When Kennedy Was Shot


November 17, 1991|By CARLETON JONES

Everyone in his mid-30s and up has been asked the question -- "Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?"

The deed was a national trauma, one that burned into the memory of all who were old enough to comprehend it.

The mass mourning during those dark days of November 1963 tended to wash out the memory of what was going on at the time, the other events that occupied the national and local consciousness immediately before and after the president's assassination. One way of recapturing the mood is glancing at the news headlines.

On the 14th of November, the president cut the ribbon on the new northeast expressway, Interstate 95. (After his death, it was named for him). On the 17th, he was buoyant down in Cape Canaveral (also renamed for him), focusing his field glasses on the vapor trail of the Polaris missile, clearly visible 30 miles offshore.

But the Republicans were getting more publicity than JFK at the moment. A headliner was perennial presidential candidate Harold Stassen of Minnesota, who announced that he could unite the Goldwater and Rockefeller elements behind him for the 1964 run against the Democrats.

World War II was entering the nostalgia period as the giant battleship USS Indiana, which had shelled Japan, headed for the scrap pile. The Sunday before the assassination, the Baltimore Colts edged out the Vikings by three points, thanks to a 13-yard Unitas pass thrown in the last five seconds of play. The Orioles were making news, too: Hank Bauer was picked to succeed Billy Hitchcock as the team's manager.

Around the world, unrest was almost the norm. Prince Sihanouk of Cambodia broke trade relations with the United States, but stopped short of a diplomatic rupture. In Iraq the government announced that youths who did not turn in their guns would be "shot on sight."

Here in the city, with overly optimistic hopes of squashing a nuisance, the Liquor Board ordered 22 "barkers" to get off the street. These were men who solicited customers for the strip joints in the area of East Baltimore Street known as the Block.

Just before the weekend, William Knighton Jr., a veteran Sun correspondent, wrote an ominous piece detailing the feud between the Connolly and Yarborough wings of the Texas Democratic Party.

At 1:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22, Sen. Ted Kennedy, 31, was in the Senate chamber busily signing autographs when he was brought news of his brother's assassination. A few hours later, Sarah Tilghman Hughes, a judge native to Maryland's Eastern Shore, swore in Lyndon Baines Johnson as president.

On that same Friday, death also claimed Aldous Huxley, a world figure in English literature whose 1932 novel, "Brave New World," painted a grim, satirical vision of the future.

Throughout the funereal weekend, the Peabody Opera Theater continued with its performances of Mozart's soaring, otherworldly opera "Idomeneo." A key line from the immortally majestic work is, "There is no enemy but hate."

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