The President’s assassination today brought to a hushed, shocked, unbelieving halt the normal flow of life in Spokane.
Schools, stores, public offices – everywhere regular activity was suspended. Strangers became friends for the moment.
A special convocation to “pray for guidance for our nation” was called at Whitworth College at 1 p.m.
Dr. Mark Koehler, executive vice president, said all classes then in session paused immediately to pray for the President.
“The campus got very quiet and solemn,” he said. “Everyone seemed unable to believe that such a thing really has happened.”
At Fort Wright College of the Holy Names, students and Sisters gathered shortly before noon in the campus chapel for a mass said for the President.
The Student Union Building at Eastern Washington State College filled quickly with students and faculty to listen to the news. There was no talking.
Banks Remain Open
Banks apparently planned to stay open in Spokane through the rest of the afternoon, although an employe who answered the phone at one of them said, “Nobody’s in the mood to do business.”
Another bank reported the lobby was crowded during the President’s fight for his life; clusters of people gathered around others who had transistor radios.
“People seem to be in a daze,” an official of the bank said. The comment fit people everywhere in the stunned city.
U.S. Attorney Comments
“It’s such a shocking thing it’s almost impossible for the mind to comprehend,” U.S. Atty. Frank R. Freeman said. “It’s horrible. The United States has lost a very brilliant mind.”
“It’s a dark day for the United States and for the world,” was the reaction of Stanley H. Fogelquist, district director here for the Internal Revenue Service.
“All I can feel is amazement to think such a thing could happen to a President of the United States,” W.R. Postma, executive of the Inland Empire Boy Scout council, said. “It’s the biggest shock we’ve every had.”
Hospitals Feel Reaction
At Spokane hospitals, there was the same overwhelming reaction: A feeling of stunned disbelief as the word filtered from administrative offices and reached patients.
Catholic Sisters at Sacred Heart Hospital left their posts to go to the chapel to pray shortly after word was first received the President had been shot.
“The news was so tremendously shocking in impact that all normal procedure was upset and almost halted for a time,” said Albert C. Huber, the hospital’s community relations director.
A similar reaction was described at Deaconess Hospital.
“Patients who learned of the news refused to believe that the President was dead,” an observer said.
John W. Colby, administrator of St. Luke’s Hospital, said: “Business practically came to a standstill as everyone rushed to a radio or television set. “All were stunned. When we finally learned of the President’s death there were tears in many people’s eyes.”
Police Station Quiet
The Spokane Police Station, normally a hubbub of activity at mid-morning suddenly became quiet. Words were almost whispered to person after person that the President had been shot.
Detectives, many of the veterans of shooting incidents themselves, gathered in a cluster around a small radio.
“Is it true?” “Is it true?” That was the question repeated time after time.
A Police Department secretary, her hands folded and her head bent in prayer, prayed silently as word of the President’s death was flashed.
News that the President was dead was greeted with deep silence. The small clusters of persons about radios broke up and went quietly back to the routine.
A police building elevator operator, tears in her eyes, reflected a common sentiment: “His poor wife – and those little children!”
With first word that the President had been shot, the news was broadcast on the police radio to city police cars.
Police Court Judge Gordon S. Lower, presiding over traffic court, was handed a note of the President’s death. In a voice filled with emotion, he told the news to those in the courtroom.
Special Church and prayer services were scheduled or urged by church leaders.
Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Cathedral will have a requiem mass at 7:30 tonight. The Rev. James J. O’Malley, assistant at the cathedral, will be celebrant.
The bells of Lourdes cathedral were tolled at 11:40 a.m. after word of the President’s death was received.
At Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church a requiem mass for the President was scheduled at 5:30 today.
The Rev. Richard H. Tusant Jr. of Lidgerwood Evangelical United Brethren Church, president of the Inland Empire Association of Evangelicals, said: “We are shocked and deeply hurt by the assassination of our President and ask special prayers for his family and for the nation’s leaders.
“We urge Christians to offer prayed, in both in their homes and in their churches, realizing our need now as never before to depend upon prayer.”
Services of prayer and meditation have been arranged by the Council of Churches at 8 tonight at the following churches:
St. John’s Episcopal Cathedral, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Messiah Lutheran Church, Our Savior’s Lutheran Church and St. Luke’s Lutheran Church.
At St. Augustine church, a mass was set for 5 this afternoon.
Courthouse Hush Noted
In the courthouse, word of the President’s death brought the same stunned hush that covered the city.
Sadness was obvious in many faces; the words “disgrace” and “shameful” were used.
Several woman employes walked or worked with unashamed tears in their eyes.
No court proceedings were suspended, but several special announcements were made during the proceedings at recess times, telling of the events in Dallas.
Most offices had clusters of people around radios that ordinarily air such happier events as World Series baseball games.
All of the Superior Court judges expressed extreme regret at the news some angrily, all were grim and saddened by the events.
Club Members Dazed
At private clubs such as the Spokane Club, the Early Birds, the Spokane Press club and the Athletic Round Table, where many members habitually gather just before the lunch hour, there was an atmosphere of stunned silence.
“Members who heard the news and came here to learn more appeared dazed,” an employe at the Spokane Club said. “The immediate reaction was one of utter disbelief.”
In the City Hall, the few radios were turned on. Some employes listened. Others went on with their work.
Most of those who had comment said this was something which couldn’t happen in the United States any more. There was universal shock at the news of the death.
At Lewis and Clark High School, Vice Principal William E. L. Donner said the entire student body seemed to be in a state of shock. “I think we haven’t had time to absorb the full implications yet,” he said this afternoon.
North Central Vice Principal E. Edward Gill and Shadle Park High School Vice Principal Keith E. Rostvold said the students showed deep concern and were quiet.
Sister John Francis, Holy Names Academy superior, said all classes immediately offered prayers for the rpose of the President’s soul. At Marycliff, Sister Lilian, principal, said almost complete silence descended as tearful students offered prayers.
Leta Nicoles, principal of Finch, said teachers in every room informed the children and tried to develop calm discussions of what this would mean to the country and the procedures that would be followed in keeping the government functioning.
Spokane Valley schools continued classes today after teachers observed a moment of silent tribute to the president in each classroom, administrators said. Flags were lowered to half-staff.
Officials said students and teachers were so chocked that not much was accomplished. But it was felt that dismissing classes and sending pupils home, possibly to homes which were cold and where parents were absent might create new problems.
When President Kennedy came to the Richland area last month, Police chief Clifford N. Payne told a Chronicle reporter he was somewhat relived that the presidential party wasn’t coming to Spokane.
“It’s a terrific responsibility on a police force when the President is in town,” he said.
At that time he commented:
“It would be a blot on a town you could never erase if the President were to be shot in your town.”
He repeated those last remarks after learning of the assassination this morning.