Memories of Alpena as shots took down a president in Dallas

As a baby boomer, my life has experienced dozens of global news events, ranging from the Vietnam War, the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, the moon landing and deep space exploration, the fall of the Berlin Wall, multiple war fronts, the triple 9/11 tragedies, the Earth’s changing climate, as well as the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King and Sen. Robert Kennedy.

My first significant news memory was on Nov. 22, 1963, of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. On that date, it was a sunny, cold, and brisk day in Northeast Michigan.

At that time, Alpena High School was located on a full street block between 2nd and 1st avenues. The campus was a three-story, concrete building, with an adjacent multi-story music and theater structure and nearby aquatics center.

Sandwiched between those structures were six or eight one-story temporary classrooms. The campus served well over 2,000 students, faculty, and staff members.

I was in history class in one of the temporary classrooms. Michael Indehar was the teacher.

At about 1:20 p.m. a click came on the campus public address system. It was Principal M.E. Finch.

It was unusual for him to address the building during a class session.

In a level voice, he announced that Kennedy was shot and died in Dallas, Texas. He added classes would be dismissed until further notice.

There was a temporary hush in the classroom. Seconds later, deep and uncontrollable sobbing occurred. The emotions continued as students left the high school. Many students journeyed north on 2nd Avenue to Tubby’s restaurant, reflecting on the sad event.

I traveled home to hear somber music and news on radio and television.

I viewed the presidential swearing-in of Lyndon B. Johnson on board the White House airplane, the shooting of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald at the Dallas police headquarters, and Kennedy’s casket being escorted to Arlington National Cemetery.

During the funeral procession, a toddler John Jr. rendered his father a hand salute.

During those days, my father assured me America would be safe and prevail in the years to come.

Jeffrey D. Brasie is a former Alpena resident and retired healthcare CEO. He writes historic feature stories and resides in suburban Detroit.


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