I was 5 years old. My father worked at General Dynamics and he called my mom that morning to say they had made an announcement that family could come out to the GD/Carswell to see the president. My mom, my 3 year old brother, my aunt and cousin went to GD. We were surprised by the small crowd and got to shake JFK’s and Jackie’s hand. I will never forget JFK taking my little brothers hand and whispering in his ear. We always believed he told him that he had a little boy like him at home. I will never forget that morning or my mom picking me up from kindergarten in tears. How sad to have to explain to a 5 year old & a 3 year old that the handsome young man they had been so excited to see was now dead. Such sadness…I remember watching Caroline on TV.
My mother told me that she was very happy on November 22, 1963 because she had just given birth to a daughter. As she awaited for her husband to come to the room where she was, she felt quite pleased. Then, he appeared in the doorway to her room. She immediately noticed how pale he looked and how very serious. Her joy turned over in her stomach with a feeling of foreboding and nausea. Almost too afraid to utter the words, she asked, “What’s wrong?” She waited to hear him say that something was wrong with me, their newborn daughter. He quietly told her that they’ve killed President Kennedy. He’s dead.
So, as he was being murdered, I was born into the world. By the time I was in second grade, I was reading biographies. I read about President Kennedy. He and I will always have this day that we share. I have read every book on him and the Kennedy’s. I find them a great, loving, happy family who find themselves following by tragic deaths at times. Yet, they continue to strive to be the best human-beings they possibly can and they continue to honor the philosophy instilled in them by their parents. I truly believe that Rose Kennedy and First Lady Jackie Kennedy are great mothers. The only sadness I have experienced having been born on this day is this: My parents found it very hard to celebrate my birthday and so they didn’t. I have had four real parties in my honor by well-meaning friends I’ve met along my way. I enjoyed each one and cherish my birthday each year now with my husband.
My mother was here to stay with my sister’s children while my sister and brother-in-law attended the breakfast at the Texas Hotel. Of course they were all very excited!
Sad to say, I was living and working in Dallas. I worked at the Dallas Public Library and a group of us had walked to stand in front of Neiman-Marcus to view the motorcade. What a glorious day–the sun was shining, the temperature was perfect and we would see the most famous couple in the world!! Too, I had had the pleasure of shaking President Kennedy’s hand during the campaign when he and LBJ appeared at the State Capitol. So I was very excited!
Standing about 10 yards away, I watched as they passed by…I can’t begin to express the feeling of elation I felt. We then went in to order lunch to take back to work. While waiting for our lunch, we got word of the shooting. Our immediate reaction was, “Don’t say things like that. It’s just wrong to talk about the President like that!” Of course, it was true and after we got back to work, we were sent home. It wasn’t easy living in Dallas at that time…but we came back as a nation.
Of course, some of us wonder what this nation would be like had President Kennedy lived and served out his term, possibly been re-elected?
I attended the breakfast the morning of Nov. 22, 1963, at the Texas Hotel in Fort Worth. I was 14 years old at the time and accompanied my Father, the late Robert (Bob Kragen) who managed to save some history with his movie camera. Also, in attendance with us was the late Robby Anton, son of Charles and Shirley Anton. Dad, quite an accomplished photographer, was able to get choice seats due to his friendship with Pete (do not recall last name) the catering manager of the hotel who wanted to make sure that close up pictures were taken of him serving the President and First Lady. The film, perhaps 5 minutes, captured some excellent shots of the event and especially of Jackie Kennedy entering the room as she was late in arriving.
My Father, never the type to seek fame or fortune, made numerous copies of the film and gave them to various family members and friends. One friend happened to be Congressman Jim Wright who as we all know was part of the group of dignitaries with the President. Many years later I received a call from my aunt, Ruth Bernstein, now deceased, that the film was being shown on “Good Morning America” and due to leaving early for work, I missed it. Good Morning America had no idea as to who made the film but commented on the quality of it, especially pictures of Jackie. My aunt still had a copy of the film, which unfortunately I do not, and met with WFAA to authenticate it as the one made by my Father.
I looked into what was going on and learned that Jim Wright had donated his personal papers to the TCU library. The film was part of that donation. The showing of the film on Good Morning America and also the Today Show resulted from some Japanese filmmakers finding it in their efforts to produce a documentary on American First Ladies. They were especially impressed with the pictures of Jackie.
The film is still with the Jim Wright collection at the TCU library and if you do not have it, please make it a effort to do so. Dad never sought fame or riches, only an opportunity to share this momentous event in history. Fifty years later, I honor Dad and memory and President Kennedy’s along with Jackie, as I too seek to share with others this great, with a tragic ending, time in American history. Obviously,the entire event made an impact on me and still seems like yesterday.
The film is still with the Jim Wright collection at TCU.
I congratulate Fort Worth for making this tribute possible and plan to view it on a return visit home.
Thank you for allowing me to share.
Arnold Kragen – Santa Cruz, CA
I was a Junior at Eastern Hills Hill School that November morning and was standing in the parking lot when the rainy skies lifted and the sun came out. As a student of the Ft. Worth Independent Schools you were given an excused absence that morning if you wanted to go to town and see the President of the United States. My parents let me drive our family car with five girlfriends for an event of a lifetime. Police and Sheriff Officers on horseback kept the crowd behind the ropes. We stood on the front row and watched with great anticipation. We had gotten word Jackie would not be coming outside because of the weather and she needed to look her best for the luncheon at the Great Hall at Market Hall in Dallas at noon. Immediately after the breakfast The President greeted the crowd outside to a thunderous roar. He shook hands, posed for pictures, hugged babies and old ladies. The Secret Service was all around but that didn’t stop him from getting close to the people. He made his way about halfway around the large circle of well-wishers when someone in the crowd told him they were running late and needed to get on their way to Dallas . . .
By the time we arrived back at school around noon the events in Dallas had happened. Like everyone else I will always remember exactly where I was at that moment. I am so thankful to my parent for allowing me a moment in history.