Three-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father's casket in...

Three-year-old John F. Kennedy Jr. salutes his father's casket in Washington on Nov. 25, 1963, three days after the president was assassinated in Dallas. Widow Jacqueline Kennedy, center, and daughter Caroline Kennedy are accompanied by the late president's brothers Sen. Edward Kennedy, left, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Credit: AP, 1963

Why do I feel my chest and midriff start to quake after all this time? There is an uncontrollable physical response to images on the screen. The images prompt a resurgence of the deep emotion that I experienced 50 years ago.

It was a lifetime ago, but the events of Nov. 22, 1963, have risen to the surface once again with the astonishment, horror and utter disbelief that day produced. Now they are replicated and relentlessly so -- the gift that television keeps on giving. But it is real. The pink suit, the bouquet of roses, Jacqueline Kennedy smiling a megawatt smile and looking delighted. Her husband, so handsome and young, triumphant as they emerge from the plane: my president. The happiness before them is palpable -- a future of innumerable successes is on the horizon.

I was a teenager working as a secretary at Brooklyn College that Friday. I picked up the phone, but the receptionist grabbed it from me because I had begun yelling. The explosion of that gunshot in Dallas sent me reeling.

A vacuum was sucking the life from the nation as I was shouting in disbelief at my 46-year-old mother, who was born in the same year as the president. "No, no it can't be true!" I said. "He isn't dead! He can't be dead!"

She telling me yes, the truth was bloody and brutal.

We were a people stupefied, tethered to nothing. It cannot be, it cannot have happened. A beautiful man with so much promise to have vanished instantaneously, senselessly and inexplicably. Still after half a century, the pain and the despair of those moments can't be obliterated.

Beverly Kerish Greene, Dix Hills

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