INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL:



What were your parents doing in 1963? What was your status?

Dad: My Father was running his carpet laying business. Mom was a housewife working part-time selling toys through house parties. I was a Freshman in high school.
What was it like in 1963? Was it a happy atmosphere, scared, sad, etc?

Dad: The country felt young. New music genres were emerging with wide appeal: Folk Music, Motown, Rhythm and Blues, The Beach Boys, etc. The youth of the country felt good. We had a handsome, young president with a beautiful wife. He inspired the nation “to put a man on the moon within a decade”. We watched in amazement as we launched men into space. John Glenn was orbiting the earth. Kennedy launched the Peace Corps which appealed to the idealism of the young. Martin Luther King inspired the youth with his “I have a Dream” speech. It felt like the world was changing in a very positive way. It felt like many of these messages and changes were ‘speaking’ directly to us. We were aware of the war in Viet Nam but it was distant, it was just a civil war, we were only sending “advisors”, the Draft and the nightly news had not yet brought the war into our homes.

What was your opinion on President John F Kennedy in 1963? What were your parent’s opinion? Did the public like him?

Dad: We loved the whole Kennedy mystique. The White House was referred to as Camelot (the legendary home of King Arthur and his beloved Guinevere). The Kennedys brought a youthful energy, a fashion sense (Jackie), and a family focus (playing flag football, small children in the Oval Office).

Who told you/how did you find out that JFK was shot?

Dad: I was sitting in Study Hall when the announcement was made over the loud speaker.

What do you remember when you found out that the President of our nation had been assassinated? What was your initial reaction? What did you do? Do you remember where you were? When did you find out?

Dad: Over the PA we were told, “The President has been shot in Dallas a short while ago. He is seriously wounded. John Connelly, the governor of Texas has been wounded as well. There are no further details at this time.”

What were other people’s reactions? What was the atmosphere like after the news had been released?

Dad: We just all looked around at our friends in silent disbelief. It took a few moments for the reality to sink in. Some people started crying. I remember just staring at the giant American flag that hung in the multi-purpose room where study hall was held. I think I cried.

Were you hopeful that he might still live or did you realize that a great leader of our nation was gone?

Dad: Everyone was hopeful. I don’t remember if we knew he was dead before leaving school or found out on the news once we got home. We were in shock. Everyone one who said anything to each other said, “I can’t believe he’s been shot” or “I can’t believe this has happened” and later, “I can’t believe he’s gone.”

Did you ever have any scared thoughts about what might happen to you and everyone else in your country?

Dad: No. There was complete focus on the President and the First Lady. The news footage was shown repeatedly over the course of the next several days. Everyone wanted see what happened. As if seeing the actual shooting would some how make if more real or help some kind of sense out of this tragedy. “Why did this happen?” “Who did this?” “Why would they do such a thing?” There was a solemn air for several days. To this day I can still see the footage in my mind. Not only of the shooting but of the funeral, of the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, of the assassination of Oswald by Jack Ruby. I remember yelling at the TV, “He (Ruby) has a gun, he has a gun!” just before the shots were fired and Oswald curled forward and collapsed (having been shot in the stomach).

Thinking back on this day, over 40 years later, how do you think that this has affected you?

Dad: I think we as individuals and the nation as a whole lost our innocence that week. We were forced to recognize evil in the hearts of men. We were forced to recognize the vulnerability of our leaders. We were forced to realize that even our King Arthur was mortal. I think our youthful energy and idealism prevented disillusionment. It took the assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King followed by the escalation of the war in Viet Nam for many of us to become cynical about politics, about the power and might of the US, about the double-speak of our leaders and later of the Press itself.




INTERVIEW WITH LISA



What were your parents doing in 1963? What was your status?

Mom: My mother was a housewife, my father was working for an advertising agency in Chicago. I was 5 years old, so in SK. We lived in a nice suburb of Chicago close to both sets of grandparents.

What was it like in 1963? Was it a happy atmosphere, scared, sad, etc?

Mom: The family atmosphere was happy, but in terms of the nation, the Viet Nam war was happening, there were protests everywhere, racism was unfortunately rampant.

What was your opinion on President John F Kennedy in 1963? What were your parent’s opinion? Did the public like him?

Mom: I used to hear my parents talking about him and they thought he was an excellent President. A strong decision maker, did what he said he would do. And of course the women in my family thought Jackie Kennedy was an icon of class and style.

Who told you/how did you find out that JFK was shot?

Mom: There was a television show called the Mickey Mouse club. I was planted firmly on the floor watching with my grandfather. My mother was upstairs putting away laundry. All of the sudden I heard “We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin. President Kennedy has been shot and seriously wounded.” My grandfather just stood up and ran to the stairs to tell my mother. I was crying and asking what happened. He was in so much shock he couldn’t answer me.

What do you remember when you found out that the President of our nation had been assassinated? What was your initial reaction? What did you do? Do you remember where you were? When did you find out?

Mom: See above. Also I remember not being able to fully process what was happening. I knew it was something terrible. It was incredibly scary.

What were other people’s reactions? What was the atmosphere like after the news had been released?

Mom: Everyone was either angry, crying or in shock. It was very much like the reaction after 9/11.

Were you hopeful that he might still live or did you realize that a great leader of our nation was gone?

Mom: There was maybe an hour (remember this is in “kid time”) where everyone hoped he would be ok, but they announced that he was gone very quickly. Then they started showing film (not video!) of the shooting and of him lying on the ground afterwards. This was scary and sad. But it also made you realize that he really was gone.

Did you ever have any scared thoughts about what might happen to you and everyone else in your country?

Mom: Not back then, no. I felt that we were very safe in the United States. Wars and terrorism happened in other countries. I will say that even though I felt safe I used to worry a lot about the soldiers in Viet Nam. Even then the media had stories about the bad things happening.

Thinking back on this day, over 40 years later, how do you think that this has affected you?

Mom: It has always struck me that I was watching this television show where life was so perfect for the “Mouseketeers” – they always had a solution to a problem! And in the middle of this show an international tragedy occurs.

To this day every time a news bulletin comes on I am literally almost panicking until I know what has happened. I don’t take our safety and freedom for granted.