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By AP photo/file
By The Bakersfield Californian
Poignant remembrances of the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated continue to come into The Californian, not only from people in Bakersfield but other parts of the state and nation. So we continue to publish them.
You can read the dozens of submissions we've run in the last couple of days in the Sunday and Monday printed papers or at BakersfieldCalifornian.com.
On the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, I was en route to Philadelphia from Richmond, Va., with a plane change at Washington, D.C. While driving to the Richmond airport, I was listening to the morning news and heard that President Kennedy was traveling to Dallas later in the day.
I remember thinking how safe the president was while traveling, with all of the precautions and procedures that were taken to ensure his safety, on the ground and in the air. Here I was, a private citizen at the mercy of all of the fears and uncertainties that come to mind with those who do not travel often on airplanes. It felt good to have safely arrived in Philadelphia.
During lunch in a downtown Philadelphia restaurant, we were suddenly interrupted by the television in an adjoining lounge area being turned up to maximum volume. The president had been shot during a motorcade through the streets of Dallas. This just couldn't be true. How could something like this happen with all the protection afforded the president? Everyone in the restaurant was in a state of shock and disbelief. We picked at our food, and left most of it on the plate as we departed the restaurant.
As we walked down the street returning to my associate's office, the terrible, unbelieveable tragedy was all that was on my mind. On the busy sidewalk, people were walking along, seemingly not knowing of what had occurred only minutes ago. Did any of them know? I felt the urge to tell the news to everyone I saw. By the time we arrived at the office, we heard the news that the president did not survive the attack.
Later, as darkness came, I was at the Philadelphia airport waiting for my return flight to Richmond, via Washington, D.C., all the while continuing to think of what had happened earlier in the day. As the plane made its approach to Washington National, we passed over the illuminated White House and Capitol buildings, as well as many other familiar landmarks. A chill came over me as I realized that all of the beautiful things I had just been witnessing would never again be seen by our beloved president. The man who I had felt earlier in the day was so safe, and so well protected from danger, was now gone.
-- Richard L. Smith, Monroe, La.
On Nov. 22, 1963, at Colonel Howard Nichols grammar school in Bakersfield, our 10 a.m. recess was just about over, confirmed by the ring of the bell. On the dusty playground I could see a commotion as several teachers were gathered near the classrooms, and I knew the 15 minutes that I relished were at an end. A classmate and childhood friend approached me with a look of bewilderment on her face. "The president has been shot in the arm."
I didn't know what to think. It was hard to comprehend for this third-grader. Well, I thought, somewhat relieved, at least he was not dead; just like images portrayed in the popular TV westerns of the day, he would be up and walking in no time. I was naive.
Upon entering the classroom, our teacher, with a serious tone in her voice, directed us to sit down. There was a delay, confusion and then she informed us that our president was dead, though details were still sketchy.
Though I was a young kid, Kennedy was an imposing figurehead in our lives. He was an articulate and convincing speaker, decorated World War II veteran and courageous leader in uncertain times. He entered our living room each night on black-and-white TV. Through this medium, he projected a commanding presence, and the viewers seemed to have a personalized attachment to him.
-- Gary V. Plomp, Gilroy
I grew up in Germany and lived in Wiesbaden at the time of President John F. Kennedy's assassination. My big brother came to visit and offered to treat me to a movie, "Irma la Douce."
We were late getting to the theater and the ticket seller told us that Kennedy was shot, but he didn't know the final outcome yet. He debated refunding the viewers' ticket money and close the theater. Since the movie had already started, he decided not to do that and we saw the movie. I didn't remember much of it until I saw it again years later.
Kennedy was much loved in Germany -- especially since his famous "I am a Berliner" speech. As a result of the assassination, all movie theaters in town were closed for three days, as well as other entertainment venues and several restaurants. The city and the German people mourned.
Ginny Espinoza, Bakersfield
It was Nov. 22, 1963. I was 18 years old, this was my second job. It was a beautiful day, everybody was so excited because the president of the United States was visiting our city.
I was working at a high rise office building as an elevator operator supervisor. I had asked a co-worker if we could change our lunch time so I could be able to see the president.
I went down and waited and someone said the president was running late. I was disappointed -- I wanted to see the president.
I have never been late for anything, so I started walking back to the building. It was not far but as I entered the building, everyone came out of the elevator crying with deep sympathy, "that the president had been shot, the president had been shot."
In just the time I left the area where I was to see the president, this happened.
I was in shock, my arm started getting numb, everybody was walking in shock themselves and looked like zombies just crying going home. As I arrived to the office, we were told we were the last ones to leave the building.
I went out to catch the bus to go home, and it looked like a ghost town. Even the people in the bus I could count with my fingers.
Everyone was glued to their TV all weekend long. The first thing we saw was that the president of the United States had officially died about 1 p.m. We saw when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the theater. And then when he was going to be transferred, that's when Ruby killed Oswald.
It seemed like a movie, we were all glued to our TV to see what else was going to happen. After I got back to work, people could not believe what just had happened.
After that, if you were out of town and anyone asked where you were from and you said Dallas, they would look at you as if you killed the president. I would say Texas.
-- D. Torbellin, Bakersfield