By Ross E. Heller
With the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy coming November 22nd, I can recount the exact circumstances when I heard of the dread event. On that cold November Friday afternoon I was working as a cub reporter for the Providence (RI) Journal and had driven to Worcester, Mass. to have lunch with a friend.
At the time I was working evenings and that day had to be at work at 4:00 p.m. I left my friend’s apartment around 1:00 o’clock driving back to my office in West Warwick, about an hour away. I had been gone about 20 minutes when I heard the terrible news on the car radio.
After stopping for a minute to absorb the horror, all I could think was to turn around, go back, and tell the friend face-to-face. There were no cell phones then. And don't ask why I didn't plunk a dime – a pay phone call’s cost then – and call. At the time, in my head, I had to tell the story one-on-one. Which I did.
And, of course, by then she'd heard as well. I presume we all cried together. But I had to get to work notwithstanding. For even in a backwater like West Warwick, RI we had to do our part; get the local reaction.
I still have a copy of the Providence Journal from the morning after that dreadful day. You might say it was the start of my historic newspaper collection. The following Sunday when Lee Harvey Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby I was back in Worcester having lunch. We were watching TV with friends whose home had a lovely view overlooking Lake Quinsigamond. I saw that murder “live” as did millions of others.
Interestingly I never watched JFK's funeral on TV; I had to work that day. (I long regretted not being able to participate, even if vicariously. It was only 25 years later when Anne and I happened to be in New York City and CBS did a Sunday morning retrospective that I finally got to see parts of that moving event.)
There’s no good ending to this sad reminiscence.
Perhaps it is sufficient to pause, reflect, and say a prayer in JFK’s memory.