitaries from all over the world came to Pres Kennedys funeral.
    I watched as Jackie came to say "goodbye" to her Husband.
    Later, my brother and I climbed the hill where Pres Kennedy was laid to rest, a soldier saw us, but let us stay.
    That's what I remember most vividly, his vault being lowered into the ground.
    I am not fabricating this story, President Kennedy's death changed us all,
    God Bless His Soul and of All the Kennedy's

    March 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
  5. Carolyn

    I was a 7 year old when President Kennedy was killed. I was at school when it was announced over the intercom. I remember what I was wearing, what I was looking at when I heard the news and even remember that the sun was shining outside. It seemed that time stood still and the whole country took a bend in the road. Very profound.

    March 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm |
  6. vivian

    Reading these comments brought back all the sadness of that time. I was shopping at the grocery store when the news came over the store microphone that President Kennedy had been shot. As soon as I got home, I turned on our television and later heard the news that he had died. The sadness of that time will always be with me.

    March 2, 2010 at 5:28 pm |
  7. Steve H.

    I had just turned 11 years old shortly before the assassination. I was home from school recovering from the flu. But yet I remember so many vivid details from that day. They are forever seared into my brain.
    I'm at a point in my life now where nothing much that happens ever surprises me. But yet I'm always amazed by how quickly things happen. In six seconds in Dallas, everything changed. I remember thinking how nothing could ever be the same. It was the same feeling I had on 9/11.
    I remember my dad coming home from work that day. He said that when they announced the news over the P.A. system at the Plant that he worked, some people cheered. I remember sitting with my dad in the car that Sunday in the drive-way patiently waiting on my mother. My father turned on the car radio just in time to hear that Oswald had been shot and killed while in police custody. A lone nut had just shot the other lone nut. My dad said, in no one in particular, "What the hell is going on?" He deserved an answer. He never got it.
    The Kennedy assassination left a gaping hole on the soul of our nation. We were foolish to think that it was an end to something. It was just the beginning. Vietnam. Watergate. The generation gap. The mistrust in our government. It made us cynical. We are the nation of the jaded. A nation of non-believers.
    We lost more than the 35th President that day.
    We lost our way.

    March 2, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  8. Keith Hyatt

    I was in the 8th Grade at Jefferson Junior High in Oak Ridge, Tn. I was walking between classes, I know exactly the spot, when a kid came up and said President Kennedy had been shot. I went to the next class, which was US History, and Mr. Walker, who was an excellent history teacher, had already had a television rolled into the classroom, and I remember he said, "We will not do our normal classroom today, this is history, a sad day in history, but we will watch history happen". Of course the word came in while we were in the class that President Kennedy had died, I remember Walter Cronkite making the announcement which he had difficulty finishing. That was my last class that day, and I rode my bike home with a friend, who mentioned that the country was on war alert, which in our town, the home of the Manhattan Project that meant a lot, because even as kids we understood the gravity of that. We were out of school after that, and I remember watching the funeral, with the endless drum beats as the caisson moved along the streets of Washington. Then we went to relatives in Waynesville, NC and were there watching TV live when Oswald was shot by Jack Ruby...we will never know the real story of all that, only the after effects, as this was a hinge on which history swung, what would Kennedy have done to change the course of it, had he lived? Would he proceeded with Vietnam, Civil Rights, hard to say. I too, will remember these days in 1963 as clear as if they were yesterday. I alsm mush mention that RFK was shot on my high school graduation day in 1968, a year of turmoil that I also will never forget.

    March 2, 2010 at 10:21 am |
  9. ET

    I was in 1st grade and still remember coming home to see both of my parents crying in front of the tv. That black and white image is still in my mind at age 52.

