Where were you and what were you doing when JFK was shot?
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I grew up in Chicago (by definition a Democrat), and was raised Catholic, so the election and presidency of JFK was a REALLY BIG THING in our house. I vividly remember sitting in my fourth grade classroom when it was announced over the PA system. I had a lay teacher that year, so I don't remember her name, but I can picture her, too, and that she burst into tears. Not too much else was done that day, and we all went home to watch the events unfold on our black and white televisions.
To get this back to books, I recently read The Children by David Halberstam and was reminded that--despite the childhood image I had that Kennedy was the perfect president--he was truly a political animal. I think I am ready now to read things that look at that short presidency more critically than I was raised to do. Suggestions?
I was in school (as it was 11:30 am, EST, Friday, Nov. 22nd, 1963) and saw coverage of the event when I returned home in the afternoon. I remember some of my neighbors had pictures of Kennedy in their houses (along with pictures of the pope), but I'm sure I'm remembered this from a time after his death because it is unlikely I would've have been allowed up the street and in the neighbors' houses at the age of eight.
>I think the Seymour Hersh book about Camelot might shake you up a bit. It's important to note that news coverage was very different during the early 60s than it is now.
I lived in a very small town in Saskatchewan, Canada. I would have been in Grade one that year. I remember seeing it over and over on TV, and so it made an impression. A few years later my mother purchased a coffee-table book about his life and I'm pretty sure she still has it.
I was at my sewing machine, sewing doll dresses for the girls Xmas presents. I was listening to music on our local AM station when they interrupted - there was a pause & then a voice said "We are going to network headquarters." Then another voice said "Shots were fired in Dallas at the presidential motorcade. We now return you to your local station." So the next thing we heard was the song "Corine, Corrinna" but before it was finished a voice said "This is the Mutual Broadcasting Co. President Kennedy has been shot, Stay turned for further developements."
So I went out to the garage where my husband was working & told him & we went back into the house & turned on the TV. We watched ABC programming for the rest of the day & night. I was breast-feeding Kathy who was born Sept. 27. Jacki & I had been expecting together. It was so sad when they lost their baby.
The girls ran up from the bus stop & burst in the door. "President Kennedy was shot!" they cried. "Sister was crying & we said a Rosary."
I had hid the doll clothes I was sewing, but I still have the little dress I was working on when the news came on the radio.
We were living in Agua Dulce here in Texas, I was 4. My younger aunts had just stepped off the school bus and talked about it all the way home. My father was stationed in Libya at the time and I thought this man was there also and that was why he was shot. I watched the funeral but all I remembered seeing were the horses.
Well I am not 50, but I remember vividly the events.
We were living in Ankara, Turkey and the killing actually took place on the 23rd there (late, late night on 22nd). We had gone to bed. I guess they called my parents from the Embassy in the middle of the night, but I never heard the call.
Anyway the 23rd is my birthday and there was a party scheduled for me and all the kids my age in the building. I had been so good to make sure the party wouldn't get cancelled.
That morning (23rd) my Irish, Catholic mother, came in for the morning routine to get my clothes out and open the curtains (they had a drawstring). I think I was just turning 4. She grabbed hold of the fabric and ripped them open. She always insisted I use the string, and she had always used it herself. I had never seen her so mad.
Of course I assumed it was because of me, and was terrified. Later I found out it was because of the President. We had the party anyway, since the parents decided that it didn't mean anything to the kids.
I was in 5th grade in Mrs. Greenblatt's class at Peter F. Burnett Elementary School in Hawthorne California. We had just come in from recess. One of the other teachers was watching us on the playground, because Mrs. Greenblatt came from the teachers lounge to meet us to take us back into the classroom. She told us that she had some terrible news. And I knew, without a doubt, even though I don't think we had even mentioned the President for weeks and weeks, that President Kennedy was dead. I remember what desk I was sitting at, where she was standing.
Spooky. It still gives me the chills.
My parents were glued to the TV. Mama was in the kids' rocker. She was crying. I asked what was wrong, and she told me.
I said, "Why are you crying? I thought you hated him?" And she said, "Just because we don't like someone's politics does not mean we want them dead."
