Thursday, February 26, 2004

November 22, 1963

I was in school at Mississippi State. That day after morning classes I ate at the cafeteria and then went to the post office to pick up my mail. I had a letter from Julia so I took it upstairs to the YMCA where I sat and read it. On the stairs I heard two boys talking so animatedly that it made an impression on me.

Then I walked home to my dorm, Cresswell Hall, which was behind the President's Home. Now that site is occupied by Allen Hall.

When I got to the dorm, I saw that several people, both boys and girls were milling outside. That was unusual. As I walked by I heard one guy say "And they shot Jackie, too."

Inside I was shocked to see boys in the lobby. Boys were not allowed in the halls and rooms at all and not in the lobby until 4 c'clock.

There were a lot of boys and a lot of girls, all gathered around the one TV in the building, the one in the lobby. There were no seats but I stood in the back to see what was happening.

That is when I learned that the President had been shot. Now when something like this happens, we understand and believe.

Then things were different. Such tragedies did not happen, so my reaction was excitement. How interesting! The President has been shot. Now that was unusual.

Believe me, I had no idea he would die. I found it exciting because I could not fathom that he might die. It seemed impossible. Not in the realm of possibility.

Then there started to be rumors reported on TV that the President was dead. No, I thought, that can't be true. Then priests came out who had administered the Last Rites of the Catholic Church to the President. They reported the President was dead.

And I began to worry and be afraid. We were watching CBS with Walter Cronkite reporting. He was in his shirtsleeves and he took off his glasses and reported the President was dead.

Much has been written about the South not liking President Kennedy. The South did not like the President. Mississippi, in particular, did not like the Kennedys. I remember seeing caps being sold outside football games that said TMK, Too Many Kennedys.

But I remember that the South, and Mississippi in particular, reacted to the President's death with shock, fear, deep sadness, and regret. Mississippi mourned. I never heard anyone say anything other than bitterly condemn the assasination.

The rest is hazy. I remember talking to George Rodney about it and expressing my deep fears. What would happen? I could not believe the world would just go on after such a trajedy. Now we have had so many blows that we understand that the world will change and go on.

George Rodney assured me, as he always did, that things were going to be okay. And, as I always did, I believed him.

I miss that. Now I have no one to assure me that things are going to be okay, and I know, that with him gone, things can never be okay for me.

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