I grew up in Dallas. JFK was a big deal.

The Kennedy motorcade in Dallas. Photo: Bas van Gaalen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The Kennedy motorcade in Dallas. Photo: Bas van Gaalen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

I wasn’t around when JFK was shot 50 years ago. But my dad was. In 1963 he was a third grader in Dallas, Texas. He lived and went to school about 10 minutes north of Dealey Plaza. Everyone in his class, he says, was keenly aware that the president was visiting Dallas that day. His friend George had even seen him at the airport.

Someone — may a principal, maybe a teacher — came into their classroom and told them that the president been killed. My dad hazily remembers all the students gathering in the gym, their parents arriving to take them home.

“We all knew and understood something horrible had happened in our city,” my Dad wrote me in an email a few days ago, “but I am not sure that the other third graders and I immediately understood the enormity of that event. Over the next few days we began to understand. The television coverage was non-stop. And I remember being glued to the television for all of it.”

I grew up in Dallas some thirty years later. JFK’s death was just something you knew about. But it wasn’t the sum-total of the city, as a lot of out-of-towners like to think. It wasn’t until I saw a minute-by-minute account of JFK’s fateful drive on a middle school field trip to the 6th Floor Museum, which commemorates the day and is housed in the old book depository, that I understood just how historic and tragic it was.

Now, it’s a day for Dallas to grapple.  “The negative image of Dallas,” my Dad writes, “continued and still exists. Living in Dallas today, I am still perplexed and bothered by it. I think many Dallasites hope that the events this week commemorating President Kennedy and his assassination will also be a time for Dallas to heal and to begin to be recognized by the world as more than just the place that President Kennedy was killed.” 

For people everywhere else, it’s a day to remember. The North Country is far away from Texas, but whenever something big and terrible happens, the day gets burned onto your brain. You remember where you were, what you were doing, and how you found out.

Share your memories with us below. Are you marking the anniversary of JFK’s death in any way? 50 years later, what does it mean?  




3 Comments on “I grew up in Dallas. JFK was a big deal.”

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  1. The Original Larry says:

    On November 22, 1963 I was in the sixth grade and clearly remember a school staffer coming into the classroom to tell us that the President had been shot, and a short time later, that he had died. The next several days were given over to watching history unfold on TV, a relatively new experience. Many years later, during a trip to Dallas, I visited Dealey Plaza and The Sixth Floor in the School Book Depository. Visiting the scene of such an historic event confirmed for me that November 22, 1963 was a watershed moment in American history. Those too young to remember 1963 may experience a similar feeling after visiting the site of the World Trade Center.

  2. Dave Gibson says:

    Thank you. 50 years ago, I watched as my mother cried over the TV, and that always makes an impression.. Then, it meant my slow, slow awakening to politics and policies for America; it speeded our growing up. And only much later becoming aware of both this president’s foibles, but also his greatness. And my mother’s reaction causes me to delve into the causes of the assassination. Lee Oswald craved to do something ‘great’, but he was by no means alone. Others aided and abetted him, and those motivations sprang out of anti-Castro and anti-organized crime policies of the Kennedy administration.

  3. Judith Glasser says:

    I was in the kitchen, doing something routine, and my oldest daughter was not is school, as she was ill. She was watching a quiz show on the TV. Suddenly a voice over came on the set, and a male voice said “The President has been shot, perhaps fatally” and then the quiz show went on. My daughter said “What was that?” and I said that surely it was the neighborhood joker (the FCC was looking for him) who delighted in interrupting shows with various fake announcements, since if it was real, the quiz show would no longer be on the air. No sooner were the words out of my mouth, than the face of the news announcer came on and there was no more normal anything, ever again.

    I can still feel the shock of that day, and the days to follow. It was a general feeling that hope had died with him. And to a large extent, I think that has proved to be true. We were a proud and progressive country then, confident of the future, and look at us now. We are full of doubts about our mission, with a lot of folks equating disagreement with disloyalty. It makes me very sad.

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