    March 2, 2010 at 9:31 am |
  10. doris dunn

    my letter is in this book. i was never so honored when i received a call from my son,who told me my letter was chosen.i received a letter from ella fitzsgerald,s office with forms for me to sign so that it may be published.I remember that day like yesterday.Our country grieved that horrific day.Never mind the mud hateful people are slinging. and are still consumed with hate.if you weren,t alive at the time what do you know? How can peoplebe so vengeful. i just don,t understand and how i wish i could.I feel so sad to-day as if it just happened. Let those without sin throw the first stone.we were grieving for a great statesman and his young wife and children.The Kennedy,s suffered more personal tragedies than one family shoud have to endure. GOD bless all you who hate.and GOD watch over President Obama. You people weren,t there. you just could never feel the pain and sorrow.Wouldn,t it be wonderful it people could speak with their hearts and not their politics.I pray for our country.

    March 2, 2010 at 9:19 am |
  11. Michele

    I was 6 years old, living in England. My dad was in the Air Force. Prior to JFK's death, as a little girl, I had felt a strong connection to Caroline, as only a child can. She was the same age, her family was from Cape Cod, like me, and they were Irish Catholic, like our family. JFK was our president. When he died, I remember crying and being sad for his children. I also remember all of our British neighbors coming to our house to express their condolences and being so sad.

    March 2, 2010 at 5:29 am |
  12. Cheryl

    Just as 9/11 I think this goes into history of being a day everyone will vividly remember. I was only seven but I can still remember the events and my families reactions. The same goes for the day of the funeral.
    I do not know what kind of President he was, other than like everyone else my family thought he was a great one. However, from all I have read he was just like every other politician. We came very close to a nuclear war which the American people had no idea of. The entire Kennedy clan had more affairs than the last ten presidents' in a era which condoned such behavior. Yet, in modern times we persecute Bill Clinton. I do not understand people. However, I do think Jackie was a very classy woman and a wonderful first lady.

    March 2, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  13. Mike

    I was in 3 or 4 grade, when I got out of school that day I heard, President
    JFK was dead, I cry all the way home, I was only a youngster but it felt like the country die.
    JFK was my Hero back then.

    March 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm |
  14. Judith Chase

    It was my 23rd birthday. My Aunt Barbara, my favorite aunt, called my mom and said, "Turn on the TV. The President's been shot!" We were stunned for the rest of the day; for the following weeks, months – and years. Every birthday I have, I remember this great man and what occured. I named my daughter Jacqueline and she goes by Jackie. That was the most I could do. Wish I'd written her now.

    March 1, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
  15. Pamela W. Neilson

    I was also in the 10th grade in 1963. I remember hearing the news and having a hard time taking it in. Jackie Kennedy's courage and dignity was an example I will never forget. Our nation could have fallen apart that day but Jackie Kennedy restored our sense of being one nation.

    March 1, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
  16. Wendy

    I was 14 and in 9th grade on that horrible day. It started out as a relatively sunny day and then started raining in the late afternoon; it was as though God was crying over what happened to our dear President. Yes, our innocence was indeed taken away from us on November 22, 1963, and the World did stop for those tragic moments. It is said that with their baby Patrick's passing in August of '63, they were brought closer together as a couple. So, when he was taken away, at least he knew how much Jackie meant to him, and how their marriage was becoming on firmer ground. And Jackie had those moments too. I am a devotee of the show, "Mad Men," and the just-finished Season 3 had their next-to-last show reflecting the assassination. I was sitting there, crying like a baby, while watching the show - it's like everything was brought back after 46 years. None of us will ever forget who were old enough to remember.

    March 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
  17. susanm

    I was 9 years old home from school with asthma. My mother saw where Kenneth would be traveling by Carswell AFB, so we jumped in the car and saw him and Jackie and the others, but only had eyes for JFK and Jackie. We returned home shortly, and my mom was in the bathroom and I was watching tv when they came on and said that JFK had been shot and had died. I'll never forget the feeling of loss and sharing that loss with my mom that day. How did that happen, we thought – we just saw him. When Bobby was killed later, my mom and I were again home together. I heard it on my clock radio in my bed, and got up and found my mother crying in the living room. Another sad moment we shared and such a sad, sad loss. I too believe if JFK had not been killed or Bobby or Martin Luther, our country would be better for humanity, But then, that's what assassination is intended to do, destroy good.

