50 Years Later: Where Were You When JFK Was Assassinated?

Celebrities and newsmakers talk about the day they learned that the President had been killed.

President Kennedy's limousine speeds along Elm Street toward the Stemmons Freeway overpass moments after he was shot at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. Secret Service agent Clint Hill is seen on the back of the car as Jacqueline Kennedy tends to her fatally wounded husband.

President Kennedy's limousine speeds along Elm Street toward the Stemmons Freeway overpass moments after he was shot at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Nov. 22, 1963. Secret Service agent Clint Hill is seen on the back of the car as Jacqueline Kennedy tends to her fatally wounded husband.

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“We had been home for awhile and decided to do some house cleaning and were shampooing the carpet when we heard the awful news. I had met JFK in Massachusetts at a function when he was senator and expected great things from him when he became president. I was very sorry that he didn’t live long enough to become a great president for the country. We’ll never know what he could have done for our country.” –- Baseball pitcher Don Larsen

“I was on my way from Washington, D.C., to Kansas. I had a layover in Chicago, which was where I heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. I immediately took another flight back to D.C.” -- Former U.S. senator and 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole.

“I was driving to the unemployment office when I first heard news that he had been wounded. By the time I was standing in line at unemployment in Van Nuys, California, everyone had these little transistor radios held to their ears and a groan came out of everyone. I didn’t have a transistor radio so I heard that groan and I knew he was gone.” -- Actor Ryan O’Neal

“I was in my first term as a Massachusetts legislator in November of 1963, but was also practicing law part time at the firm of Hill and Barlow in Boston. I was returning to my office from lunch when I first heard on the street that something had happened to President Kennedy. I raced back to my law office where most of the people there were huddled around a TV set, and as the tragic news came in there were a lot of tears and gasps of disbelief from all of us. It seemed almost impossible to believe that this young and vibrant president, of whom we were so proud, especially here in Massachusetts, had been struck down by some crazy assassin. Kitty and I spent most of the next few days in front of our TV set at home watching the events unfold, including the whole incomprehensible mess on Sunday when Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live TV. Our son John was then 5 years of age, and he had never seen his parents shedding the kinds of tears we all did during the aftermath of the president’s assassination. He was a 5 year old not quite comprehending what was happening but trying his best to comfort his parents as they themselves tried to come to grips with what had happened.” -- Former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis

“I was in my first term of my Junior year of Princeton. By happenstance, I was listening to the radio while typing a paper. Thus, I heard the entire sequence of reports cascading over airwaves, beginning with fragmentary word that shots might have been fired at the President’s motorcade and culminating in the terrible announcement the president was dead. The impact on me was extraordinary – intense grief because JFK had appealed to me enormously, coupled with shock and disbelief that such a hideous thing could happen in the United States (having spent most of my childhood in the placid 1950s, I thought assassinations, riots, and mass murders didn’t happen in our country any longer). I also experienced an overwhelming desire that it, the assassination, simply not be – that JFK had finished his visit to Dallas and had flown safely back to D.C.” – Taylor Reveley, president, College of William & Mary

“I was in the makeup chair in Universal Studio. The country has never been the same.” – Actress Ellen Burstyn

“I was filming the movie ‘Looking For Love.’ The famous Hollywood producer Joe Pasternak and I, like so many millions of others, spent some of the most tension filled and horrific moments of our lives in our trailer on the set. We were anxiously waiting to hear the fate of our president. We held hands tightly, and with our heads bowed, the tears fell from our eyes. ‘This will be the end of our country. You realize that, Connie, don’t you?’ ‘Yes, Uncle Joe. It’s an unprecedented disaster. We may recover eventually, but it will be a long hard climb back.’ The statement I made on that fateful day was far too optimistic; we never did, in fact, recover. Norman Mailer put it best when he wrote; ‘America died on that rainy afternoon in Dallas.’” – Singer and actress Connie Francis


Corrected on : Corrected, 11/13/13: Former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis ran for president in 1988.