Before There Was 9/11, There Was 11/22

FIFTY YEARS AGO today, President John F Kennedy was assassinated by a person or persons unknown.

I was in 10th grade at Osseo High School. I believe that I was in Bea Benson’s English class when I first heard. Another teacher had summoned Miss Benson to a brief con in the hallway, she returned ashen with her natural vivacity drained. She did not say anything but an announcement soon came over the PA system, the President had been shot and had died within the hour.

One boy exclaimed, “There’ll be a war”. But the rest of us sat silently, too stunned to talk. The Principal soon began to broadcast radio news over the PA and we all sat in rapt attention.

When the bell rang, we all filed slowly into the hall. No noise, no play, nothing but the soft shuffle of feet on the terrazzo floor. Here and there girls hugged and cried in one another’s arms. The class clowns did not act up. The class bullies were subdued. And the eyes of jocks were misty red.

By the time I got home from school, my father had left for his night shift at the factory. He left me a note reading simply, “The President was shot and killed”. He was not a man of many words but the very fact that he had left a note indicated to me that something momentous had occurred.

The world never seemed the same after that day. We spent the following days in front of the TV. We watched as the alleged murderer was murdered on nationwide TV. When we saw Jack Ruby gun down Oswald, my father uttered in exasperation, “It’s a mob hit”. Only later did we learn that Ruby was part of the New Orleans based Syndicate. It was just so obvious to anyone who had read about mob activities in America.

We thought we knew America. We believed that our Government was among the good guys. We had faith that Good would triumph over Evil. We dreamed that things were getting better. Kennedy died on November 22, 1963, and so did what we believed, knew and dreamed about America.


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