As I remember it, that fateful Friday started windy and chilly with a hint of sleet in the air.
My mind was on my birthday, not the weather, as I went through the motion of going to classes at the University of Kansas.
I was so oblivious of things that I even went to my noontime feature writing class. Usually I skipped that class, often waving at the professor as she passed me on a bus as she headed to the campus and I was back to my dorm for a little lunch and Friday afternoon snooze.
As I sat in the class daydreaming about my 20th birthday, a friend involved in the production of that day's campus daily newspaper, The University Daily Kansan, caught my attention in the hallway.
"You better come down to the newsroom," she said. "The president has been shot."
The features class emptied. Journalism students reported to the newsroom where the assistant managing editor in charge of that day's issue sat weeping in a corner.
The rest of us pitched in. We hovered over the United Press International printer. We instantly sensed the import of the moment.
We started changing the front page that was usually published about the same time the nation waited for the latest news from Dallas. We finished it with the bulletin saying that President John Kennedy had been mortally wounded. I remembered carrying the bulletin on the yellow printer to the composing room.
The commotion getting that afternoon's UDK out didn't end there.
It doesn't happen often in this business, but it was one of those moments when I had to holler, "Stop the press." We had news of the assassination on the front page. And the editorial cartoon on the editorial page was a Herb Block cartoon showing Richard Nixon digging a grave for Goldwater and Rockefeller. Obviously, the cartoon had to go.
We stopped the little letterpress in the journalism school basement and left a white space where the cartoon had appeared before resuming the press run.
Obviously, it is one birthday that I have never forgotten. When you have that date for a birthday people say, "Oh, you were born on the day Kennedy was shot."
Now, 40 years later, the feelings of that fateful Friday return. Somehow, the carefree years were over. And it was more than just because I turned 20. The whole nation changed that day.
Camelot also died.
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