22/11/63 – Where were you?

Camelot, we hardly knew ye.

The terrible poignancy of this iconic photo: it alone is still enough to prick tears from our eyes… eyes that have seen more than their share of deaths, terrorism, bombs, crashes, all the horrors of the past five decades.

But this death was different. Three years of beauty and brilliance, when all seemed possible, shattered by a bullet. The murder of John F. Kennedy smashed our innocence and broke our hearts.

Kennedy motorcade in Dallas
Photo (cc) by Victor Hugo King

Montreal. I was 18 years old. Someone came to the door of the classroom, where I was taking a drawing class. “Kennedy’s been shot!” We paled and gasped in unison. Everyone stared wildly at each other. Some whispering. No cellphones to check or call. No TV was nearby.

Class was promptly dismissed, as any “normal” activity in the wake of this shock was unthinkable.

I couldn’t talk, couldn’t think. I walked down to the street in a daze. Looking around me, I saw that everyone had the same haunted look. My tears flowed unheeded as I waited for the bus. Time seemed to stop. People were in a collective stupor. This just. Didn’t. Happen.

My next memory is Walter Cronkite after 1:00 p.m. announcing the death.

The world would never be the same.

10 thoughts on “22/11/63 – Where were you?

  1. I was also 18, also in La belle province. Had just left my home in Montreal to attend my first year at Bishop’s University in Lennoxville. Was just crossing campus when suddenly, everyone was calling to everyone as to what had just happened…

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  2. I was 7 , yes 7 years old , walking home from Grade 1 in Quebec also. I can show you the exact spot on the sidewalk where I was chastised by an adolescent for not being home because the President had been shot. Obviously too young to really understand the repercussions I was completely shocked to find my Father at home watching TV. The week- end was very confusing culminating by my Father screaming that he had seen Oswald shot live on screen. As years went by I became obsessed by the conspiracy theories and eventually came to my own conclusion that there was a conspiracy and that the world had been changed forever.

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  3. I certainly believe you, that you can remember the exact spot on which you stood. I think we tend to recall details whenever an event resonates with us emotionally. Even though you were only 7, you felt in your bones that something terrible, and terribly momentous, had occurred – especially seeing how the adults were reacting. Thank you for sharing your experience and feelings, Nicholas.


  4. Although I’m too young to remember the event, I can imagine the unbelievable shock it must have been. Although there have been some huge news stories during my time that stunned me and got wall-to-wall TV coverage — 9/11, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the death of Princess Diana, the earthquake and tsunami Japan, Hurricane Katrina — I don’t think any of them (even 9/11) could have had quite the impact that the assassination of President Kennedy had for those who lived through it.

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  5. Well 9/11 comes close, very close. If we use tears as a ‘measure’ we can say that both private and public weeping were about the same in duration and intensity! Horrible… unthinkable. Really Bun, the cruelty / barbarism of some so-called humans is beyond belief.


  6. I was in eighth grade in Chomedey. Our High School was being built so we went to school on Souvenir Street in a new to be Elementary school building. I was in either Math or French class. I’m not sure why I’m confused about that. I think we were in French class and the class stopped and our home room teacher who was also our Math teacher took over and gave us the news. Everyone was shocked. My friend Susan started crying. We were not dismissed, but our teachers did their best to keep us calm. What a tragedy that was. The first of several assassinations that affected me profoundly.

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