Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination, Yahoo is publishing first-person accounts from Americans who remember the tragedy and recall the era: What life was like in November 1963 in their communities? How did the president’s death reflect their hopes and anxieties? Here’s one story.
FIRST PERSON | It was a heady time to be a student at the University of Minnesota in 1963. We lived in a world of ideas, of enthusiasm for the promise of the future.
How could we not be enthusiastic? We were going to the moon, and to the developing countries of the world with our young, energetic president. We had held a collective breath with him in Cuba; we were Berliners with him; we had cheered him in St. Paul. We beamed with him in Paris, watching his beautiful wife charm the French people and president.
I was 20, a journalism major, the editor of the yearbook, and on the staff of the University Daily. We heard the news immediately, in the newsroom. Tears came easily as we listened in stunned silence. And then, we did our jobs as we had been taught. We went out on campus to report the story.
We were not old enough to remember Pearl Harbor, nor the beaches of Normandy, but we lived through Korea, practicing bomb drills in our elementary schools. We were tired of that, and we wanted no more war. We had not placed JFK in office; we were not old enough to vote. We were captivated – not by the talk or the promises, but by the audacity and the action. We were going to change the world and the world knew it.
On November 22, 1963, the shots that ended the president’s life in Dallas also crushed the hopes of tens of thousands of students. We walked through the events of the succeeding days in disbelief.
More than a president died in Dallas. Innocence was lost that day, and a whole generation still bears the scars. The flags were raised again. Campus activities resumed. Life continued, but our lives were changed irrevocably. In the years that followed, we watched in horror as other leaders were killed.
Oh, yes; we went to the moon. We joined the Peace Corps, serving in places like Ghana and Somalia, Tanzania and Nigeria. Too many of us went to Vietnam. We watched the Berlin Wall fall and believed again in freedom. We have decried other wars and waited too many times for peace.
Somehow, though, the hope never returned in full measure. The promise is still unfulfilled.
Fifty years have passed, but the pain is still here. In our hearts, flags still flutter at half staff, a poignant reminder of what might have been.