    March 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Virginia Cavalier

    I turned 4 yrs old a few days before our beloved President was shot, even at that young age i remember my parents being very distraught, yet assuring me it would all be alright, even though i didnt know what was going on really. A few short years later i realized how much we as a country had lost.

    And all the years after that they always said 'itll never be the same without JFK.'

    My father was an Engineer and helped build the USS JFK, i was there when Jackie christened the ship and my Dad went on its maiden voyage, 12 years later I served proudly aboard that great ship.

    Thanks for sharing this Ellen Fitzpatrick, its a glimpse into the carefree time when all was right with America and hope was in the air, til that darkest of days changed us forever.

    March 1, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  19. Scott Brock

    I was 10 when my stepfather came home and announced that someone had shot the President, and it was just an hour later that I saw Walter Cronkite make the official announcement. Perhaps the hardest thing I have ever seen was three days later when little “John-John” step forward and salute when his father’s casket passed by. Later in 1968, after finishing last-minute canvassing for RFK, I stayed up late to watch the election returns, and I remember being, albeit mistakenly, annoyed that some idiot was popping firecrackers in the background – and minutes later discovering that what I had actually heard was Sirhan Sirhan’s gun going off. So much to speculate about if these two great men had not died.

    To answer Michael Isaac – yes, there likely never would have even been a Vietnam War if JFK had lived. In the spring of 1963, upon listening to his own advisors, rather than the MACV experts in the Far East Bureau, about how bleak the political prospects looked even then for South VietNam, he made up his mind that the policy of American “volunteers” deployment would be reversed – after the 1964 election. And to answer Paul: Amongst all the conspiracy theories, the most logically likely to me seems to be that which pins the assassination of JFK on Johnson’s business cronies. There was a lot of dirt on them at the Department of Justice, and it is well known Johnson was NOT any darling of the Kennedy Administration. Those cronies were likely scared about how much JFK might want to make use of this “dirt” through his brother RFK, then Attorney General. We all know the myriad of mysteries with the JFK assassination – the autopsy procedures & report, the unexplained “2nd bullet” on the gurney, Oswald’s bizarre relationship with the CIA, and finally the fact that the M91 (“Carcano”) rifle he used has been debunked by ballistic experts as a precision weapon – the Army used it STRICTLY for basic training shooting practice, since that weapon’s range is very, very short. Thus, it is very clear that someone else delivered the fatal shot(s), the Warren Commission evidence notwithstanding. With Johnson as President, those cronies probably felt that he would deflect, if not control, Justice Department caseflow, and probably became nervous when Johnson decided not to run for President again in 1968. They probably panicked when it was becoming clear, after the California primary, that he would likely win the Presidency. Although it’s conjecture on my part, it would seem logical that those same cronies were probably behind RFK’s death as well.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
  20. David W Maxwell

    I also wrote to Mrs. Kennedy. I was an eighteen-year old senior in H.S. I still have the franked reply I received in return. What an awful, awful day!

    March 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  21. fifi

    6th grade at the time. Will anyone who was alive forget that terrible days (s) to follow. I recall everywhere I went to escape the grief there was more grief. Finally, I went home and cried for days with my family. There were few words, just tears.... RIP our beautiful President Kennedy.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  22. Rhonda

    I was only 4 that day and yet I remember very vividly the events that unfolded. The TV program I was watching was interrupted by a bulletin and my Mother immediately ran to call my Father. Shortly afterward, he came home from work in the middle of the day, something that had never occurred before. During the days that followed, our extended family clung together and I saw my grandfathers and father crying; again, a thing I had never witnessed before. I was actually sitting on my father's lap when Oswald was shot. It does seem as if this one event forever changed us in ways still being felt.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  23. Miriam Horta

    I was seventeen and my sister turned sixteen on the day of JFK's Assasination. America lost her innocence on that horrible day. However, JFK encouraged all of us young people of that era to: "Ask not what your Country can do for you. Rather ask what you can do for your country." Those of us who were young at the time were inspired by him to give something back to humanity.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  24. Paul

