Last week, I invited readers to share their memories of the day President Kennedy was assassinated. I expected a few people would write, and that we could perhaps put their letters on the Nov. 22 Opinion page.
I underestimated what a powerful and still-fresh memory the assassination is for so many of our readers. The letters we received — more than 30 of them — came in a steady stream throughout the week. We ran them in Friday’s paper, in which we dedicated a fair amount of space to the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death.
Until Wednesday, when I edited the letters and wrote headlines, I obviously had regretted that an iconic president was gunned down during a pivotal decade in our nation’s history. But I wasn’t around when Kennedy was alive, so I’d always processed the tragedy more logically than emotionally.
That changed this week, as your accounts of the tragic day made me profoundly sad and had me on the verge of tears several times. Many readers no doubt had similar reactions. History books tell us what happened, but you told us how it felt.
I learned a ton from your letters. I knew the assassination had closed numerous buildings and canceled events in our country; Dayton’s Shannon Wines wrote that even the Stateline casinos shut down. However, I hadn’t realized how it affected others. Carson City’s George J. Gosselin was in Taiwan at the time and wrote that China’s Chiang Kai-shek imposed martial law on Taiwan in response to the tragedy. Eugene Paslov, also of Carson City, was living in Turkey and said that nation shut down for nearly a month after Kennedy’s death. The president had been very popular there, Paslov wrote.
Several readers described not understanding, as children, how something so terrible could happen. Ray Almer of Dayton described the uncertainty he and fellow soldiers faced while serving in West Germany, not far from the Iron Curtain. Bill Pyatt, also of Dayton, said he first feared the shooting was Soviet revenge for U.S. actions during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Many of the letters were raw and powerful, and they all painted a vivid picture of how the president’s death affected the Carson City area. I’m grateful for the interaction.
Editor Brian Sandford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.