Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 22, 1963

I perched on edge of the seat pouring over my notes – a left-hander in a right handed desk. I’d done okay in high school speech but this was a class of nearly 100  Sophomore wanna-a-be speech pathology and education majors – and I didn’t ‘wanna be’ there, or a teacher, or a speech therapist. I was a foreigner among homies in Lincoln, Nebraska. Three months earlier I married my Freshman-year sweetheart and gave up my political science major and dreams of Foreign Service. I couldn’t expect my husband to follow me around the world. No, instead I’d follow him into ‘the wild blue yonder’ as an Air Force wife. Crazy, right? I have no excuse except this – it was 1963.
It was November 22 to be precise. The young professor who, on another day, purposely embarrassed me in front of this class for mispronouncing a word (My pioneering Iowa family hadn’t picked up the fine distinction between ‘jist’ and ‘just.’ ) was looking over her list of speakers for the day. 

A girl wrenched open the door and 100 heads swiveled toward her as she yelled -- “The President’s been shot!”  This was not something that happened in the United States, at least, not in modern times, so the 200 eyes blinked in astonishment and disbelief.
“No, it’s true. This isn’t an Oklahoma joke.” were her exact words. It was football season and our annual rivalry with Oklahoma U was super-charged by the bonfire rally on the night before. Go Huskers!

If it wasn’t an Oklahoma joke then it must be true. President Kennedy was shot!

While heads swiveled back to attention, and we quietly whispered and wondered if he lived or died, it was obvious that Fräulein professor was an irritated-at-the-interruption Republican. Believe it or not President Kennedy was not universally popular, his reelection was not a shoo-in. I was stunned. My folks were citizens of Camelot and I’d met, then Senator, Kennedy in 1960.
We heard the classrooms around us being dismissed and then thundering through the halls and down the steps, leaving us in a building as quiet as a mausoleum. Now we were all on the edge of our seats wanting a radio, a TV, and loved one to hold . . .

“No,” she ordered the class, who as a body was ready to flee, “sit down!” She took a quiet moment to scan her list of speakers . . . I could almost hear the turret of a Nazi tank turn as her finger found a name and her eyes aimed at me . . .


  1. It seems he is really special this year. By that I mean I've been seeing TV and books filled with JFK, his family, and their life.

  2. Yes, 50th anniversary of that tragic event in Dallas. Thanks for stopping by the blog, Amber!

  3. Hi Sandy: happened across your blog today and was interested in the JFK story. My husband a photographer for The Daily Oklahoman for 40 years was on his way to Lincoln that day with 3 other photographers. Car radio was off and they didn't get the news until they stopped for gas at a crossroads in northern Kansas. Play the game? Not play the game? big controversy as most if not all the football games to be played at that time were being cancelled. But the game went on--it was to decide who was going to the Orange Bowl and was decreed as too important to cancel. Burnis Argo (Remember me?)

  4. Hi Buris! Yes, I remember you. Thanks for sharing your memory. The speech was the worst I've ever given. . . but it didn't matter as no one was listening. The class should have been canceled. I believe the football game should have been canceled out of respect. We didn't hang around for the game and headed to Des Moines to watch TV with my family for the next few days. You didn't mention what you were doing at the time?


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