Sixty years later, the images still haunt the nation.
A presidential motorcade winding its way into Dealey Plaza in Dallas. A vibrant young president, John F. Kennedy, and his famous wife, Jackie, riding in an open-top limousine.
Gunshots. Then chaos and terror. Jackie Kennedy climbs onto the trunk toward a Secret Service agent trying to climb aboard.
John F. Kennedy, then the nation's 35th president, is rushed to Parkland Hospital, where the world would learn he had been pronounced dead. He was 46.
WHAT TO KNOW
- The 60th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy is Wednesday. He was 46 when he died.
- Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, was killed on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald.
- Many people were sent home early from offices and schools as the news spread across Long Island and the world.
For those who recall that day, Nov. 22, 1963, Wednesday marks the 60th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. For many, the moment is seared into their memory, as it became a turning point for the country.
In Manhattan, at the Securities & Exchange Commission, staffers gathered around an office television that afternoon, listening as the news grew grim. Some were praying. Frank Evangelist was there, a young lawyer working for the SEC.
I felt like I had been hit by a truck.
"I felt like I had been hit by a truck," said Evangelist, of Huntington. "It seemed so incredible. This dynamic, enormously popular young man with this distinctive Boston accent and beautiful young wife and kids was dead. Tears started running down my face."
His boss closed the office and sent everyone home.
Many that day were sent home early from offices and schools as the news spread across Long Island and the world. Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine, was charged in the killing.
'Something severe had happened'
The assassination was similar to the outpouring of emotion following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said retired photojournalist James Weber, 76, of Rocky Point, who was a supermarket delivery boy in Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, back when Kennedy was killed.
"People were humble and respectful. You could sense that something severe had happened to us as a nation," Weber said.
Retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Randy Ufier was a sophomore at Hempstead High School and on the football field with his gym class the afternoon of the assassination. The gym teacher "called us all over and said, 'I have some bad news: The president of the United States has been shot,' " Ufier said.
The reaction "was disbelief," Ufier said. "We all looked at each other and said: 'It can't be.' I mean, who wasn't enamored with Kennedy at that age? Camelot. The Space Race. Talk of going to the moon."
"We were flabbergasted." said U.S. Navy veteran Sal Abruscato, 85, of Babylon, who was off that day from his job at the Jamaica Water Supply, but like many heard the news from network television, a relatively new medium during that era.
I thought it was like the end of the world.
"All of a sudden, the TV was blasting from one of the stores, and that's when [the news came on]," he said. "I thought it was like the end of the world."
Ed Furey, 75, a docent at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Uniondale, was a 15-year-old student at Bay Shore High School when Kennedy was shot. He said “it was pretty much a shock."
"The last president to be assassinated was [William] McKinley, and that was 60-something years before," said Furey, who lives in Woodhaven, Queens. "But what really struck me was the next day … I was watching TV and all day … there were limousines coming up to the portico outside the White House, all these people going into the building to pay respects."
The images that were broadcast around the world that weekend included the arrest of Oswald, who police said fired the fatal shots from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository. Then, that Sunday, Oswald was fatally shot in retaliation by nightclub owner Jack Ruby while in police custody being taken to county jail. It was captured on live TV.
On that Monday, the nation watched a funeral procession through Washington, D.C., led by Kennedy's widow and brother, Robert. The day was punctuated by the salute by a little boy, the president's son, as the flag-draped coffin left the funeral Mass at St. Matthew's Cathedral.
Evangelist believes the assassination caused disillusionment, leading some to unleash their "worst impulses," as successor Lyndon Baines Johnson strode to implement civil rights legislation while escalating the country's involvement in the Vietnam War.
"Not that Johnson didn't do everything he could," Evangelist said. "But the optimism, I think all of that faded for a good period of time."
486 images spanning 26.6 seconds
Many have seen photos from that day through images shot by Abraham Zapruder on his 8 mm Bell & Howell Zoomatic movie camera. The footage consists of 486 frames spanning 26.6 seconds but is regarded with such significance that it is preserved in the U.S. Film Registry by the Library of Congress. Cited countless times in the decades since, including by Bob Dylan in the lyrics of "Murder Most Foul" and Oliver Stone's film "JFK," it is a center of controversy by conspiracy theorists who believe Oswald couldn't have acted alone.
