Assassination of President John F. Kennedy November 22, 1963
The assassination of President Kennedy is without parallel the event that had the most impact on high school teachers and students in the 1960s. The following is a personal account of that unforgettable day:
On Friday afternoon, November 22, 1963, I was overseeing a study hall in B-1
when near the end of the period there was a light tap at the door. I opened it to find Sally Walters, a senior. She motioned me to step outside the room as she proceeded to whisper the frightening information coming out of Dallas, Texas. “The President has been shot,” she said solemnly, adding that she had been sent to notify all faculty in B-wing. It was understandable that such news be delivered personally and not announced over the PA system and I thought later of that wise choice made by Mr. Curtis Taylor, the high school principal. Sally appeared to be calm, entrusted with her heavy burden, but no doubt was in as much shock as those to whom she had been instructed to deliver her staggering news.
Shortly thereafter we were called to report to the auditorium. Word of the shooting had begun to spread, but not all students had yet heard the details. Teachers were exchanging glances of disbelief, sorrow, and fear, for none of us had ever faced a national event of such import. We were filled with our own thoughts as well as how we would handle the students. Of course, none of us had any more information that what Sally Walters had delivered, and we were hoping for more information at the assembly.
The principal didn’t need to ask for silence. We already had been struck dumb by the gravity of the situation. Mr. Taylor, with overwhelming sadness evident in his face, announced that the president had been “mortally wounded.” (Later many of the students said they had not known what “mortally wounded” meant and were left in even more perplexity. As Dr. Janet Calhoon ’66 recalls, “There was a scheduled school assembly that day, but I don’t recall the subject. Walking home that day were two girls walking in front of me asking what ‘mortally wounded’ meant; they truly did not know and did not grasp that the president was dead.”) Mr. Taylor gave us the information that he had and asked us to pray for the country. As no other news was available and it was near the end of the day, the students were asked to go to their lockers and get what they needed to take home, as no one yet knew what the next steps would be. Grief-stricken, the faces of most of the adults were ashen. We just looked hopelessly at one another, or bowed our heads. The silence was deafening until Mr. Seitzinger raised his baton and, as the students stood to leave, we all were startled to hear the full force of a rousing John Philip Sousa march, as disquieting as the news of the death of our president.