Living in the Past: The shooting of JFK was another of those incidents so life stopping that people remember what they were doing at the time.
I was a college freshman in the Autumn of 1963. I was part of the Pioneer Class at Michigan’s newest state college: Grand Valley. It was incorporated in 1960 and we were in the first class that September. All of us had been invited out to see the new campus that summer. Everything seemed fresh and new…and small. Parking lots weren’t paved. There were only a few buildings completed. The staff and all us students were just getting used to each other. September had passed and then October. Then two thirds of the way through November, it happened.
It was Friday, November 22, 1963. I remember being in the lunch room talking with some of my new friends. All of a sudden we were distracted by lively conversations going on nearby. The word traveled through the cafeteria like wildfire. “The President’s been shot.”
Something like a cloud of gloom fell on the room as I looked from face to face to see what could be done. It felt like someone had popped our bubble. He was so young and seemed to embody a new kind of thinking in our country. He had asked us not to think of what we could get from our country, but how we could serve it. He had ignited our hearts. Why would someone want to kill him?
I finally left the lunch room because of a test many of us were scheduled to take. So, trying as best we could, we launched into the exam. Shortly after we started we heard a commotion coming down the hall. Finally, our teacher announced “you’re going to hear it sooner or later. President Kennedy has died.”
It felt like something wet and sharp had gone through my heart. A vacant sadness which I would later understand as grief surrounded me. There was no break from the test which we had to continue. After the test, there was a discussion scheduled so we sat in a circle and struggled to consider the political consequences of Kennedy’s assassination. I couldn’t
Tomorrow is the 49th anniversary of a dreadful experience which sobered my youthful enthusiasm into realizing that evil does exist and evil men can still be at times victorious.