Where were you when JFK was shot?
Two residents share their recollections of that fateful day
A Very Memorable Day
November 22, 1963 — a beautiful autumn day and my sixteenth birthday! I was a tenth grader at Winnsboro High about to experience history in the making.
The school day passed uneventfully until PE. We played softball in our ugly PE uniforms. Then in the locker room the public address system came on. A radio announcer said, “…the governor has been shot.” Shot? The governor? The bell rang.
Next was world history with Mr. Horne. The radio announcer continued as we took our seats. Never before had the PA run continuously. Then the big announcement: “The President is dead.” We sat in stunned silence. Mr. Horne solemnly told us we should always respect a president, even if we didn’t agree with him.
The television stayed on continuously for the next few days. The images are still vivid in my mind: the convertible limousine, Mr. Johnson taking the oath, the funeral service.
We watched live on television as Jack Ruby stepped out of a crowd and shot Lee Harvey Oswald. I felt complete disbelief as Oswald crumpled to the floor.
Only one topic of conversation was everywhere. School was cancelled for the funeral. Things seemed unsettled. Adults were concerned about the security of our country. For me it was as if the United States had lost its security. If this could happen in our country, what else could happen? I was now Sweet Sixteen. Somehow, that didn’t seem very important in the big scheme of things.
— Lyn McMaster Sheffield
I was a sixth grader at Everett Elementary School. Our class had a substitute teacher that day, Ms. Hanna Phillips. I have confirmed with her that her recollections very closely match mine.
We didn’t know anything of such importance was occurring. The seventh-graders got out of music class as we began our afternoon recess. Dennis Marthers ran up to some friends and me, and said, (paraphrased) “Did you hear what happened? The president got shot and he died.”
Shortly after the 10-minute break, Mr. Hiott, the principal, came to our classroom and said, to the best of my recollection, “Regardless of what you may or may not have heard at recess, the president’s been shot and he died.”
We did not fully understand the gravity of those words. We just sat silent, stunned by what we heard. Ms. Phillips left the classroom, and when she returned we could tell the news upset her.
We didn’t do much during the short time until dismissal. In the coming days and weeks, we began to realize that the assassination was a monumental event. It didn’t change history: Once something has happened, it cannot be changed. But it did greatly influence the future.
Later that week, most of the nation watched Jack Ruby kill Lee Harvey Oswald. That was real reality television. It took a while for me to digest what I had seen on TV.
And I still wonder “What if?” Where would our nation and world be had Kennedy not been shot?
— Stephen Robinson
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