People of my generation ask each other this question: “Where were you when JFK was killed?” That’s because, for us, it was a pivotal moment. After that day many things changed in both our country and in how we saw the world.
For those of us born during or right after World War II, our future in the early sixties seemed positive and hopeful. Yes, there were serious problems in the country, especially in the areas of civil rights and gender rights, but we were beginning to deal with them. We had a young, vibrant president and we were heading toward a future filled with positive changes.
On November 22, 1963 all that changed. When John Kennedy was assassinated we were horrified and we all just stopped. We stood still – not for a moment or a day, but for over a week. I walked home that day in an eerily silent city. Stores and businesses were closed. Government offices and schools all sent people home. Nearly everything closed down that day and many stayed closed until after the Thanksgiving holiday a week later.
People react differently to catastrophic events but, in this case, millions of people felt the need to write it all down. People began to think about the president’s family. How were they handling this loss? From all over the country and around the world people sent letters and telegrams to the White House and to the new widow, Jacqueine Kennedy.
Over one million pieces of correspondence was received from people in all walks of life and all ages. The letters were heart-felt and filled with sympathy. After many of them were read, they were packed into boxes. Mrs. Kennedy promised the letters would be preserved in a future Kennedy presidential library.
And that’s where they have stayed until recently. Now Jay Mulvaney and Paul DeAngelis have complied many of them into this stunning compilation. Dear Mrs. Kennedy is an example of how people around the world felt on that terrible day in 1963.
A young schoolboy wrote: I am in the fourth grade. I was in art when the news came. One girl started crying. I couldn’t bring myself to my senses enough to comfort her, as I was immediately heartsick. I am still heartsick. I am only 9, but I know how great he was.
Supreme Court Justice W. O. Douglas wrote: My heart is so heavy that words fail me. A sadness has come over the earth that it never knew.
Leaders from all over the world sent messages of condolence. Here’s one from Charles De Gaulle, President of France: The immense grief that has just hit you touches me and my wife in the deepest reaches of our hearts. Be assured that we are beside you in thought and prayer.
This book is both sad and inspirational. It’s a reminder of how we all felt at the end of 1963. More importantly, it reminds us how much we have in common. I highly recommend this book to those of us who lived through this time period and to younger folks as well. Good history.
Where were you when JFK was killed?
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be the first stop on the tour for Dear Mrs. Kennedy. For more information on the tour, go here: TLC Book Tours. For the author’s website, visit here: Paul De Angelis Website.
Copies of Dear Mrs. Kennedy: The World Shares Its Grief, Letters November 1963can be purchased at Amazon. (I am an Amazon Associate.)