Remembering the day JFK died

One of the most often asked questions last week was “Where were you 50 years ago when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated?”

The question goes along with others surrounding monumental, memorable moments in history. Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked? Where were you when VE Day occurred or VJ Day ended World War II? Where were you when Franklin D. Roosevelt died? Where were you when John Glenn circled the Earth in Friendship 7? Where were you when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon’s surface? Where were you when President Richard Nixon resigned? Where were you when the Twin Towers were attacked on 9-11?

In our area maybe some of those moments asked about could be where were you when POW Jessica Lynch was rescued by U.S. special operations forces in Iraq or where were you when the derecho hit and how long did it take you to get back to normal afterward?

Maybe someday the question will be where were you when you learned of the possibility of a cracker plant being built in Wood County?

Undoubtedly there are other memorable moments we all share. And, there are personal moments that will live with us forever – when we first fell in love, when we married, when loved ones died, when children were born, when our children married and had children, when we got our first job, when we retired or when we survived a serious illness, surgery or life-threatening event.

But last week JFK’s death filled the media with newspaper articles, TV specials, news broadcast, Internet items and Facebook posts.

I vividly remember being in a high school English class the first period after lunch when Principal Ralph Beery in a broken, emotional voice announced over the school intercom system that President Kennedy had been fatally shot by an assassin in Dallas. Classes were immediately dismissed and my middle-aged English teacher ran from the room crying and clutching her Rosary. For the next three days everyone was glued to their TV set watching the nearly around-the-clock coverage of the tragic event.

The night of the shooting my parents, my younger brother and I went to the home of church friends (the daughter of whom I had been dating), had dinner and the parents played cards as we kids watched the coverage and listened to music in the basement family room.

Two days after the assassination, friends visited my parents, and their teenaged son and I shot baskets at a nearby school ground, getting home just in time to see Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald while in Dallas police custody.

School was still out when I watched JFK’s Washington procession and burial, with John Jr. snapping a salute to his father.

Maybe the only event more memorable to me was being in The News and Sentinel old upstairs newsroom when my wife telephoned on 9-11 and said something had hit one of the Twin Towers. I rushed to turn on the TV in time to see the horror of the second plane hitting the second tower and the two buildings eventually crumbling.

There are times and memories none of us will ever forget.

Contact Jim Smith at