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November 22, 2013

Nov. 22, 1963: Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

(Continued)

It was only moments later that students and teachers began gathering in the halls, dispelling the “rumor” and launching what would become one of the most traumatic periods in not only my teaching career, but for the nation as a whole.

Mark W. Rand

Ipswich

In wake of tragedy, studies continued

I was a second-year medical student in Boston on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963. Many of us were finishing lunch when word flashed from Dallas: “The president has been shot.” We walked from the dining hall across Longwood Avenue to the classroom buildings at the quadrangle, stunned.

There had been a lot of civil rights activity in the nation, and we thought, “Oh, no, some racist has shot the president.” That turned out to be wrong.

The afternoon bacteriology lecture was given by a full professor and chair of the department. As our class of medical students gathered, many were listening to portable radios. Our teacher asked us to turn off the radios. He said that there probably would be a lot of conflicting reports but not much factual news in the next hour. That turned out to be wrong also. Halfway through the lecture, another professor entered the amphitheater and quietly conferred with our teacher.

We guessed what the message was and wondered if our class would end immediately. But the professor resumed his lecture. At the end of the hour, he sadly said, “I have to report that our president is dead.”

Some went to the afternoon laboratory session, and some did not. I truly cannot recall what I did — a reflection of numbing confusion, I suppose. Later in the day, the dean of the medical school posted a notice on the bulletin board in the lobby of the dormitory where many of us lived. It said that there would be no classes for students in the basic sciences, but those in clinical work would continue on “in the highest traditions of medicine.” I do recall that plan — and I liked it.

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