At that time we had no talking heads on cable TV or talk radio hosts who would put the President down nor constantly oppose his actions. In fact most radio stations would play a comic impersonator, a fellow by the name of Vaughn Meader who would lovingly poke fun at the first family. We considered the White House to be Camelot, the stuff dreams and movies were made of and when you’re a 9-year-old, red blooded American, there was no bigger star than the 35th President of the United States and he was flying into our town on that shiny new plane called Air Force One. This was an era of success and confidence and America was leading the world.
As I recall the events of the day, our classmate returned thrilled at what she had seen. She was only a few feet away from the President, he looked right at her and waved. As she was relaying her exciting encounter, word reached the classroom that shots had been fired at the President. We were all in shock and as I recall she was totally destroyed. To be on such a high one moment and then to have that moment shattered so quickly was almost too much for a young child to comprehend. In many ways the entire nation and perhaps much of the world was feeling exactly the same way. We were all totally unprepared for what was to take place over the next few days and the next few years.
As a class we knelt and began to pray. We soon learned of the President’s fate. The excitement and optimism of those prior days seemed to vanish into thin air as we kept asking why and no teacher, parent or adult could offer an answer.
As a wide eyed young boy the events of the next few days were unimaginable. Everything came to a complete stop. I mean everything. We were all glued to our radios and television sets but unlike other parts of the nation the grief and fear in Dallas was compounded by the fact that he was shot and killed in our city. The nation would blame Dallas and somehow we had let the young President and the nation down. Over the weekend we would witness the assassin being gunned down, putting further shame on the city and fueling even higher levels of fear as to exactly what was happening and who was behind all this.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.