November 22, 1963 Fifty Years ago today.

So, for those of us who can remember– Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news that John Kennedy had been assassinated? I was a fifth grader at Greenwood Mennonite School. Carolyn West Mast was conducting art class when there a a knock on the door. She answered it, and was immediately distraught but would not tell us what had happened except to say that “Something terrible has happened.” These were the days of the Cuban Crisis, and air raid drills and I don’t know about the rest of the class, but I was sure that someone had dropped an atomic bomb on our fair land somewhere.

Dave Hertzler was our home room teacher, and he came into the room and had us get ready for an early dismissal. We stood beside our desks, with our chairs all up on top they way we always had to before leaving and he announced in a tight and sad voice, “President Kennedy has been assassinated.” Which was the proper way to tell us except that a lot of us slower lower Delaware Mennonite elementary students didn’t know what that big word meant.

“What??? He’s been what???”

“Assassinated. Killed. He’s been shot.”

Talk about terror settling into the heart of a child. I was sure the Russians were gonna’ get us for sure. But they didn’t. And the country pulled together in the next drama filled days to say Good-bye to the youngest president we had ever had. We know now that he wasn’t a good man by any moral measure, but the country loved the First Lady and the young children and the man who said, “My Fellow Americans. Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.

“And the lights went out all over Camelot.”

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