Long before that day, Kennedy left a mark on Long Island with two well-documented campaign visits, the first a 1959 fundraiser at the Garden City Hotel, and the second a tour of Nassau and Suffolk counties in the waning days of the 1960 presidential campaign against then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon.
Kennedy spoke to a packed rally in Hempstead on Nov. 5, 1960, and made a last-ditch appeal to voters in a speech at Long Island Arena in Commack the next day.
Kennedy, then a U.S. senator from Massachusetts, spoke about stifling property taxes, the need for federal aid for education, including federal student loans, and the need for America to remain a world power as the nation, embroiled in the Cold War with the Soviet Union, entered the new decade.
"I picked up a newspaper one hour ago, flying from Connecticut to Long Island," Kennedy told the thousands gathered that cold morning at the Commack arena, "and the paper says, 'Nixon says America is the strongest nation in the world.' The point of the matter is that isn’t what is important. The question is, 'Is the balance of power in the world moving in our direction or that of the Communists?' "
The last-minute campaign across Long Island didn't swing the heavily Republican voter base. Nassau and Suffolk went heavily for Nixon.
But Kennedy, who had an ability to attract crowds, took New York and its 45 electoral votes en route to defeating Nixon in a close general election.
"I've only read about the appearances by Kennedy here in Hempstead and then in Commack," said Meena Bose, Hofstra University's executive dean for public policy and public service programs at the Peter S. Kalikow School. "But when you see photos of the crowds, when you see the images. … Seeing that, it really brought to light what I've heard so many say about Kennedy over the years — just what kind of energy and enthusiasm he brought to politics."
Lawrence Levy, executive dean at the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra, said Kennedy's last-ditch campaigning on Long Island"was the first glimpse of the potential of the Democratic Party in the suburbs, where … two generations later [they are now] competitive."
I was devastated by his assassination.
For one Long Islander, it was Kennedy's personal touch.
Kathleen Meyer recalled seeing Kennedy while she was a nursing student at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, when his son was born.
Meyer, a resident of The Bristol assisted living facility in Garden City, said Kennedy borrowed a pen from a fellow nurse, promising to return it. And he did, hours later, even calling the nurse by name, Meyer said.
"I could not believe [he] had the state of mind to not only return the pen, but to remember her name," Meyer said.
"I was devastated by his assassination."
JFK: ONE DAY IN AMERICA (Disney+, Hulu) Like NatGeo's acclaimed "9/11: One Day in America," this three-parter reconstructs the long-ago day through the memories of those who experienced it. Here it's Secret Service agents Clint Hill and Paul Landis; Peggy Simpson, an AP reporter; Dallas police officer Rusty Robbins; Ruth Paine, who was with Lee Harvey Oswald's wife, Marina, during the shooting; and many others.
JFK: WHAT THE DOCTORS SAW (Paramount+) Several doctors and residents, who were in Parkland Hospital's Trauma Room 1 60 years ago, are interviewed here for the first time (per Paramount) and they directly contradict the Warren Commission's finding. Each says they believe to this day that Kennedy's neck wound and fatal head wound came from bullets shot from in front of the limousine, and not from the Texas School Book Depository.
KENNEDY (History Channel, Concludes Sunday and Monday at 8 p.m.) This eight-part series is TV's full-on JFK experience of the 60th anniversary, with interviews from prominent historians, JFK aides, family members and other politicians. Not much new here, but what's excellent is the sheer spread of his life story told particularly well. Peter Coyote of Ken Burns fame narrates.
JFK REVISITED: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (ShowtimePrime Video) "JFK Revisited: Down the Rabbit Hole" might be a better name, because director Oliver Stone once again takes viewers to some places he's been before, and we have too. This special, which first streamed in 2021, is based on "Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case," by James DiEugenio. It assembles witnesses and experts who once against cast doubt on "the single bullet theory" — the Warren Commission's so-called "magic bullet" that was presumed to have hit JFK and Texas Gov. John Connally in multiple places; and this also raises significant questions about its "chain of custody" for evidence in the case.
— Verne Gay
Heavy rain overnight ... Holiday travel ... Jets win ... Setting a holiday table
Heavy rain overnight ... Holiday travel ... Jets win ... Setting a holiday table