Mt. Vernon Register-News

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November 22, 2013

Remembering a slain president

MT. VERNON — —

Every generation seems to go through a historic event that sets it apart.

For this generation, the scars of 911 still penetrate the inner soul. For older folks, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in the words of President Franklin Roosevelt "will live in infamy."

For those 60 years of age or older, today's anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is that event.

Around 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy was fatally shot by a sniper while traveling with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and Connally's wife, Nellie, in a presidential motorcade in Dallas.

A 10-month investigation in 1963-64 by the Warren Commission concluded that Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, and that Jack Ruby also acted alone when he killed Oswald before he could stand trial.

Although the Commission's conclusions were initially supported by a majority of the American public, polls conducted between 1966 and 2003 found as many as 80 percent of Americans have suspected that there was a plot or cover-up. As recently as 2013, an Associated Press poll showed more than 59 percent of those polled still believed more than one person was involved in the President's murder.

As a young fifth-grader at an Evansville, Ind., grade school, this reporter shared the moment with classmates during a music class. Mrs. Wilson, our teacher, was at the piano when she was approached by a school administrator. The music suddenly stopped. Tears flowed. After gaining some composure, Mrs. Wilson broke the news: the president had not only been shot, but he was dead. Needless to say, the rest of the day was a wash. Students were shocked, in disbelief, and had many questions that couldn't be answered.

Similar stories are shared by Jefferson County residents, like Rogene Fitts.

"I was in the eighth grade at Summersville. I was walking down the hallway to decorate for a pep assembly with two other girls when the janitor Doc Haulk told us. We said, 'Oh, you're kidding,' but he said, 'No, it happened.' I was in disbelief. It was hard to finish out the day," she said. Fitts added when the president was buried a couple of days later, her father Earl Rose (now deceased) made her watch the funeral procession on a small black and white television.

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