I was five years old. I didn't really understand death at that point, having never known anyone at all who had died.
I think that was the first sobering moment in my childhood. I began to realize that death was a serious thing to adults, and might even happen to me someday.
>2 avaland: Lois, Thanks for the recommendation on the Hersh book. I have put it on the wishlist.
Yes, news coverage was so different then--the whole idea of it was relatively new. Certainly it was the first time that the world watched the shooting of a world leader. and then, remember not too long thereafter we watched on television as Jack Ruby shoot Lee Harvey Oswald.
And, Lois, again--we are the same age and I lived in the city. We were in and out of our friends' houses all of the time, and walked several blocks to school and stores. Did you grow up in a city or in "the country"? I am wondering if we had so much freedom because everything was so close and the neighbors kept an eye on everyone else's kids.
We didn't have TV. It was available, but only on for a few hours each day, was in Turkish, and was just the 'official' Government news. So we didn't even bother with a TV. They also didn't travel well from country to country due to the electrical issues.
I never saw any of the TV or newspaper stuff until later when we came home.
We had more freedom then, because there hadn't been 40 years of selling/peddling fear for fun, profit and manipulation. Bowling for Columbine takes a very good look at it.
Sixth grade. Spelling class, taught by Mr. Esposito, in a Catholic school in northern New Jersey.
Second-grade, heard nothing at school, found out when I got home and found my dad, who was never home early, in front of the television. I was more than mildly put-out that the Mickey Mouse Club had been pre-empted by the news.
This was the beginning of the end of my childhood innocence. After Oswald, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, my world changed, believing that assassination was a part of life. It was not the safe haven I had thought.
A seven-year-old should be able to be idealistic for a few more years.
Getting ready for my 10 AM French class at UC Berkeley, not believing that such a thing was possible.
Seventh grade, Mr. Glynn's CitEd class (Citizenship Education--newfangled social studies) in a suburban Long Island, NY junior high school. It was sometime around 2 p.m. I see myself standing behind my desk and listening to the announcement on the PA and then hearing some comment about the world changing from Mr. Glynn.
At home, my sister and I sat for hours glued to the tv. I most remember the riderless horse. It chills me even now.
Weeks later in gym class we were learning to jump the pommel horse. Judy H said she'd just pretend it was, well, JFK's casket. She fell over the horse and broke her arm.
I also remember some very popular comedy albums imitating JFK's press conferences etc. We never heard them again.
Our Thanksgiving turkey was always nicknamed "Oswald the Turkey." We tried calling it Oscar but it never took.
Oh, what melancholy.
We were in the lunchroom when the principal came in and said "Boys and girls, the president is very sick, we must all pray for him." We all got quiet. A while later, he came into the lunchroom again and said "Boys and girls, President Kennedy has died, go to your classrooms and gather your things, school will be closed for the rest of the day."
I remember walking home with my friends, and was shocked to see my dad's car in front of the house in the middle of the day, he always came home in the evening. I walked in to see my parents sitting in front of the TV, and I announced to them "President Kennedy died!" We sat and watched for the rest of the day. I remember feeling so sad for Caroline for losing her dad.
My parents were Kennedy supporters in a neighbourhood of Republicans. I remember getting into a fight with a girl over the 1960 elections because her parents were for Nixon, and mine were for Kennedy. She pushed me, and I pushed her back, and she fell and hit her head on the driveway, and so *I* got in trouble.
I was 13, at a Friday afternoon youth bowling league run by the gym teacher from school. He heard it on the radio, and told us all. When I went home, there was no one there, and I remember sitting on our patio thinking about how awful this was. There was no tv in Aruba then, and our newspapers were flown in in batches a couple of times a week from Miami, so the only way of keeping up with the news was through the short bulletins on the radio. Only when the first newspapers came a few days later did it begin to seem real.
I only reply as I see that my perspective has not yet been covered; I was a six year old farmer's son in South Devon, England. I remember that I was playing with my toys on the living room floor, and that my mother began crying after hearing the news on the radio. The BBC canceled all programming and replaced it with somber music, the TV picture being filled with an image of a Union Jack. JFK's light shone brightly and illuminated every darkened corner of the globe. To my parents' generation it was proof positive that the world was going to be a better place after the sacrifices of the Second World War. One 'magic' bullet swept us all back into uncertainty, from which I believe we never really recovered.
