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November 22, 1963: Where were you?

Most Americans over the age of 55 remember the news from 50 years ago: President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. I was sitting in Miss Martinson’s third grade classroom. She was wearing a navy blue dress with pearls. Teachers were summoned to the principal’s office and when Miss Martinson returned, she said, “Children, our president has been shot.” No one spoke and then someone wheeled in a black and white television on a big stand. We watched the news until we left for home.

My parents had the television on and watched it during dinner. My dad was in charge of the school book sale and had to return to school that night. I went with him. In the following days, I recall the somber environment at home and watching the procession of the casket and soldiers and the clip-clop sound of horses’ feet on pavement. Caroline Kennedy was near my age. I felt sad her dad was killed. I wondered what it would feel like to lose my dad. I saw my dad cry as we watched a nation mourn and grieve. My dad never cried in front of his daughters.

Someone called my Uncle Larry and said, “I hope you choke on your turkey!” My uncle’s last name was Oswald – but he lived in Duluth. I asked my dad why someone would think my uncle killed the president. “Stupidity,” he said.

The assassination of President Kennedy remains in the memories of my generation. We all know where we were, how we heard, what we felt. And 50 years later, I still have the same reaction: such deep, profound sadness for Caroline Kennedy.

Where were you?

(S-R archive photo: This undated file photo shows the Kennedy brothers, John F. Kennedy, left, Robert Kennedy, and Ted Kennedy, right, in Hyannis Port, Mass. )

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Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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