Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

November 22, 2013

Retired educator collects self-published book of JFK memories

Ben Tinsley
Jacksonville Daily Progress


Kathy Kilmer Moak likes to think of herself more as an agent of history, rather than literature.

The 64-year-old retired local educator was only 14-years-old when she received permission from her parents to travel to downtown Dallas and watch the motorcade in which John F. Kennedy and his glamorous wife, Jackie, were traveling — on Nov. 22, 1963.

What happened next would define the city of Dallas and remain in her memories forever.

Moak spoke to the Jacksonville Kiwanis Club Thursday about the Kennedy assassination and her self-published book, "The Confusion and The Quiet: East Dallas Ninth Graders Remember 50 Years Later."

Moak's book includes many photos she painstakingly gathered from friends and colleagues.

In a world before Google, Facebook or any form of information-collecting social media, Moak and her classmates managed to collect a virtual cornucopia of assassination photos and data.

Holding up a 50-year-old newspaper with the marquee Dallas Times Herald headline "PRESIDENT DEAD," Moak described to the Kiwanis audience in great detail the chaos and quiet that stemmed from that horrible day.

However, she made one thing clear: She isn't interested in shopping her book to a larger publisher right now.

"Right now, I have to let my brain rest," she said with a smile. "The reason I did this was for the historical records, pure and simple. It wasn't to make money."

She said through the years she has kept every scrap of information she was able to obtain about the assassination.

President Kennedy's assassination at the hands of Lee Harvey Oswald forever changed the psychological makeup of the city of Dallas. Moak said today's 50th anniversary of the assassination is a time to reflect.

"I think now we're more numb to this kind of thing," Moak said to the group. "Not that if the President were killed we wouldn't be upset — but there are murders all the time.

"This was something very out of the ordinary,” she said. “And to have all that TV coverage. There was no Internet. All we could do was watch TV or listen to the radio."

The subject of the JFK assassination was not mentioned during school hours when the teenage Moak returned to class. There was no counseling provided — even to those students teachers knew had been present downtown.

For years, Moak said, it was like the city only wanted to move past the tragedy, and not own up to it.

One of Moak's schoolmates ended up testifying before the Warren Commission — but never received the counseling she probably needed.

An initial draft of Moak's book — essentially a booklet compiling the memory of friends and classmates — was found at a Dallas bookstore and ultimately inspired a pilot play, Shared Stories, created by officials with the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in association with the Dallas Children’s Theater.