I was in seventh grade. I remember that everyone was let out of class to go home. I also remember girls walking along the aisles crying. First I was told about the event and then I heard the announcement on the radio a number of times. I went home and watched TV all weekend.
I was in school in the sixth grade. My teacher was Mrs. Olson and she was pregnant, soon to go on maternity leave. We had just recently gotten televisions in the sixth grade classrooms for a TV class on beginner Spanish, televised once or twice a week. We were watching the televised class taught by Señorita Yvette del Prado when suddenly the news broke into the broadcast. All of us eleven year olds were startled. Mrs. Olson, our teacher sat down in one of our little student desks in the aisle next to me (I remember her belly squeezing into it) and just started crying. That was what scared me the most. A couple other little girls got up and went to hug her. Then the principal came in the classroom and told us all to go to the cafeteria, where they were sending all the classes. I really don't think they knew what to do. I think most of the teachers were watching the TV back in the classroom. The teacher in the other sixth grade classroom, Mr. Gorszwick, had an old tube radio on listening to the news and must have walked away from it. While we kids were still all being held in the cafeteria we heard sirens coming to the school. This scared us some more. It turned out that Mr. Gorszwick's radio had caught fire and the sirens were the fire department. Shortly after that they sent everyone home. Watched the news and devoured the newspaper articles all weekend and through the funeral.
I like your story, OsideNative. I could see it so clearly in my head.
Oh thanks. I got done and saw how long that was and hadn't intended to go on so. What struck me reading through this thread is how many of us remember an adult crying.
That is an interesting observation--about the adults crying. Many of us were in school, and the people crying were our teachers. Although we probably thought they were ancient, I am guessing many of them were actually young people. Why did the shooting of Kennedy have such an immediate emotional impact? What would be the reaction if a similar thing occurred today?
I was six, and in first grade. Interestingly, what I remember most are the colors of things -- the principal in his grey suit contrasting with the burnt orange curtains on the stage of the auditorium; the fact that it was a grey, rainy day and I wore a bright yellow raincoat and hat. I remember riding the bus home and arguing with an older boy about whether or not the president was dead, or just badly wounded. It felt like somebody saying God had died -- I didn't believe it.
I was also six and sitting in a tree next to the cross walk waiting for my older brother to walk home with me. The cross walk guard told me and I remember climbing down from the tree and just sitting on the curb, very disturbed. It really was like learning that God or Santa Claus had died. Very shocking and hard to absorb.
Six-year-old first-grader here, too. I was standing in a school corridor waiting for my older sister to exit her classroom and walk me home. (It was after 3 pm in CA.) Instead, her teacher came barreling out, tears streaming, mascara blotching, crying, "The President's been shot! The President's been shot!" That weekend my entire family sat in front of the (black & white) television; I remember feeling sorry for Caroline, also six, having lost her Daddy.
LisaCurcio, two books about his Presidency I found interesting and full of insight (and delightfully devoid of the salaciousness of recent JFK books) are:
JFK and LBJ by Tom Wicker
The Promise and the Performance by Lewis J. Paper
They're both out of print but probably available on half.com for 75 cents apiece.
I was ten. We were sitting in class in catholic school. One of the nuns came in and whispered to our nun and they both flew out of the room. They wheeled in the television, turned it on and we watched.
They sent us home early that day. As I explained in a different thread a week or so ago, I cried hard from the first moment I heard. I had a hard time walking home, and I had a little sister to take care of. The crossing guard tried to calm me down. She was very nice, but it was an impossible undertaking for her.
We made it home, called mom and put on the tv.
I think it hit me as hard as it did ( very hard ) because my dad had run away from home only a few months prior. It was a very difficult time. We had no money, mom went to work and I had to work too, at school. That was I earned our free lunches. I had to babysit and cook dinner every night. I felt very ... frightened by the whole thing.
I loved the president like everyone else. I read very well very early, and had read about him of course, newspapers and so on. Heard about him on the news.We talked about him in school. I felt as if we were no longer safe and never would be again.
I have a cartoon I cut from a newspaper in Boston years ago.