    It is difficult to talk to the subsequent generations about JFK. They still do not understand why we thought so much of him. It is not their fault. They never experienced the hope for our nation that we were experiencing before his death. I was in 2nd grade. I remember going home and crying go a very long time. I remember watching the funeral. I pray that one day the innocence of out nation will return. Let us see them as they arrive and cheer for them. But we must be careful not to evaluate the politics of a person in determining his character.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  25. Karen

    I was in Kindergarten at the time & remember my mother coming to take me and my twin friends out of school. Even at the tender age of 5 I knew something terrible had happened. I even remember watching the funeral, etc on the old black and white tv.
    What a tragic loss for our United States back then.,

    March 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
  26. Diana Bartelt

    It was the day before the wedding of a friend. I was in the wedding partty. That night was the rehearsal dinner. I was 21 and at work at the Rockefeller Institute, my first job as a technician. It was my aunt's 65th birthday and the American Turnverein of Brooklyn was to have a testimonial dinner for her. It was cancelled.
    I was one of the 1.5 million who wrote a letter. They promised that they would be kept in the Kennedy library. I am bummed out to hear that they threw them out.
    We were part of the new frontier and we were going to change everything. With the Asassination our hopes were dashed. I understood how the supporters of Pres. Obama felt in 2008 because that's how we felt in 1960.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  27. TB

    I was a senior in high school that fateful day. Had just returned from lunch when we heard the news. Was standing by my locker. Visited my old high school this past summer, and went to the exact spot where I heard the sad news. Was present in NY just the week before when President Kennedy addressed the national CYO convention. His remarks were about "what you can do for your country" and a ballroom full of young people were inspired that day to go out and do great things for the USA. His murder was almost beyond comprehension for a 17 year old boy. So much hope and promise for the country died that day. Mrs. Kennedy exhibited so much class in the aftermath while grieving so deeply. I'll never forget that. I think her example helped us all get through that terrible time.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  28. Debi Osborne

    I was in 7th grade math class. And someone had a transistor radio and announced to the class that JFK had been shot. The teacher confirmed this info and led us in prayer.

    March 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  29. mary lees - Toronto, Ontario, Canada

    On the day President Kennedy was shot I was working. It was an
    american company in Canada. We were so upset that everyone was
    sent home from work. Even thought he was an American president
    he had a great impact on Canada and I guess the whole world. Had he lived I am sure he would have done great things.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
  30. Elizabeth

    I was going through reading everyone's comments and I am so touched by everyone's stories. This happened before I was born but it is heartbreaking to know what everyone must have gone through at that time and what our nation must have been like. Its as devastating as 9/11. I would have hoped that we as a country wouldn't have to experience such violence and sorrow and have our children question "Why did this happen?"

    I admire President Kennedy, in the short time that he was in office from what I have read, he seemed like he could have done alot with our country and its saddened me that he never had the chance to do that very thing.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  31. Jim

    Like most of you, I was a freshman in high school in a small farming community in Illinois. I remember that day like it was yesterday. The Kennedy’s inspired me to continue my education in political science. It was a day, as was said prior, changed this country forever. To have our dreams and hopes for a better future taken away from us in a blink of an eye was a shock wave that still goes on. They gave us such vigor and charm. What a waist.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:57 pm |
  32. John

    After we got to know the rest of the Kennedys, especially Ted. Maybe the world was a little better off without JFK. He may have been a slimeball like the rest of the family; but fooled us instead. He certainly liked his women, the horny dude. We suspect Ted liked little boys, though, after what we saw him do to that poor girl, Mary Jo Kopechne.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  33. Terry

    I was in 1st grade when Kennedy was killed. I don't remember a whole lot about it except our teacher was crying and my mom was all upset. I still believe Oswald was the patsy and from the Zapruder film JFK was shot from the front since the last and fatal shot knocked him backwards. Someone else did it, not Lee Harvey.

