So Russo and Moses struck up a deal to publish transcripts of the full interviews in a book, in order to do the extensive, often heartfelt, interviews justice.

"That's part of the reason for doing the book," Russo said. "To explain to people who weren't born why it was so important to us.

"I'm going to do a project about what it was like to live through it," he said. "It's a very big deal, because I don't think there's anything that could happen today that would be comparable."

Russo compared Kennedy's presidency to something of a fantasy. When he was killed, that illusion was not the only thing shattered.

"Before Kennedy came along, in the world of the 1950s, everything was gray and black and white and was run by very old people," Russo said. "It was just boring and a different world.

"His [Kennedy's] inauguration was the first one in color," Russo said. "He was gorgeous. He looked like a movie star. His wife looked like the most beautiful woman you'd ever seen. It would be like, today, having Brad Pitt and Angelina [Jolie] as the president and first lady," he said.

"And then all of a sudden he gets his head blown off and you're back to LBJ, another old politician," Russo said. "It was jarring."

George Derek Musgrove, assistant professor of history at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, agreed with Russo that nothing in modern day history — except perhaps the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — has had a comparable impact on the American people.

He said the invention of television also played a big role in the impact the event had on the public.

"It was almost entirely a TV event," Musgrove said.

"Large numbers of Americans saw the motorcade and the fatal shot, his wife scrambling out of the car and much of his funeral was on TV live. That in and of itself was a remarkable departure from past political events," he said. "There was both a national trauma, and a national attempt to come to terms with what had just happened.

"It was the only assassination of a modern American president," he said. "The last assassination [before Kennedy] was [William] McKinley in 1900 and you don't even have the radio announcing it to everyone then.

"Everyone has come to the understand that the event was so jarring, and so important that anyone that was alive when it happened can say exactly where they were when it happened," Musgrove said.

Russo's documentary is scheduled on NBC Friday, Nov. 22.