I remember that day so clearly, it’s hard to believe it was 50 years ago.
I was in my chemistry class at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, in an old gray stone building on the North Oval, taking a test. Perhaps that’s why the news didn’t make it into that particular classroom. After class I went up to Campus Corner to buy a few things and as I waited at a cash register, I overheard some people talking about the president being shot. I interrupted them and they confirmed what I’d heard: The president of the United States had been shot.
Horrified, I raced back to my rooming house a few blocks away and found everyone already huddled around the television. For four days, until after the funeral, we stood watch with the rest of the world. We ordered in food rather than go to the boarding house for meals. We went to bed reluctantly, if at all. We spoke in hushed, disbelieving voices.
JFK wasn’t a saint or a god. He wasn’t the king of some mythical Camelot. And frankly, I didn’t much care for him and his privileged Ivy League Boston background. But he was the president of the United States. There were no words for the shock I felt.
To this day I believe the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, acted alone. I’ve never been one to buy into conspiracy theories, and I never bought into those surrounding the assassination. Oswald was both skilled and lucky, and on November 22, 1963, acting alone, he shot and killed John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States.
A year earlier, in October 1962, Kennedy had faced down the Soviets and kept their nuclear missiles out of Cuba, averting the greatest threat to the nation in my lifetime. Now, on a sunny day in an average American city just 200 miles from my home, he was gone, shot down by a pathetic, disaffected fellow American.
If there was any political innocence left in my generation, it died that day.