    I've also read of the mysterious deaths of anyone and everyone who was involved in dealing with this case that could have shed light on it.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
  34. Steven Stanko

    For 38 years I said the most shocking event I'd ever see live on TV was Ruby shooting Oswald. But then, on 9/11, the 2nd plane suddenly appeared on the screen crashing into the South Tower. That was significantly more shocking given how many people had just died right before my eyes. Both events left me stunned and totally confused as to what was really going on. Now, at 58 years old, I can only hope and pray that my list ends at 2.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  35. Wausaufamily

    What a great article! Voices heard in the form of letters never expecting answers back. RIP JFK

    March 1, 2010 at 3:50 pm |
  36. Ron Hirst

    I was in 6th grade when this happened, I still remember the day as if it were today. The event impacts me even today and forever changed America.Ron

    March 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  37. Pranav, IL

    It's amazing how one person could have inspired millions of Americans and people all around the globe. All you need to do is watch his inaugural speech, or his "we choose to go to the moon" speech at Rice University. I can't imagine a person who wouldn't be moved and motivated.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:47 pm |
  38. Tammy

    I was only 4 years old. I did not comprehend exactly what had happened. Of course, I realize now what devastation this tragedy had brought to our country. A funny note though.... I still remember like it was yesterday how upset I was with my parents for not letting me watch cartoons and "forcing" me to watch news (extremely boring to a 4 year old), when in fact, the news was all that was on TV. And no first lady will ever be as classy as Jackie Kennedy. She was our American Princess.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:43 pm |
  39. Lupe M

    I was not alive when President Kennedy was assasinated, but these excerpts of letters from around the nation are extremely touching.
    It's amazing just how devastating the loss was for all Americans as it was for Mrs Onassis & family.

    I'm looking forward to buying this book.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:42 pm |
  40. Matt Kessler

    Michael of Juneau: What did Mrs. Kennedy write you? Can you share it with us?

    March 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm |
  41. Matt Kessler

    I'm also 62 and was a junior in Spanish at White Plains HS when the annoucement came over our public address system. Our teacher, who was from Mexico, went into hysterics because she thought it was the president of Mexico who had been assassinated as JFK had been visiting him earlier in the day. When she realized that it was JFK was the victim and not "her" president, she was relieved and we all started crying. I remember the silence on the school bus ride home and our entire family in tears over the weekend as we watched everything on B&W TV with a tearful Walter Cronkite. It was the end of an era and the beginning of a string of modern-day assassinations in the USA that continue. I pray that the Obama family will be spared any such grief.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  42. Alan W. Hayes

    I am fast approaching 72 however that day will be etched in my memory forever. I was on break from classes and on my way to see my fiancé who was living on base with her sister and brother-in-law at Westover AFB in Chicopee Falls MA. Traveling from Worcester MA the MASS Turnpike was the quickest way to get there. Traffic was light and I had the car radio on for company listening to the news regarding the shooting of our President. The announcement then came over the radio that our President had died. I witnessed what seemed to be all of the traffic on the MASS Pike that was within my field of vision pull to the side of the road and stop including myself and two State Police cars. Nothing was moving. Nothing. All traffic had stopped and people were stepping out of their cars leaning on the doors or striking their hands on the hood or the roof of their cars. When traffic did resume, it was very orderly maybe one or two cars at a time. All of us staying way under the speed limit.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  43. B Aguiar

    I was on the school bus on my way home and a school crossing guard stopped our bus to tell the bus driver. He started crying and we didn't know until why. We all sat on the bus very quiet ... I will never forget. I was 7 years old.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:36 pm |
  44. Ron

    I was born a several hours after the President had died. I knew neither him or my mother so the day is most remarkable to me.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
  45. Mary

    At 9 years old, I was one of the children to send a letter, along with a portrait of the Kennedys I had lovingly drawn in pencil, most likely destroyed with the "million" others. I may still have the typed, "signed" response on Whitehouse notepaper with a black border. Although not personal, it meant a lot to receive something. This story just brings me back to that sorrowful day.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  46. Robin in SC

    To those posting your own memories and experiences about this devastating time in our country's history, THANK YOU. JFK was assassinated when I was an infant, so I have no direct memories. Reading your stories brings it home. Thanks for this story, too, CNN.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  47. Copeland

    Wow! Great article and responses, I was only three years old and your responses really take me back to a time of tragedy. However, I'm thankful because it is their (JFK, MLK and RK) blood and sacrifices that has given me a better life in this country!

