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Tragic day remembered

Former U.S. President John F. Kennedy (center), first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (right) and Texas Gov. John Connally and his wife are pictured riding in the presidential motorcade moments before Kennedy was shot Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. (Reuters file photo)

It was 50 years ago, but nearly everyone who was alive then easily remembers where they were and what they were doing when they found out President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed.

At the age of 46, the president was shot while visiting Dallas, Texas, on the afternoon of Nov. 22, 1963.

Many people remember finding out while in school or at work, recalling the shock, grief and uncertainty that followed the news as an entire nation realized its leader was gone.

It left many with questions — how and why it could happen, what it would mean for the country — and worries.

Many also remember gathering around the television to watch the funeral for Kennedy with families and friends.

This year, television specials, newspapers, magazines and movies are commemorating the anniversary, and Red Wing area residents are remembering as well.

These are some memories from locals about finding out Kennedy was killed 50 years ago.

Kathleen Olson

Retired University of Minnesota Extension educator

I remember the moment when I heard that Kennedy was shot very clearly. I was in school in the band room when an announcement interrupted our rehearsal through the speaker system. The principal announced that President Kennedy had been shot. 

We were all stunned and no one said a word; we just sat there in silence as it sunk in what had happened. 

We were glued to the TV from that moment on, watching the car caravan in Dallas and the secret serviceman jumping on to the back of the car trying to protect the president. 

I also remember watching the funeral service with John-John giving the salute to his dad at Arlington National Cemetery, as we watched our first family grieve on live TV.

Patti Roberts

Sunnyside Elementary principal

My memory of that day is still very clear. I was walking down the hall with my first-grade classmates, likely in transition to the library or gym. Over the intercom came the announcement that the president of the United States had been shot.

I did not really understand who the president was and why he was important. What I do remember is the reaction of the adults in the hallway. Some began to cry, others just seemed to stand in shock. As a little child, this was frightening to me.

Obviously as I got older, I understood the enormity of the event and why the adults had reacted as they did. At the time, however, I was just scared.

The experience of this moment has shaped who I am and how I react to news of such intensity to this day.

As a principal I have re-lived this feeling when events of similar magnitude have occurred. It has guided me to determine how and when information is shared with small children.

Sadly, tragedies happen. How do we help our children through?    

Dan Bender

Red Wing mayor

I was in Spanish class in my sophomore year of high school when the teacher came back into the room and announced, “I have some bad news; the president has been assassinated.”

We were all in shock; we had read in history books about presidential assassinations (Lincoln, McKinley), but didn't think this could happen now.

When the bell rang and we went to the next class, the hallways were very quiet (for a change).

I do remember thinking about what a historically significant occasion this would be. There was also lots of concern about what the immediate future would bring.

Bob Davis

Goodhue County Veterans Service director

Since I was in a ninth-grade science class at the time of the shooting, the only memories I have are sitting in class until school was over just listening to the radio broadcast over the loud speaker and going home that afternoon watching the TV news all evening until my parents made me go to bed around midnight. 

Everything was very quiet in school and on the bus ride home. 

As I remember, we were off of school for a couple days the following week for the memorial and funeral, which I watched on the TV as much as I could.

Linda Thielbar

Red Wing League of Women Voters, local volunteer

I was in algebra class when our teacher, Mr. Todd, told us that the president had been shot. I remember thinking he must be joking, how could someone shoot President Kennedy?

His face told me he was not kidding and my stomach tied in knots — it was like a bad dream. I think I was numb the rest of the day.

That evening my parents were visibly shaken, which upset me even more.

This was during the Cold War and my thoughts went immediately to our nation's vulnerability.

Richard Samuelson

Goodhue County commissioner

I remember it being a nice, pleasant day. Things were quite normal, and I was doing small jobs on the farm getting ready for winter.

My dad, wife Jerrie and our two young boys were at the dinner table.

The soap opera “As the World Turns” was on in the TV room. The program was interrupted with a special announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. A short time later, they announced that he had died.

We were all in disbelief and the question was, “how could this be possible?”

Lois Burnes

League of Women Voters, local volunteer

I was teaching, and found out about the shooting at school. All the teachers had to figure out the best way to tell their students.

I was expecting my first child, so was already emotional. 

The whole experience left me with great sorrow and a heart full of permanent memories.

— Compiled by Mike Brun, Anne Jacobson, Danielle Killey and John Russett