Readers remember the day JFK was shot

John F. Kennedy
AFP File Photo
John F. Kennedy

On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Globe asked readers to provide their memories from Nov. 22, 1963, as they learned of Kennedy’s death.


On November 22, 1963, I was in the seventh grade at the North Junior High School in Randolph, MA. I heard about the President being shot from another student at the end of my gym class, which was the next-to-the-last class on Friday afternoon. At first I didn’t believe him, but he told me he had heard the news from the gym teacher. So I went to the teacher and asked him if it was true that President Kennedy was dead. He said it was. I then went to French class, the last class of the day, and sat through it in a daze. I think on one occasion I failed to answer when the teacher called on me. When school ended, I walked out to the school bus that was waiting to take some of us home. As I walked up the steps of the bus, I saw tears pouring down the bus driver’s cheeks. This is an image I will never forget. Later in life, I saw pictures of the man with the accordion crying after President Roosevelt’s death and thought back to my bus driver on the day of Kennedy’s death.

When I got home, I watched television with my mother, but don’t remember many details. Sometime after 5:00 p.m., my father came home with the black-bordered edition of the Boston Evening Globe, and I read the accounts of what happened in Dallas that had been published in the paper. I was confused and did not know what to think. All I knew is that the beloved President from my home state had been violently killed at the height of his personal and political power. To me, JFK was a martyr like Lincoln. I know I watched television most of the weekend, but again don’t remember many details. I was not watching when Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby. I remember talking with my father about whether the NFL should have played games that Sunday, and we both agreed that football was inappropriate at a time of national mourning.


I do have clearer memories of Kennedy’s funeral on Monday - the beat of the drums as the riderless horse went from the Capitol Building to the church - boom, boom, boom, boom-boom-boom-boom, boom-boom-boom - Cardinal Cushing reciting the Funeral Mass in his raspy voice - General de Gaulle of France, enormously tall, leading the foreign dignitaries in the funeral march - the cars processing over the bridge to Arlington Cemetery as the light faded in the afternoon, and JFK Jr. saluting his father’s casket as he was buried.

-- Eric Davis, Middlebury, Vermont

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I was four years old and had just been picked up by my mother from the pre-school I was attending in Manhattan. We went to a store called Lamston’s, which I don’t believe exists anymore. In the checkout line a woman told my mother that the president had been shot. Overhearing this, I asked my mother if that meant the president got a “shot” from a doctor. (I had a four-year-old’s standard terror of inoculations and was sure that that was what had just been reported to us.) I remember my mother gently corrected my impression and explained that this referred to a gunshot.

Later that afternoon and evening, I was watching the TV left on by my parents. I saw John Kennedy come on (obviously, a tape). I excitedly reported to my parents and grandmother in another room that he was alive as I had just seen him on TV. I vividly remember all of them beginning to weep at that news from me.

I imagine I am one of the youngest people (54) to have a first hand memory of that day.

-- Michael Schwartz, Hopkinton



I was ten years old in the fifth grade at my Catholic Grammar School. I remember a nun coming into our room and telling us that the President had been shot. We immediately were led in praying the Rosary. She then pulled the big television set on its big stand to the center of the class and we all began to watch what was going on and unfolding. I remember the sadness was rooted in the loss of our president and especially because he was a Roman Catholic and was a sign of great optimism.

-- commenter sueed


I first saw him in 1948 at St. Patrick’s parade in South Boston with my dad. In 1960, he was locked out of Fanueil Hall before his major speech and requested my friends and I to help him gain access. The police came and got him in. I marched in his inaugural parade as Sgt. of the Boston Latin Band color guard. We were invited to the inaugural ball but the snow kept us away. We were working across from Fanueil Hall driving piles for new city hall when I heard the tragic news. The pain endures to this day. Godspeed John.

-- John Mannix


I was 23 years old and newly married and working in New York City. It was a very nice fall day - very sunny - and I looked forward to the NFL Giants playing the St. Louis Cardinals on the upcoming Sunday.


I was at my desk - working as a computer programmer - when one of my colleagues entered the office and shouted that the President was shot in Dallas - and no one knows if he is alive. Instantly - several small radios came out of desks and we listened to the news and then came the ominous words - that President Kennedy had been pronounced dead - there was an immediate pall of gloom that spread around the work area. Some people cried - some were very - very angry - most just sat at their desks. I just stared out the window at the Manhattan buildings - I called my wife who was working as a nurse - no answer. She later told me that she was driving home in our brand new Volkswagen when she heard the news on the radio and started to cry and had to pull over, as many other motorists did the same.

