JFK remembered: over 50 years slain

Recollections of John F. Kennedy’s assassination come to life through the eyes of an American child

Word Count: 506

By Jessy Garza

(For educational use only) Taken on the day of his assassination, President John F. Kennedy can be seen in the foreground convertible’s windshield, raising his hand towards his head seconds before being fatally shot in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963. Photo credit: AP Images
(For educational use only) Taken on the day of his assassination, President John F. Kennedy can be seen in the foreground convertible’s windshield, raising his hand toward his head seconds before being fatally shot in Dallas, Texas on Nov. 22, 1963.
Photo credit: AP Images/James W. “Ike” Altgens

It’s not every day that a 7-year-old boy finds himself in the midst of a national tragedy. But for Nelson Garza, that’s exactly what happened. He was in the middle of class in Penitas, Texas, when, he said, “time froze.”

“I remember it very clearly,” Garza said. “My teacher was on the phone and her face went bloodless. Next thing I knew, class was suddenly over and everyone was sent home.”

As a child, getting to leave school early “was like a dream come true” for many, Garza said. But little did he know that the true reason behind the school’s early dismissal was something more heartbreaking.

News of JFK’s Assassination

It didn’t take long for Garza to realize that being picked up early by his father may not have been a gift, after all.

“The news was all over the radio on the way home,” Garza said. “And while I knew who JFK was, I don’t remember really realizing what exactly had happened until I got back home, where pretty much everyone else in my family was gathered around our little TV.”

(For educational use only) CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite (pictured) reported many notable events aside from the JFK assassination, including Watergate and the Iran Hostage Crisis. Photo credit: AP Images
(For educational use only) CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite (pictured) reported many notable events aside from the JFK assassination, including Watergate and the Iran Hostage Crisis.
Photo credit: AP Images

ABC, NBC, and CBS provided non-stop coverage of the assassination for four days following the fact. It was those news broadcasts that launched TV and network news outlets as a new force in the media world. Most notable during this time was CBS news anchorman Walter Cronkite, who delivered the now well-known report that the United States president was dead.

“My mother cried, my father and eldest siblings were outraged, but I was just … sad,” Garza said. “It was worse, now that I think about it, when my younger siblings asked me what happened and all I could really say at 7 years old was ‘The president’s dead.’”

The Aftermath

While school in many places resumed, families still sat around their TVs for the four days that the JFK coverage continued. The nation was in shock.

“(JFK’s assassination) was definitely hard on my parents,” Garza said. “Every channel we turned to, every newspaper my father picked up, every time we turned on the radio … it was a constant reminder of what had happened.”

In the days following, including Lee Harvey Oswald’s murder only

(For educational use only) Lee Harvey Oswald, the American sniper that killed JFK, speaks to press only a day after the assassination, and a day before his own. Photo credit: AP Images
(For educational use only) Lee Harvey Oswald speaks to press only a day after the assassination, and a day before his own.
Photo credit: AP Images

two days after JFK’s assassination, the news continued to pour out from every media outlet available at the time. These ranged from televised reports to print publications like The New York Times newspaper and Life magazine.

“It was like every day there was a new detail that the media picked up on,” Garza said. “And while (the media) certainly knew how to keep a wound fresh, they certainly knew how to keep the people in the know as well.”

 

 

Jessy Garza is a writer and editor-in-chief for the Odyssey online magazine for Texas State University. She is a sophomore majoring in journalism with a minor in psychology. She can be contacted at jag391@txstate.edu.

Sources:

NBC News, aired live Nov. 22, 1963

CBS News, aired live Nov. 22, 1963

The Boston Globe, Page 1, Nov. 22, 1963, Story by Robert L. Healy

The New York Times, Page 1Nov. 22, 1963

The Austin-American Statesman, Page 1, Nov. 22, 1963

AP Images