Friday, November 22, 2013
Remembering Friday, November 22, 1963
I was a freshman at the University of Tennessee. I had just walked out of the geology building on the Hill. There was a group of about 40 students standing in the middle of Circle Drive listening to a portable radio. A young woman on the edge of the crowd told me that President Kennedy had been shot. Moments later the young man holding the radio said, “He’s dead.”
There was a sudden, simultaneous intake of breath and then stunned silence. No one moved or said a word for a long time. I just stood there, traumatized, unable to come to grips with the heartbreaking reality. The next thing I remember was sitting alone in the grass on the north side of the Hill, sobbing uncontrollably.
Eventually, I made my way to our apartment on 15th Street, north of Laurel Avenue. Later that afternoon, my roommate, Mike Lain, and I drove home to Norris. I spent the next three days there sitting in front of my parent's television set watching a series of historic and surreal events unfold.
Following the assassination, the body of President Kennedy was flown back to Washington, D.C. and placed in the East Room of the White House for 24-hours. On Sunday while his coffin was being carried by a horse-drawn caisson to the U.S. Capitol, we watched live on television the president’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, gunned down by Jack Ruby as he was being escorted to a car for transfer from Dallas Police Headquarters to the County Jail.
Throughout that day and night, hundreds of thousands lined up to view the president’s guarded casket in the Capitol Rotunda. Representatives from over 90 countries attended the state funeral on Monday, November 25. Following the Requiem Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral, President Kennedy was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
Yes, I will never forget where I was and what I was doing at 2:00 PM, EST, on Friday, November 22, 1963.