When I was sixteen, I kept a journal. Here is what I wrote in my journal about the assassination of President Kennedy as things happened. Keep in mind that this is written by a sixteen year old girl. Some of the things we know about the assassination today were not known then. I tried to transcribe it as it was written. We only had four channels on TV at that time and all four ran nothing but the assassination. There was no Internet, no VCR’s, no electronic games and businesses and stores were closing. There was not much to do except watch TV. There was no escaping the assassination. So here is my account of the Kennedy assassination.
It was Friday, November 22, 1963. I went to school that day like any other day. It was raining and my hair was almost straight from the weather. All morning long I worried about how my hair looked. On my way to English class I stopped at the washroom to comb my hair. I left my comb at home and this made it a terrible day. I went to English class, and in English we were to write a detective story. The crime I picked was murder. I had decided on this several days before when we were told we had to write a detective story. My story would be the “Murder of Mrs. Jones”. Sounds real exciting doesn’t it? Well don’t laugh because I’m not too intelligent. Little did I know that while I was creating a rough draft of the story, that the biggest murder in the county had taken place. It was a murder that would affect me and millions of other people. I was not yet aware of this murder, and not many people in the school were aware of it. Almost each person found out in their own little way. Here is the way I found out. On the way to the school library, a bulletin came over the intercom and said, “President Kennedy has been shot and killed.” I just about fainted and couldn’t believe it was true. I met my friends in the library, and we talked about this terrible thing for a while. But since the library was a place to be quiet, we had to be quiet. We had to study or do anything as long as we were quiet. I opened a book of Poe’s short stories and stared at it. I sat there thinking of our now late president. Some kids were crying. At that moment, I couldn’t cry. I don’t know why, but all I do know is I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked! I read time after time about Lincoln’s assassination. But that was 100 years ago. This is today, this year, this century, this is 1963 and our country. This horrible thing is true and could happen here. I was sitting in school and all I knew was the president was shot and dead. Suddenly, my hair didn’t matter anymore. I struggled through seventh hour not doing any work. After school, I went to meet my mother who was picking me up from school. On the way home we talked about the assassination. When I got home, I turned on the TV to fill me in on what had happened. The president and Mrs. Kennedy were riding through a Dallas street in an open car with the Texas Governor and his wife. They were worried that Kennedy wouldn’t get a good response in Texas. The crowds were good. The governor’s wife turned to the president and said, “You can’t say Dallas doesn’t love you now Mr. President.” Just then a shot rang out and the president slumped in Mrs. Kennedy’s arms. Another shot came and the Governor was shot. Still another shot came and the president was shot again. The police were holding a man they thought killed President Kennedy. His name is Lee Harvey Oswald. Oswald was in a building on the 5th floor and shot President Kennedy with a high power rifle. I cried when I heard all this on TV maybe because now it seemed real.
The President unconscious from the first bullet was in Mrs. Kennedy’s arms and her pink suit was splattered with blood. We saw Vice President Johnson take the presidential oath on the presidential plane with his wife on one side and Mrs. Kennedy on the other side. They arrived at the airport in Washington DC. and an ambulance met them to take the presidents body to the hospital. Attorney General Robert Kenned was there to meet Mrs. Kennedy. They got into the ambulance and went to the hospital. The president’s body was taken to the White House during the night.
I think it is just terrible that a young man’s life can be taken so horribly. The president, 46 years old, using his life in such a useful way. I feel sorry for Mrs. Kennedy only 34 and her two young children, Caroline to be 6 next Wednesday and John Jr. to be 3 on Monday, the day of the funeral.
Friday night I entertained myself by baking a cake and cutting my hair. I went to bed that night trying to forget about the horrible thing that had happened that day. How do you forget the assassination of the President of the United States? You just don’t that’s all. I finally got to sleep and woke up Saturday morning wishing it was a dream.
By Saturday night they said they clinched the case. Lee Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy. By the way Governor of Texas lived but was seriously injured. My friend, Ginny, and I sat in my house and read the early edition of the Sunday paper. After Ginny left, I broke up something terrible. I cried and I cried over again.
I said all kinds of things about Oswald perhaps is shouldn’t have said. They said that he wanted to get citizenship in Russia and after not being able to obtain it, he got a government loan for he and his Russian wife to come to the United States. I wondered out loud what in the world was wrong with our government for letting people like this back into the United States. Oswald gave papers out about communism and Cuba and Castro. If all this was so wonderful, why didn’t he stay in Russia or Cuba, probably because they didn’t want him. It isn’t fair that because some goof who wants to be a communist decides to pull his trigger finger that our president is dead.
In the 1960 election I wasn’t for Kennedy. My parents were for Nixon and since I lived in a republican town most of my friends were for Nixon, and I was too. One man made a record called First Family. The record was goofy and hilarious. I enjoyed it tremendously. Right now I don’t know that I will ever play it again. One thing I didn’t realize was that in the 3 years Kennedy had been president was how much I had come to respect him.
