President Kennedy was assassinated today. The world has all but stopped in its tracks. People are speechless. People are crying. People are angry. People are personally hurt. People do not know what to say or do or think.
I was a 20-year-old college student the day Kennedy was shot. I wrote myself a long note that day. Uncharacteristically for me, I saved it.
President Kennedy was assassinated today.
The world has all but stopped in its tracks. People are speechless. People are crying. People are angry. People are personally hurt. People do not know what to say or do or think.
This is not a public mourning. It is a private mourning, private and deeply personal to every individual in the nation and to most people in the free world. No one can comfort anyone else, because each person’s grief manifests itself in a different way.
History has been made. President Kennedy, riding in an open car in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas, was assassinated Friday, November 22, 1963. The suspected assassin, 24-year-old Harvey Oswald, defected from the United States to Russia several years ago. He returned to the States but was arrested in 1962 for participating in pro-Castro demonstrations.
History has been recorded, but not all the personal reactions. We have heard statements of leaders of nearly every foreign country. Senators, congressmen, governors – all American leaders have expressed their sympathy for the nation and for Jacqueline Kennedy and her two young children.
Radio and television networks are putting on marathon broadcasts, going over in minute detail every facet of the situation: world reactions, local reactions, Kennedy’s background, President Johnson’s background and future, on and on for hours. Stations have announced that they will show no commercial broadcasts until after Kennedy’s burial on Tuesday [November 26].
This afternoon millions of Americans watched television as Kennedy read his inaugural address in blinding sunlight, January 1961, as Kennedy spoke about the Bay of Pigs, as Kennedy spoke to and smiled at many people in many places, including Berlin, where he famously claimed, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” But Kennedy will never speak again.
Weekend activities across the country have been canceled. No news other than the news is being carried by radio and television stations. Newspapers bearing startling headlines appear on the streets, selling out moments later. People are torn between wanting to know every detail and not wanting to know exactly what color the casket is or how Jacqueline reacted to the blood on her stockings. People want to read and listen, yet they also want to sleep or stay off somewhere very much alone. People don’t know what they want.
Right now, finding no comfort of any kind, we must satisfy ourselves by carrying on as Jack would have liked us to. He was a citizen of the world, and he said something that we can all remember and try to follow: Ask not what our country can do for us. Ask what we can do for our country.
Susan Nagler Perloff