Remembering this day
I was a junior at Westfield, N.J., High School. I was in Latin American history, my last class of the day, when the announcement came over the P.A. that the president had been killed. We were sent home from school. As I walked through the halls, some mournful whimpering was the only break in the quiet. I had to walk through town to get home, and passed Holy Trinity Catholic Church on my way. I decided to enter and say a prayer. To my astonishment, I could see the church was almost filled with adults on their knees in prayer in complete silence. As I walked through town, I noticed the stillness. With the exception of the sound from televisions and radios, most business seemed closed. Adults were walking around with sad sober faces. which left me feeling fearful, wondering why this happened to my country?
I stopped at the newsstand and saw the New York World-Telegram’s 6-inch headline “President Shot Dead.” I picked up a copy, which I still have to this day, and headed home. I saw my mother and my father crying as they watched the events of the day played over and over again on TV. My parents had gone through the Great Depression, WWII, and could remember the day FDR died, so these were not weak people. My father was born in Massachusetts, and his parents worked for JFK, as they were Irish Catholic like the president. I will always remember how proud my parents were of the President, and the horrible hurt they felt that day. I never witnessed my mother or father cry. To this day I can still see and feel the emotions.
My town, neighborhood and streets were empty that weekend, but Oswald was shot on Nov. 25 and taken to Parkland Hospital to die where the president had two days earlier. Three of us decided we would go to Washington, D.C. We did not have a car nor bus fare, so we hitchhiked. I thought my parents would say no, but they understood. It was drizzling as we stood on the entrance of Garden State parkway exit 135 south waiting for a ride.
When we arrived, all you could hear was the muffled drum corps, boom, boom. It was cold and lines were everywhere. They kept the Capitol Rotunda open all night. Monday, the horse drawn caisson carrying the president’s body followed the riderless horse with boots reversed in the stirrups. You could hear the muted sounds of the horse’s hooves. The overwhelming agony of the crowd with the forlorn sadness appearing on their faces was something that has been and will always be with me.
Jerry Denis Sullivan