Today marks the 46th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, who was killed on this date in 1963. At the time of his death, I was a sophomore at George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado. I had recently turned 15 years old, and had begun keeping a diary only the month before.
I watched the non-stop news coverage of the assassination obsessively, waiting for some detail or explanation that would help make sense of the inconceivable. Perhaps more real to me than the image of Kennedy as President was my image of him as a family man. He was only 46 years old when he was killed. His beautiful wife Jackie was 34, his daughter Caroline almost 6, and his son John Jr. almost 3. Regardless of one’s politics, they were our First Family, and their loss was our loss.
Writing in my diary was one way I tried to come to grips with something totally outside the realm of my experience, but not for days would I escape a dreamlike sense of unreality. With a tip of my hat to the boy I was then, I have reproduced below my three entries relating to this historic event.
Friday, November 22, 1963
What a day this has been. The events of this day still seem unreal to me. The date, November 22, 1963 will go down in history as one of the most earth-shaking days in this century.
For me it started quite normally. I was wakened at about 7:00 o’clock. I dressed and went downstairs. Mom took me to school because the temperature was twenty-seven degrees. Today was to be the day of the Thespian play, “The Late Christopher Bean,” and after fourth period I went directly to the ticket booth to sell tickets. Nobody was in the booth, and this was strange because someone should have sold tickets fourth period. The treasurer was there and she asked me to go to her office to get the box which contained the tickets, the key to the ticket booth, and five dollars in change. As I left for her office, I saw a girl lying on the cement deck by the patio door. I heard someone say that she had hit her head on a metal banister. I ran to the nurse’s clinic, getting there just before two other girls. I explained to the nurse that a girl had been hurt, and left the rest up to her. I then went to the treasurer’s office. When I returned to the ticket booth, I prepared to sell some tickets. I saw the girl being carried away on a stretcher. Just then [School Principal] Mr. Waldman’s voice came over the P.A. system. He said something to the effect that there had been a great tragedy. At first I thought he was talking about the unfortunate girl. He continued, saying, “The President of the United States and the Governor of Texas have been shot.” I don’t remember the rest of what he said except that they were both in critical condition. I was completely stunned. The blood all rushed to my face and my skin became very hot. Later, when Karen [another Drama Club member] came into the booth, we said very little. It was just too hard to understand. In seventh period we were told that Mr. Kennedy had died. This only confirmed my belief. It is still hard to grasp the fact that he has been assassinated. It all seems so unreal.
Saturday, November 23, 1963
I am finally able to grasp the fact that President Kennedy is dead. Our family has spent almost the entire day watching the television and I am able to relate most of yesterday’s tragic events.
President Kennedy had gone to Texas; although it was classified as a non-political trip to heal the Democratic Party split, most people were sure that it had political connotations, next year being an election year. He had made a speech in Fort Worth and had then flown to Dallas. He was in his famous bubble-topped Lincoln Continental with Mrs. Kennedy and Governor and Mrs. John Connally of Texas when three shots rang out. Two of them hit President Kennedy. The third hit Governor Connally. Mrs. Kennedy screamed, “Oh God, he’s been hit.” The time was 11:30 a.m. MST. The car then rushed to Parkland Hospital where Kennedy was rushed to the Emergency Room. The Governor was also rushed to a separate Emergency Room. Doctors worked frantically for about thirty minutes but at noon he was pronounced dead. Governor Connally was in critical condition. President Kennedy had been hit by two bullets, one in the brain, the other in the chest. Governor Connally had been hit by one, which went through his collarbone, punctured a lung, broke three ribs, and passed out of his body.
There is a prime suspect in the shooting, Lee Harvey Oswald. He is a self-styled Communist.
President Johnson was sworn into office on the plane that carried President Kennedy to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. He is our thirty-sixth president.
I don’t think whoever killed Mr. Kennedy could have thought about the profound effect it would have on people of the United States and of the world. Monday is a day of national mourning. There will be no school in Denver and in most other cities in the United States. This assassination has so much effect on this nation and the world that it is impossible to comprehend it.
Tuesday, November 26, 1963
There has been so much that has happened in such a short amount of time that it is very hard to grasp the enormity of it. Lee Harvey Oswald, the suspect in President Kennedy’s assassination, was himself murdered Sunday. He was being transferred from the city to the county jail when a man, Jack Ruby, stepped out of the crowd of reporters, put a gun into the stomach of Oswald, and pulled the trigger. Oswald groaned and slumped to the floor. Police grabbed Ruby and immediately took him into custody. Oswald was taken to Parkland Hospital, the hospital where President Kennedy died. He died in a room only ten feet from where Kennedy died.
Maybe tomorrow someone will shoot the man who shot the man who shot President Kennedy. What a mess. Who has gained anything?