Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

By Tom Quiner


It was cold and wet outside.

I was excited about the imminent Thanksgiving holiday. But first, one more day of school.

I was in fifth grade at Perkins Elementary School in an era when kids still went home for lunch.

I raced home with my younger sister for my usual peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Campbell’s tomato soup. I lived a half a block from school. In Spring, I could get back in time to play a little baseball after lunch before the bell rang.

But on this chilly, drizzly November day 52 years ago today, there no was no baseball in the offing, only a half more day of school before a delightful  4 day Thanksgiving weekend.

The kids gathered in the auditorium after lunch as usual. Frankly, I can’t remember why. And then the room was quickly hushed. We heard the principal, Mr. Pace, over the intercom. He said he had just heard news that President Kennedy had been shot, and that he would keep us posted.

At the next bell, we went to our next class. For me, it was Mr. Coon’s science class. It might have been social studies. Again, details grow fuzzy, except for what happened next.

It was Mr. Pace again on the intercom. The class froze. Mr. Pace told us in somber voice that the President of the United States had been shot and killed. Even more, schools were sending kids home immediately.

This was an era when most of us kids had a mom and a dad, and the mom didn’t work outside of the home. So it wasn’t as difficult to send kids home early as it would be today.

I remember the mixed feelings I had. What kid didn’t like to get out of school early? But our president had been violently murdered, and we didn’t know any of the details. It was pretty darn jarring to this 11 year old.

What happened next in the Quiner household was pretty much what happened in every household. Everyone went home and turned on their television. There were only the three networks in those days.

When dad got home, we got in the car and drove to grandma and grandpa’s house. Our aunt, uncle, and cousins met us there. And for four days, we watched the live events of the aftermath non-stop, oh, except for an hour set aside for the Thanksgiving dinner.

We were all glued to the set when Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down on live television as the entire nation watched.

Where were you when Kennedy was shot? No Baby Boomer can ever forget.



  1. parrillaturi on November 23, 2015 at 11:43 pm

    I was stationed in Germany, serving my country as a Radar Technician, when we heard these devastating news. We went into a red alert status immediately. Our missiles where up and ready for action. I’ll never forget that day. Blessings.

    • quinersdiner on November 24, 2015 at 8:35 am

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. writegill on November 24, 2015 at 12:47 am

    Early morning, before school assembly at the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Convent, Sargodha, Pakistan.

    Yes, strange as it might sound, the PAF had asked the Catholic Irish Brothers to set up a co-educational convent school in a building to be provided and administered by the PAF.

    As kids tend to do the world over, we were milling around the playground waiting for the bell that would start Morning Assembly presided by Father Breen, our principal.

    Asad and I were were talking of Jackie Kennedy’s famous smile and Victor was laughing his head off at the conversation. At that moment, Pervez entered the playground. He seemed to be stumbling while shouting “Ohé ohé!”.

    We gathered around him.

    Tears in his eyes, voice breaking, he announced Kennedy’s death. At first we couldn’t believe that Pakistan’s heroic icon had really died. The girls started crying first, then the others.

    There was hardly a dry eye.

    Then we were shepherded by our worth-remembering-and-looking-up-to teachers into Assembly, where Father Breen worked his magic and got us through the day.

    • quinersdiner on November 24, 2015 at 8:37 am

      Great remembrance. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. atimetoshare on November 24, 2015 at 6:23 am

    It was like our 9/11. The entire nation grieved, even if we didn’t agree with his politics or his lifestyle, it was a vicious attack on all of us.

    • quinersdiner on November 24, 2015 at 8:37 am

      So true. Interestingly, by today’s standards, his politics are downright conservative.

  4. mamaemme on November 24, 2015 at 9:25 am

    I was at an editorial staff meeting for our high school yearbook. Then I rode the bus to my candy-striper volunteer job; everyone on the bus was crying.
    I was a high school senior, grieving the loss of a president who had seemed to speak directly to our generation.

    • quinersdiner on November 24, 2015 at 9:43 am

      Thanks for sharing your memories, Emily.

  5. stevegreer1 on November 25, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    I was -12 years old.

  6. bluebird of bitterness on November 27, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    I was in fourth grade. Our school had no public address system, so when the president was shot, the principal went from classroom to classroom to tell everyone what had happened. Our teacher was reading to us at the time — something she did every day — and she just kept on reading. (This seems weirder in retrospect than it did at the time.) Shortly after the initial announcement, the principal was making the rounds of all the classrooms again, and this time she said only four words: “The president is dead.” I can still see her standing in the doorway, and I can still hear her voice, choked with emotion. She was a very strict, no-nonsense kind of person, and that was the only time in my eight years at that school that I ever saw her on the verge of tears.