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Where Were You 50 Years Ago Today?

President John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963) and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy ride with secret agents in an open car motorcade shortly before the president was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963.
President John F. Kennedy (1917 – 1963) and his wife Jacqueline Kennedy ride with secret agents in an open car motorcade shortly before the president was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, November 22, 1963. (Keystone/Getty Images)

It was for a generation of Americans the all-time “where were you when” moment. 

Members of the Kennedy family at the funeral of assassinated president John F. Kennedy at Washington DC. From left: Senator Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, (aged 6), Jackie Kennedy (1929 - 1994), Attorney General Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy (1960 - 1999) (aged 3).   (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Members of the Kennedy family at the funeral of assassinated president John F. Kennedy at Washington DC. From left: Senator Edward Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, (aged 6), Jackie Kennedy (1929 – 1994), Attorney General Robert Kennedy and John Kennedy (1960 – 1999) (aged 3). (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

No I’m not talking about 9-11 which was very different and stands on its own.  I’m talking about November 22, 1963 which some refer to as the day we lost our innocence when the 35th President of the United States John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Today is the 50th anniversary of that dreadful day and many who are old enough will reflect back on where they were and how they heard the news.

This was way before Facebook, Twitter and 800 TV channels with radio providing the initial news that the president had been shot.  TV News coverage followed and one of the iconic moments was when a choked-up Walter Cronkite removed his glasses and shared with the country that the 46-year old Kennedy had died.

I was in 2nd grade and since it was a Friday was in school when word of the shooting started spreading in the afternoon.   However my first real memory came on the way home when our bus driver broke down and cried and told us what had happened.

Later I remember watching TV with my mother as the entire nation was glued to the television. Regular programming was suspended for four days because nobody cared about anything else.  What I remember most actually occurred two days later when accused killer Lee Harvey Oswald was himself shot and killed live on television by local nightclub owner Jack Ruby while being transferred from police headquarters to the county jail.  As a 6-year old to watch that happen on TV is something you just never forget.

People visit the gravesite of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery
People visit the gravesite of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Fifty years ago we were more likely to accept what the government told us but many did not go along with the conclusion of the Warren Commission that Oswald was the lone sniper and acted alone and the same for Ruby.  It has sparked decades of conspiracy theorists and even today 60% of Americans doubt those conclusions.

Truth is we’ll never know if there was more because all the key figures have long since died.  Today will also lead some of us to ask again what would have happened if JFK had not died.

The youngest elected President would likely have earned a second term and history could have been dramatically changed.  But as we know you can’t go back and re-write history and we’re left just to wonder.

As a side note, the Timothy E. Ryan Home for Funerals is offering people the chance to sign a commemorative book at their locations in Toms River (145 St. Catherine Boulevard) and Jackson (150 West Veterans Highway) starting today and through next Saturday.  The books will be delivered for JFK’s daughter Caroline Kennedy, who is the Ambassador to Japan.


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