Of course I remember Nov. 22, 1963
By David Lewis
Editor and Publisher
Like most Americans of a certain age, I can remember where I was and what I was doing when I learned that President John F. Kennedy had been killed in downtown Dallas.
Right after lunch on the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 22, 1963, I was settling in for a seventh-grade science class at Agnew Junior High in Mesquite. Our teacher, whose name I canÕt remember, came in with a somber look on his face. He looked as excited to be there as I was.
But there was a reason for his somber look. He informed the class that President Kennedy had been shot just down the road in Dallas. Soon, the principal came on the public address system and told us the president was dead and that school was being dismissed.
There were no displays of emotion among the students, but we were all confused — and worried. Even at a young age, we sensed that Dallas itself would be blamed for the presidentÕs assassination. My classmates and I quickly became convinced that Dallas was in for an imminent attack. It would be an A bomb, as we called it.
Mesquite, which is located on the eastern outskirts of Dallas, in the early 1960s was going through its first big growth spurt. But my family lived in Òold Mesquite,Ó and it hadnÕt changed much from its 1950 population of 1,600.
Dallas was the big city. Although my family ventured downtown every once in a while and to the State Fair every fall, I didnÕt want anything to do with Dallas.
My parents didnÕt talk much about politics, so I didnÕt know a lot about the president, except that he talked funny. The main thing I remember about him was that he managed to prevent a nuclear war with the Russians over Cuba — or as the president pronounced it, ÒCuber.Ó
I was constantly worried about nuclear war. We had duck-and-cover drills at school — as if hunkering down under a desk would prevent you from being fried by an A bomb. The sight of Russian leader Nikita Kruschev ranting and raving on TV made me nervous. I just knew that a nuclear holocaust was imminent. I secretly wished that my parents would build a bomb shelter.
And then, the president was shot and killed — not far from where I lived. I didnÕt know what to think, but I readily agreed with my classmates that Dallas would be bombed and wiped off the map. I was ready for the worst.
The attack never came. Eventually, America won the Cold War. The Russians somehow became less of a menace.
I didnÕt know it in 1963, but KennedyÕs death represented a dividing line between my childhood and adolescence. So IÕll always remember where I was on Friday, Nov. 22, 1963.
How could I not?