Two guys on a bench I think. It is the caption that is so memorable.
November 22, 1963 ...the last day I was young
Oh and it was my mom and dads wedding anniversary, the first one with no dad. JFK was born on May 29, my birthday. I knew that...
The death of President Kennedy had a huge impact on me.
First, my birthday and his were the same which I thought was really cool.
Second, as a Catholic and JFK being the first Catholic President, we heard alot in the 4th grade about how people worried when he was elected that the Pope was going to take over. Friday afternoons were our weekly trip to the school library and I was in the library picking out books that I wanted to read when we were told over the intercom that he had been killed. We were sent home immediately and since I lived only two blocks from school, I got home very quickly. I sat in front of the TV all afternoon.
Last, My father worked at the TV station and he didn't come home for 2 days because of all the extra work that the coverage caused. (we lived in Baltimore and a lot of the workers were sent to Washington to help with the coverage.)
It's surprising the little things you remember when you sit down to reminisce.
I was in second grade. I remember that I was standing on the stairs, must have been right after recess, when a teacher told us President Kennedy had died and we were all going home. I remember taking the hand of the male classmate I was near--something I never would have done normally.
My mom taught in a one-room school in another school district. (My school had six grades in three rooms.) In later years, she told me it never occurred to close the school after one of the neighbors came over and told her the President had been killed. Instead, they got out the World Book and looked up assination and presidents and talked about what happened all together.
>22 LisaCurcio: Why did the shooting of Kennedy have such an immediate emotional impact? What would be the reaction if a similar thing occurred today?
I've thought about that, too. I remember having not much of a reaction at all when President Reagan was shot. However, I have had the distinct thought recently that if President Obama was shot, the national reaction might be much like when Kennedy was killed.
Why the emotional impact? He was so charismatic, I guess. And for me, as I noted, it was a personal sort of feeling of no longer being safe. I never regained that feeling. It taught me early, even more than the departure of my dad, that bad things happen for no good reason.
Reagan, I agree. I was on the phone with my best friend, watching, discussing all the coverage. She died suddenly and unexpectedly 2 days later~which was two months after losing my grandmother. I was very close to both of them, and emotionally destroyed for a long time after that. Reagan wasn't even a blip on my radar.
As for Bush, since I spent 8 years hoping for a fortunate strike of lightening or falling piano...
Obama has given me, as well as so many other Hope again.. may all the gods and goddesses protect him from harm.
>31 mckait:: mckait,
You weren't really hoping something would happen to W? Remember who was next in line!
I think there would be a similar reaction if, heaven forbid, something were to happen to Obama. Perhaps it is partly because JFK and Obama represented a significant change and hope for the future that had been lacking.
I know.. but I was kinda hoping that the aliens would take both of them....
I was in Mrs. Allen's second grade at St. Patrick School. Someone knocked on the door, she went out for a minute, and came back in crying to give us the news. Saturday morning was usually cartoon day, but the only thing on television was coverage, so we just sat in front ot the TV. My mom bought a large book called The Torch Is Passed with pictures, and I remember that I couldn't get enough of that book. I still have it, although it's not in very good condition. I felt so sorry for Caroline, who was my brother's age. The thrill of my life was meeting her at a book signing several years ago.
I was in sixth grade at a Catholic school in Chicago. Everyone was for Kennedy during the elections, it seemed, except for my parents, who were Republicans. I was so embarrassed.
The principal came on over the PA system to say the President had been shot, and we should all pray for his recovery. Later I found out he was already dead. I think that's when I lost my Catholic faith, thinking about how pointless the prayers had been.
We spent the next four days watching TV. I think it was the first time any of us experienced 24/7 news coverage. I remember seeing the lines of people waiting to pay their respects. What shocked me, was my Republican dad saying, "If we get in the car right now, we'd get there in time to be at the end of the line." We didn't, but it taught me a lesson about adult complexity.
I remember my grandmother saying, "This is what they do in Europe. This doesn't happen here."
Only weeks later, I discovered the Beatles, so the memory of the assassination always felt like the marker at the end of my childhood. Then when John Lennon was shot, it was the other bookend. His murder was the end of my youth.
