Tuesday, November 22, 2005

A Memory of November 22, 1963

The following is from a memoir I wrote several years ago. The “Candy” in the story is a different woman from the Candy I have been writing about in this blog.

I was a senior in high school. My last class was architectural drawing. At the end of the class, the teacher always turned on a radio he had made on a piece of plywood. That day, when he turned it on, instead of music, we heard the words: “President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas.” No one said anything, until one student muttered/prayed aloud: “Lord, don’t let him die.”

When the final bell rang, in shock and silence, I slowly walked to my locker. Most of the other students hadn’t heard the news and the end of the day hustle and bustle was going on as usual. By the time I arrived at my locker, the hallway was empty, except for my friend, Candy, whose locker was next to mine. She was sitting on the floor in front of her locker, head in her hands, crying. When she saw me, she stood up; we silently embraced, and we both cried.

We probably would have remained in that spot the rest of the afternoon. However, suddenly our English teacher, Mr. G., a self-proclaimed right winger, came out of his room, dancing, clapping his hands, and singing: “They shot the damned Commie; they shot the damned Commie.”

When Mr. G. saw us, he stopped. Candy stared at him and said, “Shame on you, Mr. G.” Then she and I left the building, holding hands—and still shedding tears.


  1. what a horrible response to such a tragic happening---regardless of what side of the fence you happened to be on. Sometimes people's narrowness amazes me.

    It was a human tragedy, and a nation remembers....

  2. That story is scary. How could anyone act the way your teacher did? Was he crazy? I am sorry, but a man like that should never be allowed to teach! Were do they get such mean people for teachers?

  3. I think a lot of people don't see politics as real; it's a game, a soap opera.

    I'm sure if the teacher had been there with the grieving widow he would never have said such a thing. Somehow he had become disconnected, and thought of the Kennedys as characters in a melodrama, not flesh-and-blood human beings.

    I think the problem is even worse today. Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh have made themselves quite wealthy by reducing their opponents to caricatures. When the next assassination happens (and in today's climate it may not be long off), I think we'll hear even more thoughtless comments like your school teacher's.

  4. jay are: Mr. G.’s response to President Kenney’s assassination was a great shock to me. I had respected him as a teacher and as a man. I knew that he hated the Kennedys because he feared they would work toward socialized medicine as had just begun in Great Britain. His wife was a physician and he feared a loss of income. However, that he or anyone could take please—much less act it out in such a way—impacted my 18-year-old self in ways that I still carry inside me.

    abby: I don’t understand his behavior, especially in a high school corridor, either. Perhaps he thought no one was there. Seeing Candy and I in that hallway must have been a chock to him, not to mention her scolding of him. Unfortunately, in my life, I have encountered many teachers who I felt should not be teaching. I have no idea where they come from or why that teach.

    Thomas: I agree. Many people do so politics as a game just as many see war as a game. Both “games” are too serious to be left to those types of people to play. I have no idea how he would have acted head he been in Dallas that day. That is something I will think about and probably blog. I agree about Michael Moore and Rush Limbaugh. When I heard Limbaugh rationalize his behavior by calling his radio show “entertainment,” I felt like vomiting. To me if that is “entertainment,” its only counterpart is the Roman coliseum with its gore and murder. I fear you are on target regarding future comments if—God forbid—another of our leaders is murdered.

  5. I was in Dallas on November 22, 1963. The pain people felt there was almost unbearable. I do not understand how any American could act the way that teacher did.

  6. Trish: I agree. As I remember it, I was speechless myself on that terrible afternoon. I am happy that Candy wasn’t and spoke those words to Mr. G.

    Mike: I agree. I would appreciate hearing about you memories of November 22, 1963.

  7. The actual video of Jackie crawling to the back of that moving vehicle speaks such huge volume to her fortitude and strength.

    That's a very sad memory to have added to an already sad time for young people. Shame on that teacher for not realizing it.

  8. That was a terrible week. TV allowed us to see events as they unfolded—and over again as the videos were replayed.

    As for Mr. G., I remember very little about him after than day.

  9. Nick-

    What a sad memory- your friend's response was appropriate.

  10. That was quite an experience. I wasn’t born when Kennedy was around. Why did he call him a commie?