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November 22, 2013

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


Priscilla Andrews Ulutas


‘The defining moment of our generation’

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was 12 years old and enrolled in seventh grade at Garfield Heights Junior High School in Garfield Heights, Ohio. Garfield Heights was founded in 1904 and named for President James Garfield, who was assassinated in 1881.

At eighth period, a teacher from across the hall, Miss Lang, interrupted our class briefly to whisper something to our teacher, Mr. Albers. Interruptions never happened, so it was clear that something was wrong. When we changed classes, the buzz in the hallway was that the president had been shot. I didn’t believe it, but when we arrived at our eighth-grade science class, Mrs. Baldwin told us that this terrible news had been reported. A short time later, an announcement came on the PA system that made it official. School was dismissed, and we all went home in shock.

I remember needing so much to meet my father when he came home from work that day. My brother and sister and I ran out to his car as soon as it pulled into the driveway. My parents were Democrats, and we were Catholic and Irish on my mother’s side, so we all felt especially devastated by the news. I remember watching the television nonstop all weekend, and I believe that I saw Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination live. My memories of the funeral include the contrast between the incredible military precision of the procession and the friskiness of the riderless horse, which seemed to embody how much we all wanted to break away, run away, from the reality of JFK’s death.

Years later, my husband and I visited the Sixth Floor Museum and took a tour of the sites in Dallas associated with the assassination, James Tippett’s murder, Oswald’s escape and capture, and Jack Ruby’s murder of Oswald. It was a comprehensive tour, and the tour guide had huge binders of reference books to answer every trivial question that the conspiracy buffs and other obsessives had to offer. It brought back the dreadful power of that day in 1963.

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