Jacksonville resident Kathy Moak was a freshman at Dallas's J. L Long Junior High School that year, and recalled how, with their parents' permission, she and her classmates were allowed to leave campus to see the motorcade as it traveled through downtown.
The atmosphere was positively festive, as onlookers waited for the President to drive past them, excitement running high as the procession approached. Young Kathy was “literally close enough to reach out and touch the limousine if we had wanted.
“I remember thinking how young and handsome the President was and how beautiful Mrs. Kennedy was in her pink suit and hat. It was thrilling to see them – along with Vice President Johnson and Governor Connolly, too!” she recalled.
As she and her classmates returned to campus, riding high on the wave of excitement, their joy was short-lived: “It was while we were on the bus that a friend, who was listening to his transistor radio, first told us there were reports the President had been shot; we did not believe him,” she said.
By the time they arrived at their school, “there was an eerie silence except for the news reports being played over the PA system by the principal. No one was in the halls. There was no other noise,” she recalled.
Her algebra teacher was “standing at a window, staring outside,” and when a news reporter announced the president's death, “the silence shifted to muffled crying.
“I looked at my teacher – he was still staring out the window, but there were tears streaming down his cheeks,” Moak said.
Kennedy's assassination only added to the turbulence of a period when children took part in safety drills in response to the Cuban missile crisis.
“As a teenager, I remember the Cuban missile crisis,” said Roger Graham, a Flint resident who last month was invited by the Jacksonville Public Library to display material he's collected for nearly 20 years on JFK and his assassination.