So many profound memories...much thanks.
My first recollection of the event was coming home on the bus from the 3rd grade (The Hills School, Dix Hills, NY). I remember the shocked looks on the Moms waiting on the bus stop as they picked up us kids. I also recall the Moms having somber conversation with the bus driver as we made our departure from the bus. My most intense memory though was watching the funeral on black and white TV and observing the tears flowing from my Grandfathers eyes. The first and only time I ever saw him cry.
I remember feel similar "broken innocence" feelings when Martin Luthor King and Robert Kennedy were killed. That was an ugly time in our history...
This thread is so interesting; I was only four, and don't have any memory of the JFK assassination myself. I was a little more with it at the time MLK and Bobby were assassinated, but even then... The Wednesday Sisters has a scene built around Bobby's assassination, but I didn't remember until I was researching it that they'd done surgery, hoping to save him.
I have to admit that I have no specific memory of the shooting. I do remember sticking pictures of suspected Russian missile silos in Cuba into my school scrapbook. Maybe this is why I read more science fiction than anything else now...
My husband was digging around in the Internet Archive a few years ago and found video clips of the old "duck -- and cover" public service ads with the turtle in the helmet. For some reason he let our 4 YO son watch these with him (guess he thought of them as cartoons? I'll never know...) A few days later, the mom of one of my son's friends approached me and hesitantly asked what my son knew about the atomic bomb. Apparently he had been showing his preschool friends how to duck and cover in case of nuclear attack.
;-) Sure: Donald Duck, Daffy Duck, Duck & Cover... It makes sense!
An amazing time we grew up in, wasn't it? Air raid drills where we all went into the school central hallway, sat down put our heads down and our hands over our heads. And this was going to save us from the radiation how?
Younger people just don't know what they missed!
I was in Sister Florita's seventh grade class at a Catholic school in a western suburb of Philadelphia. I remember being in the cloak room at the back of the classroom with Stephen Lynch. We were in trouble for something, I think for playing catch with an eraser when Sister was out of the room, and I remember we were both scared at what we were going to get. I think the principal or someone else from her office must have come into the room and told everyone what had happened, because Sister Florita came back to the cloak room and let Steve and me off, just told us to go back to our desks and join everyone else in the rosary.
I was 10 years old and in 5th grade. The school TV was in our classroom so we could watch PBS French class when the principal came tearing in to turn on the news. I remember adult shock but I do not remember tears. I can guarantee you my parents had voted for him because my Mom had a special "thing" about Nixon, courtesy of his association with McCarthy. When I got home, my Dad was calling my Mom to make sure she was OK - one month to go before my sister was born.
Funnily enough, it was the RFK assassination that deeply distressed my British immigrant banker Dad. Really shook him.
i remember the Cuban missile crisis & MLK's assassination much more clearly. And it's not like i was young, being born in 1950, and living in the suburban DC areas. There has been so much info/ many rumors etc after the fact that it's hard for me to remember what i was doing at that particular moment, from what i think i might have remembered. I THINK i remember Ruby murdering Oswald much more clearly.
I was in elementary school, the day after my birthday. I had gone home for lunch and heard that the President had been shot. Shortly after I returned to school we learned he had died. We got to go into the first grade classroom (my sister's class) and watch TV. The first time I ever remember watching TV in school.
I also remember someone saying to our teacher, that one of the other students was crying. The teacher then went on to explain that that was okay.
I was in the third grade. When my brother and I came home from school, we walked in the front door and my mother was at the top of the stairs. She said, "Children, something terrible has happened," and I thought, "Oh, no, Daddy's dead." Then she came downstairs and told us that President Kennedy had been killed, and I was relieved. Not my finest hour.
A few years ago I went to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt's home in Warm Springs, Georgia. They had a book where people could write their memories of hearing of FDR's death. I read quite a few people's memories, and I remember two of them: there was someone who said it was the first time she had ever seen her father cry, and there was someone who came home from school and told his mother that FDR was dead - whereupon his mother spanked him for lying, because of course FDR couldn't be dead.
