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Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project

Death of a President

I was all nestled in, prepared to enjoy a happy childhood. We had recently moved onto my grandparents' farm northeast of Grand River. Being an animal lover, I was thrilled with the opportunity to help take care of the animals. And, since we were now living on a farm of our own, the possibility of someday having my own horse seemed to be close at hand.

Then, one day the principal came into the classroom shortly after lunch. He whispered into our teacher's ear and her face slowly turned into a grotesque mask of horror. Tears swept down her cheeks. She sat in stone silence after the principal left the classroom. Slowly, she struggled to find her voice. When at last she could speak, we were told to gather our things and prepare to go home. We were to go immediately to the school gym and await for the school buses there.

We were confused and not sure what was going on but did as we were told. When I got to the door, I turned around and watched my teacher leaning across her desk, her shoulders jerking up and down as she silently sobbed into her hands.

The older students were whispering among themselves. Finally one of them told us the news. President KENNEDY had been assassinated.

I looked around, hoping to find someone who would explain it to me. What was assassinated? What did it mean?

An older much wiser junior high student told me, "He was shot."

I stared back, speechless. "Did he die?"

The junior high student snorted, "Of course he died. Don't you know what assassinated means?"

No, I did not.

Those words, along with those three shots fired on Friday, November 22, 1963 at around 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time in Dallas, Texas, officially ended my childhood.

I didn't understand, couldn't comprehend, why someone would want to shoot the President. I watched all of the news coverage I could, glued to our black and white television set, hoping to comprehend something that was well beyond my childish views of the world and life as I knew it.

Little did I know that I would be shocked and stunned two more times with the assassinations of Robert KENNEDY and Dr. Martin Luther KING.

Forty-one years later, I was in Washington, D.C. and spent a day at Arlington Cemetery. I stood before President KENNEDY'S gravesite and was transformed into that frightened, stunned, confused and sad child trying to comprehend and understand. The only words that formed on my lips were, "I am so sorry." Then I wondered what might have been if those three shots had not been fired on that chilly November day.

JFK Gravesite, Arlington National Cemetery, photo by Sharon R. Becker, 2004

Contribution by Sharon R. Becker, April of 2009

To contribute to "Tales from the Front Porch: Ringgold County's Oral Legend & Memories Project"
contact Sharon R. Becker at
Please include the word "Ringgold - Front Porch" in the subject line. Thank you.

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