msnbc.com
updated 12/29/2003 3:04:38 PM ET 2003-12-29T20:04:38

Name: Edna Marquez

I was working as a phone operator in Sacramento. I thought the first customer who called in was playing a joke. Then it seemed all the operators were repeating the same thing, “The President has been shot!” Within seconds the entire switchboard lit up. Everyone was crying and trying to answer all the calls that were flooding our switchboards. It was surreal. I felt I was in a vacuum. Operators had to be called in to handle all the calls, and supervisors were also working at the switchboard.

I’ll never forget that day, and even now it brings tears to my eyes. Even the people who were calling in were crying. It was the customers who kept the operators abreast of what was happening.. It took several days for me to realize I was a part of something very significant in our history. The sorrow I felt that day I feel today as I listen to reports of our soldiers being wounded, captured and killed in Iraq and Afganistan. Why can’t the people of the world live peacefully? Last night the President was talking about Iran and that was frightening because that was how Iraq began. We are intelligent human beings and as such we must be able to find alternatives to establishing peace.

Name: Kevin Bitz

Hometown: Sinking Spring

It was my senior year in high school. After the shooting we just knew that we had to be there - Washington, DC. Eight of us along with our parents made the drive to Washington, DC. Two days before the funeral our family had just welcomed our exchange student from South America to our home. We took him along. He spoke limited English. His first exposure to our country was the death of our President. It amazed me - when compared to today - there I was, a 17 year old... walking the line of march. I could almost reach out and touch the world leaders who walked from the Capital to the church. It was one of the last gatherings of the “greats”... It simply couldn’t happen today... Leaders were different then... they were statesmen - not politicians.

Name: A. J. “Herb” Linnen

Hometown: Washington, D. C.

As a young AP political reporter in my native Pennsylvania, I once met and interviewed John Kennedy in Maryland during the 1960 primaries. When he died it was for me-as for so many-akin to losing a beloved family member. I have studied his Presidency-from admiring and other perspectives-over the years.

There are fundamental reasons why his legacy persists. Beyond his handsome appearance and war hero status, there was much more. He believed in, and caused others to embrace, the nobility of public service. There was less cynicism about politics and a greater public appreciation then of what government should try to do, or avoid doing.

Kennedy was eloquent and logical but never petulant or condescending in discussing great and often divisive issues during his Presidency. He took responsibility when things went wrong. He was willing to ask Americans to sacrifice when great challenges arose. He kept informed by following daily media coverage and analysis of events and issues rather than solely relying on internal memos and staff briefings.

Kennedy fully engaged in the political process without succumbing to the pettiness, meanness-and sometimes the corniness-that sometimes mar it today. He had political foes, to be sure, but few real enemies.

That was in great measure due to his unfailing grace and humor.

Anyone doubting his legacy should go, as I have, to Arlington National Cemetery. There a daily pilgrimage unfolds involving people of all ages and nationalities visiting the President’s gravesite and that of his brother, Robert, nearby. People pray there and many-especially the young-pause to take notes of memorable quotations from the brothers’ speeches engraved on marble near the burial sites.

Clearly people still want to be inspired and to believe that they can in some measure contribute to causes beyond those involving their own self-interest.

Name: Dallas J Slagle

Hometown: Pataskala

How could I ever forget President Kennedy’s assassination? He was killed on my 10th birthday in a city by my name. Somethings burn into your memory and this has always been one for me. I will always remember the funeral and John-Johns’s salute to his father. Great men are so rare and when they die young it is all that much more tragic. God

Name: Jan Beals

Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

It was my eleventh birthday, November 22, 1963. A classmate who had gone home for lunch, came running across the playground yelling, “the President’s been shot”. Yes, shot, but not dead. He would heal, I thought. The President has doctors that would fix him. It was my birthday-certainly he wouldn’t die on my birthday. We went into our classroom and the static sound of a radio was heard on the P.A. system. Then our principal came on and spoke, “President Kennedy has died”. That evening as a family we watched the news coverage. I wanted to forget it was my birthday. I didn’t celebrate that year. Every year on my birthday I am reminded the significance of the day. Twenty and a half years later my daughter was born on May 29th. She shares President John F. Kennedy’s birthday, another significant day.

Name: P. Lax

Hometown: Arvada, CO

I was a second grader living in Dallas on that day and I remember our school principal coming on the speaker and he was crying. He asked us all to pray. During the prayer was when he announced that Kennedy had been killed. My grandmother was downtown on the streets watching as he went by. I see the video of her waving to him all the time and it brings it so close to home. I have always felt a deep sense of guilt that it happened in my hometown!

Name: Martha Mills

Hometown: Skokie, Il

After working for the election of Pres. Kennedy and attending the inauguration, of course I was totally involved in what he had accomplished. The day of his assasination, I was having lunch when one of my bosses came to my table and told me that the president had been shot. I went back to my office and spent the next hours with many of my office friends watching. I then spent the next four days glued to the TV watching it non-stop.

Name: M. C. Moore

Hometown: Beverly Hills, Fl

We were stationed at Quantico Marine Base on Nov. 22, 1963. Of course we were all stunned by J.F.K.’s death. He was a friend of service people and tried to give us a living wage. We all loved him. The base was put on alert. The most memorable sight for me was tough, battle-hardened Marines crying in public. It was as though we had lost our best friend. We are still not over the terrible feeling of personal loss we felt at that time, though 40 years have passed.

Name: Lenora

Hometown: Bethel

It was the day before my wedding. I was standing in front of the TV on the last day I would live in my parents home as I ironed the vanity skirt my mother made for me. The news broke in that President Kennedy was shot. I sat down and wept as I watched the news, wondering how such a thing could happen in America. That day made me grow up and realize that horror does not just happen across the oceans. It stunned my soul. My wedding took place the next day. Scaled back out of respect for the loss of our president. I recall sitting in the living room of my unfurnished rented home watching an old television sitting on a lawn chair as I watched Americas innocence die as the caisson carried our beloved president to Arlington.

Name: Don S. Richards

Hometown: Keystone Heights, Florida

On the day President Kennedy was assassinated, I was at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina in a large auditorium watching a patriotic film on Nationalism, completing six months active duty with the Army National Guard. This film ended with “God Bless America” and a full screen waving American Flag. The Instructor slowly walked onto the stage and announced, “Gentlemen, you have just completed a block of instruction on ‘Americanism’, and I am sad to report that President Kennedy has just been assinated. A slight ripple of laughter spread across the troops(thinking it was a contrast joke), then realization took place and the room went deathly quiet. We filed out stunned, confused and in shock, having gone from a patriotic high to all time emotional low. A sad and memoriable experience.

Later, as a school teacher, I asked my senior students where they were when President Kennedy was assinated. A quiet confusing stillness was broken when one student said, “Mr. Richards, we weren’t born yet”.

Name: Tim Dagley

Hometown: North Vancouver

I was not yet born at the time, nor am I a citizen of the country of which he was president, but I grew up with a feeling of what might have around me. I grew up in Nova Scotia in an Irish family, my grandmother is a New England democrat, my mother was a huge Jackie fan, and I share a birthday with JFK Jr. I was made aware of the consequences of that day at a young age. The political shifts that started that very day, as well as the general public mistrust shaped the world my generation grew up in. We weren’t there for that short period of hope and idealism, only for the jaded realpolitik of the aftermath.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,