    March 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  48. Don Cowan

    That terrible day in 1963 rocked our nation and the world. From my vantage point as a 10-year-old in a small school in Stella, MO, we were glued to the news on tv that did not end with the memorial service in Washington days later. Since that infamous time, I've worked in Washington, D.C., and visited JFK's resting place at Arlington National Cemetary several times. It brings back memories of a different era and of a family we thought we knew but did not. Camelot was a made up vision for the world, created by a media that was hopeful, not yet cynical to the degree we see today. A simpler time, yes, but in some ways it was the beginning of the cruelties we were to see later in the 60s and beyond. The killing of JFK was a sad day and one that will forever stain our collective soul.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  49. Charlie

    I was 7 years old and went to Jessup Elementary school less than 2 miles from Hobby airport on the south side of Houston on November 21, 1963. The schools in the area were let out early. My mom piled my two siblings and myself to watch the motorcade go north on Broadway. I remember, it was about 3 or 4 in the afternoon and a pretty Fall afternoon, and what seemed thousands of people there lined up near Broadway to catch a glimpse of John and Jackie. Being a little guy, I got right up to the curb and saw them go by and waved. I read he stayed that evening at the Warwick Hotel in the presidential suite. The next day at school the teacher asked if anyone got to see the president and my chest swelled with pride as I told my story. The next thing I knew, it was around lunch time and the principle announced on our old P.A. system that the president was shot in Dallas. It was very disturbing to see the teachers crying. What was even worse was seeing my parents crying during the funeral on our little black & white tv. I thought my dad was the toughest guy in the world and to see him crying freaked me out. We lived close to NASA and I watched the space race unfold, doing "Duck and Cover " in the hallways during the Cuban Missle crises, it was really hard to understand for a young person to understand what was H- was going on during those times...and today it still is... at 54 years old in the year 2010.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
  50. Long Beach California

    I was in 5th grade when JFK was assinated that Friday afternoon. I still remember the nuns crying and the whole school going to church later that day to pray for the president, his family and our nation. I watched as Oswald was killed by Ruby, that Sunday and the funeral of JFK the following day. I, too, was struck by the solemnity and imagery of the funeral cortege, especially the empty riding boots placed in the stirrups on a riderless horse and the constant beat of the drums.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  51. Mary

    The day Kennedy was shot I was in 8th Grade in Parsippany NJ and we only had a half day of school due to parent teacher conferences. My girl friend and I were walking around our neighborhood and when we went back to my house we found my mother standing in front of the TV crying. She said the president had been shot. After about 10 minutes, being young people we got bored and stepped outside to continue our walk. About two blocks from my house a lady suddenly stepped out on her front porch, flung her arms wide and shouted "Kennedy's dead and I'm glad." Even us young girls were a bit shocked at that lady's behavior. Over the years I have had many conversations with people who asked "where were you when you heard Kennedy was shot." I often wondered if that women ever felt any shame for saying what she did since virtually everyone I have ever met remebers that as a sad day for our nation. Goes to show you rightwing nuts have been with us for a long time.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  52. Sherri

    I was 6 years old and in the first grade. We were all sent home early but we didn't know why. When I got home, my Mom was so upset and I can vividly remember it being a dark and dreary day. My Mom made us sit in front of the TV and watch the funeral. It was not hard to do, we were glued to it as if knowing the true impact which was impossible at our young age. I beleive it changed the world that day and was something we could not get back and haven't, to this day.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  53. Charlie

    I was in the fifth grade when JFK was shot. I remember writing a letter and sending it to Mrs. Kennedy. A few month later I received a reply written by someone on the whitehouse staff responsible for responding to these letters. It was a very nice gesture and I still have the reply. I keep it protected as one of my great life treasures.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm |
  54. Nancy Foster

    I was sitting in front of the TV feedubg ny two old week baby daughter when the news cam on to annonuce the Presdit Kenndy had been shot. I couldn't beliee it. I called my sister who was there to help me with my other small childen for to see and hear what I was seeing and hearing. This country was never the same or will it ever be again.

