Locals remember day Kennedy was shot 50 years ago

What were you doing 50 years ago Friday?

It is one of those moments that each generation seems to have — a moment when time stood still.

It is a moment when most everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing and how they felt when they heard the news.

For people age 80 and older, that day could be the attack on Pearl Harbor. For the younger generation today, it most like is 9/11.

But for many people, from seniors to baby boomers, what happened 50 years ago Friday, Nov. 22, will always be a part of their psyches. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated that day while visiting Dallas, Texas. It happened about 1:30 p.m. our time, and news quickly spread across Central New York, the nation and the world.

Like that year, Nov. 22 falls on a Friday again in 2013. Unlike 1963, people will not be fixated on every word and picture they see on the television for four days straight. — see all the preparations for the funeral, the long lines of people waiting to see the president’s casket, waiting to hear if the police caught the assassin, then two days later seeing him get killed on live TV.

Here is what some Fulton and Oswego folks remember about that day:

Ellen Kane, 70, president of the Women’s Club of Fulton:

“I was in college, D’Youville College in Buffalo. I don’t remember actually hearing about it. But  I remember people saying ‘get down to the lounge. Get down to the lounge.’ It was the only place with a TV. I remember the room was full of totally unbelieving people sitting in total silence watching. How could somebody do this? He was so young, had so much charisma. He was like a shining star.”

Ronald Woodward Sr., 64, Fulton mayor:

“I was in shop class, I was a freshman at Fulton High School. I remember the teachers crying and all the media blitz when I got home. I was sad — he was a very popular president.”

Thomas Gillen, 64, Oswego mayor:

“I was a freshman at Oswego Catholic High School. It was Friday afternoon and we were having a pep rally in the gym because the basketball team was going to be playing that night. They had already started the pep rally and there was an announcement that the president had been shot. They they came back with the announcement that he had died. I remember going back to homeroom and a lot of people were crying. I remember one girl was weeping. We didn’t play the game that night. And Sunday was always the day we would go out tot he turkey farm to ge our Thanksgiving turkey. I was watching TV and Oswald was shot. I remember thinking ‘I just saw someone killed on TV.’”

John DeRousie, 55, public relations professional, Fulton:

“Like everyone else alive at that time, I do remember it well. I was in first grade at St. Mary’s School in Oswego. Our teacher told us that the president had been shot. We were asked to close our books, and say a prayer for him. We were then dismissed and asked to leave quietly in single file. I also remember watching the funeral procession at home with my Mother. I felt a little nervous. I was too young to really grasp the magnitude of the situation, but I could tell from the nuns’ reactions and my parents’ reactions that this was a very bad thing. I realized it more when I watched the funeral procession and I distinctly remember seeing John Jr. salute as the casket went by.

Reuel Todd, 66, Oswego County sheriff:

“I was a sophomore sitting in study hall at Oswego HIgh School when they broke in with an announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. They broke in later to say he had died at the hospital and that they were making preparations to swear in Lyndon Baines Johnson. Even for us as kids, death to us wasn’t really real, but this affected everyone. I was watching everything I could on TV.”

Debbie Groom, 57, Valley News
managing editor:

“I was sitting in my second-grade class at Main Street Elementary School in North Syracuse. The principal, Mr. Miller, came over the loud speaker telling us the president had been shot. Doing something that probably wouldn’t be allowed today, he asked us all to pray. My teacher had a shocked look on her face. But she turned it into a teaching moment. She pulled down one of those rolled up maps that hung on the wall and showed all of us where Texas was and where Dallas was. A little while later, Mr. Miller came on the loud speaker again and told us the president had died and asked us to pray again. It was a day you’ll always remember.


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