Remembering death of JFK

Older Americans often ask if others remember where they were when they heard the news about John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Local resident Pauline Burbee does and visited Washington, D.C. following the tragic event.

Burbee was in eighth grade at St. Mary’s Catholic School. She remembers on Nov. 22, 1963, an announcement came over the PA system saying Kennedy had been shot and the students prayed. A second announcement came on informing the students he has later passed away. The school dismissed the students for the rest of the day.

“I remember getting the afternoon off, coming home and being young. It was just my mother and me. I can remember seeing Lee Harvey Oswald shot on TV,” Burbee said.

Burbee, who was only 12 years old at the time, traveled with her mother to Washington, D.C. following the assassination to visit her older sister. Burbee cannot remember the exact details of the trip but believes it was a preplanned trip. During the trip, Burbee remembers visiting the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and even taking a tour of the White House. During one of the tours, she recalls being quizzed on American history and remembers seeing the green room in the White House.

“I remember walking through the White House. I remember being in the Capital Rotunda. I remember being shuffled in and out of the big black cars,” Burbee said.

She said the black cars were possibly secret service agents and remembers seeing many men in suits during her visit. She also recalled the city being somber following the days of Kennedy’s funeral. Residents were still in shock and some were afraid, she said. A souvenir Burbee still has from her trip is a rose; she said there were makeshift memorials throughout the city in Kennedy’s memory.

“I remember taking a rose. People had flowers everywhere. I know we went to all those (monuments) and there were flowers everywhere,” Burbee said.

Once she returned home, Burbee received another memento, a funeral card for the late president in the mail. She was unsure why she had received it in the mail but believes it is from one of the tours. Following college, Burbee followed the late president’s infamous words of “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” She joined VISTA, an AmeriCorps program Kennedy came up with.

For today, the 50th anniversary, Burbee said she has no real set plans. In past years on the anniversary, she has sat recollecting the day. She said many people do not discuss the tragic events in Dallas. She said it is important though to talk about these events so people do not forget.

“It’s so sad. It’s not something you sit and talk about and discuss. There’s too much shock and the pain (the Kennedy family) must have gone through,” Burbee said.

Comments on this article may be sent to smcdonnell@observertoday.com.