People older than their mid-60s who were living in North America on November 22, 1963, remember exactly where they were and what they were doing that afternoon, because that’s when they heard that the young, charismatic, and immensely popular president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, had been shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. To put this in perspective for younger readers, Kennedy’s fame and popularity, both domestically and internationally, were such that Justin Trudeau’s wouldn’t even be within hailing distance.
Not only will I never forget that Friday afternoon, I’ll never forget that whole weekend. But, let’s start with the Friday afternoon.
I was an accounting student at H. R. Doane & Co. (now Grant Raymond) in Charlottetown, PEI. About 2:30 in the afternoon I was working at my desk in an open area called the bullpen when the office secretary, Blanche Walsh, called me to the phone.
The caller was a Dale Carnegie Course student, and I was one of his instructors. We’d had a class the night before
“Has the CIA or FBI called you yet?” he asked.
“Why would they?” I inquired.
“President Kennedy was shot this afternoon,” he informed me.
Now knowing exactly why he had called, I probably said something like, “Oh my God!”
The night before, while making a point about the importance of being prepared for the unexpected, I had said, “What hasn’t happened in the last twenty years can happen in the next twenty seconds.”
“Like what,” someone asked.
“Well,” I had answered, “the president of the United States might be shot.”
Thankfully, I never did hear from the FBI or CIA.
That Friday evening my life-long friend, Donald (Boo) MacDonald, and I drove over to Halifax to spend the weekend with his sister Irma and her family. (The truth is we really went to Halifax to attend a Dalhousie University homecoming party because my fellow accounting student and Dalhousie alumnus, Brian Beckett, had lined up blind dates for Boo and me.)
Friday night and all day Saturday everyone was glued to whatever TV set they were near because all programming on all channels was assassination-related.
Sunday morning, Boo and I were watching television while eating breakfast at Irma’s and saw Jack Ruby shoot and kill the assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, in a Dallas jailhouse. I suspect this was the first murder ever shown on live television.
Like tens of thousands of others, I was fascinated with the whole scenario and during the decade or so following the tragic event I read everything about it that I could get my hands on, including the 366-page Warren Commission Report, which I believe was more a cover-up than an explanation. I recall being particularly influenced by a book titled “Rush to Judgement” by an early assassination theorist by the name of Mark Lane.
Many theories abounded about JFK’s death, but two recurring notions were that Oswald didn’t work alone and that some kind of conspiracy was involved. The mafia, Fidel Castro, the Russians, and even the CIA and highly-placed politicians were suggested as being involved. My view has always been that there were indeed at least two shooters and that it’s highly likely that there was a conspiracy, with mafia members being the most likely perpetrators.
In the early 70s I was in Dallas on business and spent a couple of hours at Dealey Plaza, where the shooting took place. I stood at the very window in the Texas Book Depository Building from which Oswald fired his weapon. I was struck by how close the window actually was to Kennedy’s car as it passed on the street below. I also stood on the famous grassy knoll and realized that it, too, was very close to where Kennedy’s car was when he was struck. It would have been very easy for a second assassin to fire from the knoll and quickly disappear amid the utter confusion that must have been going on at the time.
Of course, the reason I’m writing about this is that a number of previously-classified JFK assassination documents were released on Thursday. Unfortunately, it seems they revealed nothing enlightening. And, no, I don’t intend to read their thousands of pages.