The office emptied out - earlier than usual - and the ride home out to Queens was amazing in that everyone was talking about this terible murder of the President. Usually the subway is quiet in that everyone usually keeps to themselves - quiet in the own space - not that night. Everyone was terribly sad.

In those days I was a Kennedy supporter - he was a special guy and an idol to a lot of us then. This whole assassination was like a blow from a very heavy blunt instrument. We would actually look forward to his news conferences - his speeches - so much is different today - in that I consider the government as more of an intruder than any kind of helper.

There has been a lot written about JFK - but in my memories he was the guy you really respected. The gleam of my youthful remembrances of JFK have been tarnished by the reality of his life - but every time I see him speak on TV films I forget about his mistakes and remember what he meant to me as a young man.

-- Dick Martin, Shrewsbury, MA


I was 10. Sitting in the office area of my dad’s appliance and music store. (I had feigned some illness and had left school at noon). My dad was at a nearby workbench trying to repair an old radio when a worker came walking briskly down the center of the store from the music and TV side saying that he just heard the news that the president had been shot. It didn’t sink in with me at the moment but seconds later my dad was able to get a signal on the radio he was fixing and I could hear the breathless voice of an announcer talking about shots, and motorcade and Dallas, etc. I went into the TV side of the store where about a dozen sets were tuned in to CBS and eventually saw Walter Cronkite make his now famous confirmation that the president had died. I still don’t remember what I was thinking - the images from Dallas hadn’t yet been shown. But I remember walking with my mother to the doctor’s office (for a checkup on my phony sickness) and running into some acquaintance of my mother’s, a local farmer who seemed to be in a strangely happy mood. My mom said hello and asked if he was aware of the terrible news. The man said he was and added “as far as I’m concerned they could shoot every one of them God d***d Kennedys for all I care. “ It was my introduction to evil in the world and by nightfall, after seeing the president’s casket arriving in Washington and all the other images, I could not sleep that night. I crawled into my parents bed while they were sleeping just to feel safe. But I knew we’d never feel truly safe again.

-- commenter ignoto1


I was working in the computer department at Nortronics in Nowood when the department manager came in from the rain and said he just heard on the radio (in his car) that Kennedy had been shot in Dallas. My first thought was that it was a sick joke and not funny. Alas, it was not a joke. JFK had been shot. And preumably dead. What a disaster. Not only for the United States of America, but for this thing we inhabit, the planet Earth. I loved admired JFK. He was the epitome of the future. Of trying to build a better world not just for Americans but for all peoples. It is painful to watch the films of that day, so I try to avoid them. The USA and the world lost a great deal on that day and have yet to recover. RIP Jack

-- commenter rrs18


That world that was so bright at 1 p.m. was darkened 7 minutes later. I was in Mr. Quigley’s history class, sitting behind my girlfriend when the announcement was made. Fast forward to later that afternoon, it was a gray day, cloudy and windy. We were going to play Chicopee Comp in football on Saturday but the game was cancelled. My best friend and I....we were 15....discussed hitch hiking to Washington DC for the funeral but opted to stay home and watch on TV.

I still remember most of that weekend...crying, disbelief and great sadness for the President, Jackie, John-John and Caroline. The world I saw with a young president and family was gone...more assassinations and a war I found myself in. Things were never the same for me after November 22, 1963.

-- commenter brownmustgo


I was in the 5th grade in suburban New York. Around 12:15 or 12:30, the school principal came on the creaky old PA system and told us the president had been shot. He turned on the radio school-wide so we could listen as events unfolded. I couldn’t believe it-- I’d seen him in a motorcade in NYC a year earlier-- who would do such a thing?

We had to head off to gym just then, where I remember one kid saying, “He’s just one person” and another saying, “No, he’s not”. When we got back to class, we learned he was dead.

We had Monday off to mourn. I was playing touch football with a few friends down the block that afternoon, and one of the neighborhood Dads came out to tell us we shouldn’t be playing that day. We went home.

-- commenter justsoyoullknow


I was in the Lowell State College cafeteria when I heard he had been shot. I raced down to the radio station where I worked part time and gathered and reported the news off the U.P.I. teletype as it came in. Afterward I got in my car and just drove, stopping only when I realized I had driven to Lincoln, N.H.

-- Paul T. Sullivan


I was in my kitchen with my parents watching this in disbelief, on our TV an my parents were crying! I was only 5 at the time but it sticks in my mind every year at this time! Such a tragedy!!

-- Anthony DeMarco


I was 5 then. Heard it from my older siblings & my father, now deceased. I did seem to read it from their body language that this was a very important world leader & and that it was very serious indeed.

-- Philip Nyasio Samo

Do you remember learning about President Kennedy’s death? Share your story in our comments section.

Reader memories were collected via e-mail, Facebook, and from reader comments.