    The letters that came from everywhere express what a lost we had. To recapture that horrible day by letters from those that did care is a wonderful. To be reminded how quickly life is and in a blink of eye we are gone and the chabges have begun.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  55. Chuck

    I was in Air force Basic training at Lackland Air Force Base at that time, and had been marshalled to the airport as kind of a last-minute Honor Guard when Air Force 1 landed in San Antonio on November 21st, before going to Dallas. The President had stopped in San Antonio to visit the Brooks Army Medical complex with Governor Connelly and Vice President Johnson. I could see the President and Jackie from afar, and it is indeed a thrilling memory that I hold to this day. What a terrible tragedy, one that the American prople endured at that time, and a classic example of the courage of Americans in times of crisis.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  56. Cathy

    I was in the sixth was mid morning when the school principal came into our classroom, teary eyed and spoke quietly first to our teacher – who also became teary eyed – and then he spoke to the classroom and announced President Kennedy's death. We were all sent home at that moment to be with our parent. President Kennedy was the first president that I had "followed" through his election – part of our Social Studies activities. I wrote to him shortly after his inauguration, again as part of a school project, and I was shocked when I got an answer back from him on that stationery that simply says "The White House". I still have that letter. I can remember feeling overwhelming grief and sobbing the days that followed as I watched the news coverage. At that time, I can remember not understanding why they had to swear Lyndon Johnson in so quickly on the plane - with Jackie in her blood spattered pink suit, clearly in shock, standing by to watch – I can remember thinking how selfish LBJ was to do that to her in her time of sorrow. What did I know? Even with all the rumors and speculation about JFK's extra curricular activities – I still hold that he was "special" - THEY were special – there has not been another family so loved by this country in recent history as far as I know.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  57. Bill

    I was only seven then. But I remember it well. My Mother cried like she had lost a family member. It was in many, many ways a different world back then. I often wonder how things would be today if "Camelot" had continued for the next five or six years?

    March 1, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
  58. Nancy

    I was in the 5th grade yet I remember it like it was yesterday. I am one of eight children from an Irish Catholic family. JFK was one of us. Like so many homes in Ireland, we too had pictures of "the sacred trio" hanging on our walls.... the Pope, Jesus Christ and John Kennedy. Our entire family sat transfixed to the television for those 4 dark days watching the coverage. It was the first time any of us saw my dad cry.... and did he cry... he sobbed and we followed, feeling his pain and we knew that something very profound and life changing had just happened. In fact, the events of that day seemed to cause a form of a post trauma syndrome for my dad because I don't recall ever watching a TV special or documentary on the Kennedys that he didn't break down in tears.... and he lived for 40 years after the assasination. For many years, my dad hated Texans becasue he held them responsible.... only because it happened there. But as the years progressed and the real details emerged, he resented the CIA and the US government for what he (and we) came to believe was a conspiracy. I agree.... 11/22 and 9/11 will always be defining days in my life.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
  59. 9Pablo9

    Yes Jackie O was able to read these letters.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  60. Susan

    We had recently returned from Argentina where the former president had been deposed and was sent to live in isolation on an island in the middle of the Rio Plata. When my 4 year old son heard the news of Kennedy's death he simply remarked: They do things better in Argentina. We all mourned the death of a young vibrant President and the dignity with which his widow handled the tragedy resonates even today.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
  61. josh

    I was really young but I remember we were in the car and it was announced on the radio, my mother had to pull over because she was sobbing so hard. I didn't really understand what had happened to be honest because it was just unheard of. The whole day was just frozen.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  62. sam

    I wasn't born when this happen, but do realize the impact it had on the country. My question is, what was worse, the assassination or September 11, which was the most tragic event in my life.

    March 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
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