Nightly News   |  November 19, 2013

A treasured letter from Jackie Kennedy

Marie Tippit, whose husband J.D. Tippit was shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, received a condolence letter from Jackie Kennedy – the one person who could truly understand her ordeal. NBC’s Tom Brokaw reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> all this week here we're covering the approaching 50th anniversary on friday of jfk's assassination in dallas. and tonight, the other woman who lost her husband that day in dallas, her name is marie tippet , her husband was j.d. tippet , a veteran police officer who had joined in the hunt for oswald.

>> reporter: as a policeman's wife, marie tippet knew her husband's job came with a certain amount of danger, but nothing could have prepared her for what happened one friday 50 years ago.

>> it started out as an ordinary day . we got the kids off to school. j.d. went to work.

>> reporter: her husband came home for lunch, then went back out on the streets looking for the suspect.

>> they had called him and told him a description of the person that they were looking for.

>> reporter: at the corner of tenth and patton, just a few miles from where marie was waiting for him, officer tippet crossed paths with lee harvey oswald .

>> he was driving car number ten.

>> reporter: oswald fired four shots, three to the body and one to the head. tippet never had a chance.

>> your life crashed around you at that point.

>> everything, i just couldn't believe it. it was just unreal.

>> we begin this national period of mourning, the president, and yet in a very personal way you have to deal with your own grief. was that hard?

>> oh, was it ever. we had grown so close together that he was the other part of me that was just missing. facing life with three children without him seemed almost impossible.

>> reporter: as the media storm began to swirl around her, marie tippet found her thoughts going to the one person who could truly understand her ordeal.

>> i could certainly sympathize with her.

>> reporter: the two young women saw their husbands laid to rest on the same day, and somehow in the middle of her grief, the first lady found time to write a condolence letter to marie tippet , this never before seen letter was as direct as it was unexpected. dear mrs. tippet , what can i say to you, my husband's death was responsible for you losing your husband. wasn't one life enough to take on that day? i lit a flame that will burn forever, and i consider it will burn for your husband, too, and so will everyone that sees it, with my sympathies, jackie kennedy .

>> that is the thing that you always want, somebody to just understand how you feel. and she did. she recognized that i was suffering, too. and isn't that wonderful? that we had a first lady that was so caring for everyone.

>> and jackie kennedy was only 33 years old when she wrote that letter a week later. but legally, it is part of the property of the kennedy estate. of caroline kennedy , and we're grateful to her. she said if you want to share it with the rest of the country it is okay.

>> quite a revelation. tom, thank you. and tom's special, called "where were you"? at 9:00 eastern time .