An American Tragedy – 56 Years Ago

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Fifty-six years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by gunfire in the Lone Star State. He was shot from the sixth floor of the former Texas School Book Depository as his motorcade traveled through downtown Dallas. The President received “Extreme Unction” by two Catholic priests at Parkland Memorial Hospital and was declared dead at approximately 1PM, CST.  Nobody over sixty can forget where he was or what he was doing when he received the dreadful news on Friday, November 22, 1963.

The President lay in state over the weekend at the Capitol.  Thousands of citizens paid their final respects around the clock.  On Sunday, November 24 the President’s assassin was shot to death, himself, as he was being transferred from the Dallas jail to a more secure county facility.  He also died at Parkland although emergency room attendants refused to work on him in the same room where the President had been attended.  Secret Service agents and reporters served as impromptu pall bearers as Lee Harvey Oswald was buried in an unmarked grave Monday morning.  Simultaneously, the President’s funeral was attended by hundreds of world dignitaries including President Charles De Gaulle of France and Haile Sellasie, the Emperor of Ethiopia.  John F. Kennedy was buried at Arlington National Cemetery where Jacqueline Kennedy, his widow, lit an eternal flame.

All regularly scheduled television events were canceled beginning early Friday afternoon and lasting through Monday including almost every public event, although National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle refused to cancel, or postpone, NFL games that Sunday.  Millions of viewers from around the globe were riveted to their sets as television became the leading source of news media that very weekend with uninterrupted coverage of all the shocking events, including the first live murder (that of Oswald).  The country and the world grew up that weekend.

Besides his wife, Jackie, the President was survived by his son John-John who celebrated his third birthday the afternoon his father was buried and five year old Caroline who survives to this day as the last member of our youngest elected President’s immediate family.