I went to bed Saturday night dead tired and went right to sleep. Not having any idea of course what the next two days would bring.
Sunday morning I got up not wanting to turn on the TV. I knew what would be on and I just couldn’t bear to hear it. I could never explain how depressed this assassination depressed me. I felt like something had died in me. My heart felt broken and I just couldn’t bring myself to believe it was true. I have never lived through anything so horrible in my entire life.
I don’t know what time it was when we turned on TV, but when we did finally turn it on they were talking about another shooting. Then the announcer said that the accused assassin of President Kennedy was shot. They didn’t yet have the name of the man that did it. The police were holding and questioning the man that shot Oswald. A little while later the announcer said they have the name of the man that shot Oswald. The man’s name is Jack Rubinstein. He goes by Ruby and owns a night club and runs another on in Dallas, Texas.
For the next two hours we didn’t hear anything about the Oswald shooting because they were taking President Kennedy’s body from the White House to the Capital Building. The president’s body is to lie in state in the rotunda of the Capital Building.
They took the late president’s body from the White House for the last time and put it on a caisson. Behind the caisson rode Mrs. Kennedy and the president’s two brothers in a black limousine. A few blocks before they reached the capital building, Mrs. Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Senator Edward Kennedy walked behind the caisson to the Capital building. Inside the Capital Building Mrs. Kenned and the Kennedy Family stood there along with other people while some men gave speeches. Mrs. Kennedy stood there with John Jr. on one side and Caroline on the other side. I praise her very much for keeping her children with her and no one else. John got restless and they had to take him out, but what three year old wouldn’t get restless. Caroline stood there like a little angel. When all these men finished talking, Mrs. Kennedy and the children walked out and family followed. They say people were lined up for five miles to view the president’s body.
Sunday night I talked to my friends Ginny and Carla on the phone, and I finally did my homework, part of it anyway. I was in no mood for recopying “The Murder of Mrs. Jones”. I was wondering if we were going to have school on Monday. President Johnson declared Monday a National Day of Mourning. I finally found out no school on Monday. Everything was closing on Monday. Since Friday, there have been no entertaining programs on TV and no advertisements all in respect for President Kennedy. I don’t think I mentioned that Oswald died almost to the minute that President Kennedy died on Friday.
Monday was finally here and I got up and watched the funeral. First they took the President Kennedy to the White House. At the White House Mrs. Kennedy, Robert and Edward Kennedy got out of the car and walked behind the caisson to the church. Behind the Kennedy’s, President Johnson and his family and dignitaries from other countries walked. They were surrounded by Secret Service men. It looked like the Secret Service wasn’t taking any chances. Oswald broke through the tightest barrier of Secret Service Men. When the president is on parade, they check the street sewers and man hole covers for bombs, they check the buildings and the people along the parade route. They check people who have made threats and lock them up while the President is in town if it is necessary. If the president is going to dinner, they check the food, waiters, and guests. They memorize a 1000 page book of faces so they can pick people out of a crowd. If they know the bullets are coming they are to throw themselves in front of the president and take the bullets meant for the president. If they don’t think the pay is worth it or don’t want to give up their life they can go into fifteen other branches of the Secret Service. If any of these men knew that the bullets were coming, there is no doubt they would have done what was necessary. Oswald had a high power rifle that released bullet faster than any human could move.
When they got to the church everyone filed in and they brought the casket into the church. They had low mass. Nixon the former vice president and Kennedy’s challenger in the 1960 election was there, and also former presidents Eisenhower and Truman. They left the church and went to Arlington National Cemetery. The president is getting a hero’s grave. He got a Purple Heart during World War II for his performance when his P.T. boat was bombed. When he was a senator he was hospitalized for an old back injury he received while playing football at Harvard. While he was in the hospital, he wrote a book Profiles in Courage for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1957. When they got to Arlington National Cemetery, Cardinal Cushing went through some religious things I don’t understand. Speeches were made and the band struck up the National Anthem. Jets flew over, one for each state, and then the presidential plane flew over alone. Cardinal Cushing said a prayer and then there was a 21 gun salute. The flag that was over the coffin for the past four days was folded and presented to Mrs. Kennedy. Mrs. Kennedy stepped forward and lit the eternal flame. She left and the family followed. Each person then stepped up to the grave and paid their respects to the late President Kennedy.
Well, it was all over now. Mrs. Kennedy went through it with great dignity. She realized that being the wife of a President all eyes were on her. She knew it would go down in history books. She did her duties with dignity and gave everyone the spirit they needed.
I know I will never forget this as long as I live. This tragedy will bring tears to my eyes and emptiness in my heart for a long time. I will always respect and remember President John Fitzgerald Kennedy 35th President of the United States, 1917-1963, assassinated November 22, 1963.
Copyright © 2013 Gail Grunst