A number of Dispatch readers responded on Facebook and on BrainerdDispatch.com.
■ “I was in the first grade, and all of our class was sitting in a circle on the floor, when another teacher burst into the room shouting, ‘Kennedy has been shot, Kennedy has just been shot!’” said Tamara Fordyce Mathiowetz, Brainerd. “I was sitting next to my friend Tracy Kennedy, I turned to him and said, ‘oh, Tracy, I’m so sorry!’ Tracy just looked at me — I thought the teacher meant Tracy’s dad. I distinctly remember, feeling relieved when I found out it was President Kennedy and not Tracy’s dad. (Remember...I was only in the first grade) Then we all were glued to our televisions, watching it unfold over and over again.”
■ Andrea Goodwin Bloomquist of Brainerd was in a sixth grade music class. “We began crying quietly in shock and were all dismissed from classes for the day. We even stayed home the day of the funeral so we could spend the day sitting around the black-and-white TV watching in shock that it was really happening.”
■ Bonnie Meacham of Motley was on a lunch break at a restaurant in Minneapolis when the news arrived.
“When news broke over the TV everyone quit eating and just watched; not speaking a word,” Meacham said. “When everyone started to leave after about a half an hour the waitress told everyone there was no charge for our meals. Our boss told us to all go home. We were closed for five days and we got paid. He said we needed to watch, pray and grieve.”
■ Pat Hassett, Brainerd, was a student returning after a lunch break. “My next class was choir. We were all very sad and some cried. It was all so very surreal. One of our fellow students suggested we sing. Our choir director directed us in singing ‘Beautiful Savior.’ The song was not because we thought JFK was our savior, but because when there is tragedy we knew that we needed to sing praise to the one really in charge of our life and our nation. Great song, great message.”
■ Dennis M. Fitzsimmons was a senior at Washington High School in Brainerd.
“I had just finished lunch and was heading to my next class,” Fitzsimmons reported. “A friend of mine — Cheri Lewis — had just come in the door and laughingly told me that President Kennedy had just been shot. I assumed it was just a joke. I got to my next class and found out that it was real. We had a test in that class with the radio turned on. Every so often, you’d hear a muffled sob. I don’t recall how I did on that test. The next time I saw Cheri, she was in tears.
“On Saturday, I was watching television when they interrupted the programming to show Lee Harvey Oswald being led by officers. All of a sudden, a man ran up and shot him. I sat there for a few minutes more than a little stunned and then went into the kitchen. I told my mom that I thought I had just seen Lee Harvey Oswald shot on TV. I was told that they wouldn’t show that. But they did. I think that’s the only time I saw someone actually die on TV.”
■ Marcia Ferris was in fourth grade in Osakis Elementary School and had just gotten in trouble with the teacher, who also happened to be her aunt, for passing a note. Ferris was inside during recess when a janitor ran into the room and yelled, “the president has been shot.”
“When the other students and my teacher returned from recess, I announced to everyone that the president had been shot,” Ferris said. “This information was not well received by my teacher. She said, ‘Now you are staying after school and I am calling your mother.’ I was agonizing about my new punishment for a few moments when we heard a commotion in the hall. My teacher went out to see what was going on. She came back in and announced we were all going home now.”
Ferris was a little relieved her mother wasn’t going to be called.
“I remember watching the funeral procession and the riderless black horse,” Ferris said. “I don’t remember my mom letting me watch the assassination details. I watched Caroline and John, Jr. closely and I identified with them — because I had lost my dad in a car accident a year before, 1962.”
In 1968, Ferris said the assassinations of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy left her feeling all her heroes were being killed. “It was unsettling. All this time the Vietnam War was raging on and my friends were concerned about being drafted. It was an unsettling time for those of us growing up in that era.”
Compiled by staff writers, Sarah Nelson-Katzenberger and Renee Richardson.