Where were you when you heard the news?

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 60 years ago today in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, shocked the nation. They say everyone alive then remembers where they were that day. I know I do.

Four of us trumpet players in my Washington Junior High School band frequently traded places for first chair. That week I sat in third chair. If you’ve ever played trumpet in a band, you know how boring third chair trumpet parts are — generally you’re just filling out triads or leading tones playing the same unmelodic role with just two or three or four alternating notes. Important for the completeness of the music, I guess, but incredibly boring if you’re the one with the mouthpiece pressed against your lips.

Knowing I was in third chair that day, I brought my transistor radio into the band room (remember those) and stuck the earpiece in my ear away from our teacher/conductor — a marvelous French horn player. I was listening to KYNO, one of the rock and roll stations in town, when the announcer broke the news the president had been shot while riding in an open car through Dealey Plaza.

At the end of the tune we were rehearsing, I jumped up, busted myself for listening to the radio during band practice and blurted out the news. We spent the rest of that period listening to my radio before we went to lunch. I remember one of my teachers lamenting our loud in the hallway to a colleague that the Lyndon Johnson would now be the president. My grandfather, a native Texan from Ft. Worth, passionately hated Johnson because he believed he had stolen his first congressional race. People say the school kids got sent home that afternoon, but I don’t remember that. Years later my Texas relatives from Ft. Worth continued to express remorse the president had been killed in Texas, so close to their homes.

Assassination seemed like such a funny old word from times long gone, you know, Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, old names from the moldy old pages of my history book. How could such a thing happen in our modern times, I wondered?

I’m not a big conspiracy head — I don’t believe the world is flat or that the moon landing was faked. I have no proof, but I don’t believe Kennedy was killed by a lone shooter acting alone..  It’s curious that in old TV reports Oswald keeps asking for someone to step forward and provide him legal counsel. A suspect did not have a legal right to an attorney before questioning until 1966 — there were no Miranda warnings in 1963.

In some box somewhere I have copies of newspapers from the days around the assassination and a copy of the famous Life magazine with photos from the Zapruder film my mother saved.

Nov. 22, 1963, was a sad and somber day in America. I’m sure you remember where you were when you heard the news. My oh my, how the presidency has changed since that terrible day long ago when the leader of our great nation was murdered.