Everyone of a certain age remembers the day President John F. Kennedy was shot.
I certainly do.
It wasn't too long past my 9th birthday and I was a third grade student at Notre Dame School, a Catholic elementary school in the small town of Kerrville in central Texas. My parents, Philadelphia natives, had moved their young family South for the climate (it didn't take long before the family made its way back to Pennsylvania, but that's another story).
In November 1963, our school was being renovated, so classes were scattered among the buildings on a "campus" that also included the church, parish offices, rectory and convent. My third grade classroom was temporarily located in the library of the convent, desks lined up in neat rows surrounded by floor-to-ceiling bookshelves of old, dark wood, rather than bright green chalkboards and colorful bulletin boards.
The library/third grade classroom was adjacent to a large kitchen, from where, on that one particular day in November, a cook emerged and insisted that Sister follow her back into the room.
It wasn't long before Sister came back into class, told us to stop working on whatever it was that we were doing, put our heads down on our desks and pray quietly for the President of the United States. But she didn't tell us why. All I knew was that I was going to see the popular president in person in a day or two, as my family had weekend plans in Galveston that included attending a parade in which the president was scheduled to appear.
While we were trying our best to pray, I probably wasn't the only student who noticed that Sister moved back and forth between the rooms frequently. I recall noticing the contrast between the brightly lit kitchen and the dark wood in the library every time the door opened. I can still hear noise from a radio or television coming from the kitchen, but I couldn't actually hear what was being said. And somehow I could tell that more and more people were gathering in that room.
It didn't take too long before Sister told our class that our president had been shot and had died at the hospital, and we were to continue to pray for him, his family and our country.
But first, I was given a job. Sister wrote something on a piece of paper and handed it to me, directing me to take it to the fourth grade classroom, which meant I had to leave the convent building, cross the playground to a garage, climb up some stairs to the second floor and knock on the door of another makeshift classroom. The nun who opened the door took the note from my hand, and I watched intently for her reaction because although no one had told me what the note said, I knew it was the bad news from Dallas. I don't recall seeing Sister's reaction, and I quickly returned to my own classroom to join the class in praying the rosary.
Oh, and my family did take our weekend trip. But there was no parade.
Just as that memory remains vivid and real for me, nearly every American old enough to recall that day has a similar story to tell.
Where were you on Nov. 22, 1963? What were you doing when you heard the news that President John F. Kennedy had been fatally wounded?
As we approach the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, we would like to hear your memories and see any photographs, clippings or Kennedy memorabilia you may have saved from that historic moment in U.S. history.
Throughout the month of November, The Sentinel's Friday Lifestyles page will offer readers a variety of articles and photographs from The Associated Press commemorating that historic day, as well as sharing your stories about where you were on Nov. 22, 1963.
Send your thoughts to me at: The Sentinel, P.O. Box 588, Lewistown, PA 17044; or email email@example.com.
Jane Cannon Mort is the Lifestyles editor of The Sentinel.