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JFK assassination: Where readers were when they heard the news

Dozens of readers have sent us their memories of Nov. 22, 1963, the day of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. In reading those letters, one common experience emerges: Almost all of those who wrote about where they were that day 50 years ago said they found out about Kennedy's death while at school.

Some heard about it over their schools' PA systems, others remember teachers delivering the news tearfully or with little emotion at all, and some were dismissed from school suddenly with no explanation, only to find out what happened from their parents.

For most readers who sent us their accounts, these are childhood memories of an otherwise forgettable day made memorable by tragedy. Despite the passage of 50 years, they recall their experiences that day in vivid detail.

Here are their letters, some of which may be published in Saturday's paper.

Sherman Oaks resident Sol Taylor asks what could have been:

"I was in my fourth period biology classroom at Sierra High School in Whittier when I heard several students shouting across the campus, 'Kennedy was shot.' It took an announcement on the school PA system to confirm that President Kennedy was killed in Dallas.

"I said aloud, 'That's the worst news I have ever heard.' All classes were then dismissed.

"Now, 50 years later, that news still resonates with me and leaves me wondering: What if that never happened? How different would the world be today? We can never know.

"So those of us old enough to remember that sad day will mourn again for what could have been."

Laura Stickney of Los Angeles says Kennedy's killing was a sign of violence to come:

"Fifty years ago I was a little girl on the playground of Andasol Avenue Elementary School in the San Fernando Valley. We were called in from recess and told about President Kennedy's assassination. In times subsequent, I thought the shooting of the President was the pinnacle of violence; rather, it was the opening of floodgates of violence.

"Documentaries now mark this anniversary. It is too late, and does no good to speculate anymore on conspiracies and numbers of shooters.

"Nearly one year ago, children and their teachers were gunned down in their elementary school. Since last December, ten thousand gun deaths have occurred in our country. John Kennedy would weep at these statistics. We must create legislation to change this terrible reality."

Kenneth L. Zimmerman of Huntington Beach recalls a phone conversation with his mother:

"On the day of the JFK assassination, an announcement was made about it over my high school's public address system. I called my mother from the administration office phone. She harshly criticized me for telling such a bad and tasteless joke.

"I was disappointed that my mother didn't believe me, as I would never joke about something so serious."

Anaheim resident Donald Yvaska recalls a long walk home:

"It was Nov. 22, 1963, around 2 p.m. in Boston when I was hastily excused from school without explanation. During my walk home, bells began to toll; countless towers sounded that something was awry.

"It seemed so bizarre until I arrived home to learn from my Irish Catholic mother that the world had changed forever."


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