I clearly remember where I was when I heard that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed. I was sitting in my desk in Miss Brown’s first-grade class at Dworshak Elementary School in Burley.
I was 6 years old. I had a 3-year-old sister at home, and my mother was only days away from giving birth to my little brother.
I didn’t understand death — all I knew about was birth.
The news was not intended for students, but I shouldn’t have been in the classroom at the time.
John Knight and I hadn’t completed our math assignments during class, so Miss Brown held us in after lunch to finish our work.
Kennedy was shot at 12:30 p.m. in Dallas, which was 11:30 a.m. in Burley. Principal Harvey Steel held the news until students were outside during the lunch recess, then blasted the radio broadcast over the intercom for the teachers and staff.
There was no introduction to what we were about to hear. We just caught the broadcast midstream and had to figure out what was going on from there.
At 6, I knew who the Kennedys were: They were the King and Queen of America.
I remember John and I looking at each other’s blank faces, trying to absorb the news.
I remember Miss Brown standing frozen under the intercom speaker.
I don’t remember Miss Brown saying anything to the rest of the students after the lunch recess. The news seemed to be our little secret between the three of us.
My mother was a Democrat and a big fan of the “royal family.” She dealt with Kennedy’s death by introducing me to the family via the television, one by one, during the days ahead.
The president’s daughter, Caroline, and I are the same age, so I identified with her. I came to know the Kennedy family through Caroline’s eyes: Uncle Teddy, Uncle Bobby, Aunt Eunice and Grandma Rose.
The most poignant image that stands out in my mind is little John-John saluting his father’s casket.
It still breaks my heart.