There may never be a president more beloved than John F. Kennedy, after his assassination 50 years ago while traveling in a motorcade in Dallas it brought shock and sorrow to the nation.
The news of Kennedy being shot and his death are one of those moments in history you remember where you were and what you were doing when you learned the news. Five decades later some people in Northeast Michigan are taking time to reflect on the man, his impact on our country and his untimely death.
Much like the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., in 2001, life came to a halt after the news informed the public of the unfolding events. Charles Randle said it was as if every family had lost a loved one at the same exact time.
"I remember I was in school and there was an announcement that the president had been shot, but we didn't know if he was dead or not at that time," Randle said. "They let school out and many of the stores were closed and there was a great deal of sadness in everyone. I remember staying home to watch the funeral as well. It was a difficult and sad time."
The authorities identified Lee Harvey Oswald as the shooter and he was arrested, only to be killed by Jack Ruby two days after his arrest while being transferred from the police headquarters to the jail. The events of that week are still in question, as many believe there was a government coverup and a conspiracy behind Kennedy's death. Roxanne Roznowski said she was at home when she got a call from her husband with the bad news. She said dealing with the president's death was difficult, but the rumors and accusations that followed were just as painful.
"It was like everyone wanted to blame someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald and there was so much finger-pointing and you really didn't know what to believe," Roznowski said. "For years people don't want to believe that one man shot and killed him. It is almost like they want to believe that he was too powerful to be killed by one man and needed a bigger story to make it more sensational."
Wayne McWilliams said he was quite young when Kennedy was killed, but he still remembers the day well. He said even though he was young he realized it was an important event in history.
"I was in fifth grade and our teacher told us the president had been shot and it was a surprise," McWilliams said. "Even at the age of 10 we were like wow, this is amazing and hard to believe."
Don Londo said he was at Western Michigan University when he learned of the assassination. He said the usually energetic school was overcome with grief.
"I was in my dorm studying when I got a call from my girlfriend who told me about it and I wouldn't believe her. I thought she was pulling a prank on me," Londo said. "Later it sunk in and everyone was just sort of wandering around in a daze. I remember it all very clearly."
Guy Decker was serving in the military when he learned about Kennedy's assassination. He said the news was sad, but as a soldier he had to process the bad news differently than others.
"I was in the Navy and on duty on a destroyer called the USS Edison in Long Beach," Decker said. "We were a tough group. We were sad, but there wasn't much we could do about it. I remember they took our pistol out of the radio shack, because they were concerned we would shoot ourselves, but we went on and we accepted what had happened because that is what we needed to do."
To this day it is a moment frozen in time and one that is revisited every year in history classrooms. The Kennedy name is synonymous with American politics and government and Ester Newman hopes JFK's will continue on as well.
"We was a young man who had a tremendous passion for America and was not intimidated by anyone," Newman said. "That is why people loved him so much. He wanted people to step up and do what was right for America. "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689. Follow Steve on Twitter ss_alpenanews. Read his blog, Upon Further Review ... at www.thealpenanews.com.