Carbon remembers Nov. 22, 1963: Memories old, but still stir emotions
It was a long time ago for most of the population. In fact well over 70 percent of the people alive today weren't even born yet.
But for those that lived through it, it was one of those events that will never be forgotten.
The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 has often been called a turning point in American history. It was also a turning point in many singular lives as well.
"I was a first-grader at Greenback School in eastern Tennessee when President Kennedy was assassinated," said Michelle Fleck, a long time Carbon resident. "I recall that my teacher was called to the classroom door and spoke to someone in the hallway for a minute. Then she returned in tears to the classroom. She told us that the president had been shot and killed. It scared me to see my teacher crying."
It was something that three generations of Americans had not known at the time. The last time a President of the United States had been deliberately killed in office was when William McKinley was shot dead in Buffalo, N.Y. in September 1901.
Walt Borla who had been born 20 years after that assassination, was so shocked he couldn't comprehend what had happened.
"I was working a split shift at the Helper Post Office that day," said Borla. "About noon I headed for the house for lunch. As I pulled up my wife rushed outside and told me the president had been shot. She had a portable radio in the kitchen and I took it and laid on the living room floor with it after I turned on the television. Not long after that the radio announced that President Kennedy was dead. I just couldn't believe it. They made that announcement five minutes before the television made the same announcement. I looked up at the television and then saw Walter Cronkite say the same thing. I really couldn't process it until I heard it from him. It was just such a shock. I loved Kennedy."
People across the country flocked to churches and synagogues to pray and weep. Crowds formed in some places on public streets mourning the loss of a popular leader.
Kelly Wilkinson, then just a young girl, felt much the same as Fleck.
" I was 6 years old," she said recently. "I remember being in school in California. It was the middle of the morning, and the teacher brought in one of those big old televisions on the AV cart. We sat and watched the news about President Kennedy being assassinated. I really didn't know what it meant but I remember my teacher crying, so I cried too. I remember the pretty lady in the pink dress (who of course I later knew was Jackie Kennedy), and while I cannot be sure now if it is an actual memory or just all the pictures since, I remember her crawling out on that big black car, and how scared she looked."
For years afterward the country observed the anniversary with a lot of stories and in some cases ceremonies. But as with all things as time passes it seems they fade as new generations come along.
The entire thing gave Dallas, Texas a bad reputation. Some people called it "the city of hate." But Daly Plaza, where the shooting took place was from then on and is even today a must see spot in the city. Almost anyone who goes to Dallas for a visit feels they have to go there. The School Book Depository where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots from is now a museum.
But there are other places that many people don't recognize that have significance exist in the area too. Borla recalls a trip to the Dallas-Fort Worth area many years later.
"I was at a postal convention in Fort Worth, Texas," he said. "Few people know that while Kennedy had flown into the Dallas Airport the morning of his death, he had first stayed in Fort Worth, only a few miles away at the Texas Hotel the night before Why they flew him that next day from Fort Worth to Dallas I don't know. Anyway the convention I attended was held at that same hotel and the hospitality room for the convention was the suite where he and Jackie had spent their last night together. It was called the JFK Suite."