Forty-five years ago today I was a relatively carefree sophomore at a private women’s college in Denver (Colorado Woman’s College). November 22 dawned a day very much like today in Denver: bright, clear, and unusually warm for so close to the Thanksgiving vacation.
It was a Friday, however, and therefore we had classes – regular classes – to attend before the last weekend prior to going home. (Weekend frivolity was much more important in my mind than the grind of classes. I wasn’t – at the time – terribly interested in education. Why should I? I already knew everything! Remember: I was 19.)
I was heading back to my dorm room after a mid-morning class (certainly boring!) prior to going over to the cafeteria for the long-for lunch. I remember the sunshine, the movement of hundreds of (mostly) females moving over the lovely, tree-shaded campus.
As I was making my way, some girl that knew me blurted out: “He’s been shot!” “Who?!”, I responded – but before I had a chance to even say that, she yelled, “The President!”.
My heart raced, I noted that people’s faces were falling in recognition of this terrible fact being spread across the campus and life. Girls stopped to exchange information in groups, large and small. Some girls were seen with tears streaming down their cheeks, not knowing what to say, where to go.
I don’t remember that I even made it to lunch. I don’t think that I did. As I made my way into the comfort and safety of my dormitory, it’s residents all gathering in our large living area. Someone had set up a television, and we all gathered – in horror, fear, and shock – to watch the proceedings. As sense of immediate danger to us all – as individuals, as a nation – overtook us all. We talked in hushed, frightened tones with one another. We checked in with loved ones by long distance phone service: our immediate families, our boyfriends, our best friends. This was not a day like any other that we had ever experienced, and we needed to feel the comfort and love of our closest loved ones.
That day 45 years ago everything shifted for all of us.
That day marked for me the first breach of my own sense of safety and innocence. Our worlds had been rocked, and it didn’t feel good.
John F. Kennedy presented an inspired sense of leadership for us all. When he was so brutally assassinated our collective world went dark.