(edited to correct the spelling of Georgia)
I was in the hallway at my locker when I.C., a girl I didn't like much, told me that the President had been shot. I did not believe her (since I didn't like her), and went on to my science class. There I found that it was true, and I remember being quite outraged that my science teacher (who I normally liked a lot) was just ignoring the whole thing and carrying on with the class; he was taking the position that it wasn't important. He was a Republican. It is funny that the things I remember most vividly about that day are my negative feelings.
We did not get to go home early, as so many others seem to have done.
I think we must have just come back from lunch or recess into Sister Mary Gemma's first-grade class. I don't remember her announcement, only the silence that followed it ... an absolutely still group of 6-year-olds standing in a crowd around the nun.
Does anyone here watch AMC-TV's Mad Men? I love the nostalgia of it -- and the complexity that I was clueless about as a child -- and think Season 3 will surely deal with the assassination or its aftermath. Season 2 was set in 1962 and focused on youth. The producer says S3 will be about change -- and likely, since the series is about the advertising industry, the coming-of-age of TV.
I never saw that detail... I will try to remember to look for it :)
sounds interesting ~
I was in second grade and it was announced over the PA system. My teacher started crying and we were all scared. My mother was at the dentist. I was obviously confused about how the government works, because I remember telling a friend on the bus going home that it would be very difficult for Mrs. Kennedy to raise her children and run the country at the same time. I guess I thought that the queen takes over when the king dies.
It is interesting the way that children view politics and its "Stuff".
I do remember remember eventually not liking Johnson, but that was most likely due to things I heard discussed around me. I am sure it was a few more years before I could form an opinion of that sort on my own.
I also remember wondering why Mrs Kennedy didn't change out of the bloodied clothes she was wearing...
Mad Men is terrific! Set in a 1960s Madison Avenue (New York) advertising firm, it looks at the period’s work and society (including gender, politics, culture, music, fashion, décor). Season 1 is out on DVD; reruns of Season 2 (darker, in my opinion) are currently airing on Sunday nights at midnight ET. Season 3 premieres in August.
Also love Mad Men.
I thought I'd posted in this thread but see I haven't. Stupid Swiss cheese memory.
I was in gym class when the assassination was announced over the PA system. I think we were sent home early but I'm not sure. What I remember best were the days and weeks following. My mother collected the newspapers and some books with a lot of pictures of the funeral and of course of Jackie and the kids.
The other thing I remember vividly was being told I shouldn't celebrate my 8th birthday because of what had happened. Mine is on the 25th, the same day as John Jr's, and my mother mentioned that he wasn't going to be able to enjoy his birthday that year. I didn't really understand why that meant I couldn't have mine, though! It's not like our birthdays were a huge deal, just cake and ice cream and a few gifts.
#43 I was in trouble in school that day too ~ it was my freshman year in a public h.s. in Chicago, and I had gotten busted for cutting art class the day before.
I'd been sent to the principal's office & was strolling defiantly down the hall with my (get this) transistor radio up against my ear, listening to music on WLS and trying to pretend I wasn't scared about what would happen to me when my parents got hold of me, when the music was interrupted by a news flash that the President had been shot. I ran the rest of the way to the office and told the woman behind the counter about it, and she turned on the radio and everyone stood around listening to the news. I don't know about the others in the office there with me, but I remember being in total shock and praying incoherently, and crying.
Don't remember much more about that day in detail, just that I veered from disbelief that it could have really happened and sadness about the President and most of all for his family and fear about what would happen next, except that I never did get in trouble for that cut class & was relieved to have gotten off without punishment, shallow little twit that I was back then.
I was in fifth grade in our parochial school in Kensington, Maryland. My primary memory of that day was seeing nuns cry, which I had never seen before. I think we spent the afternoon on the playground; if I remember correctly, they didn't want to send us home early for fear of some of us arriving at empty houses.
I looked at the newspapers for a couple of days after that; it was the first time I'd looked much beyond the sports and comics. I was actually more upset when I found out that C.S. Lewis, who as author of the Chronicles of Narnia was at that time one of my favorites, had died on the same day as JFK.
I did not know that C. S. Lewis died the same day as JFK. I wasn't into Lewis at the time, and though I am now, I guess I never paid attention to his death date. That is interesting to know--thanks for the info, Jim!
I was feeding my 6 month old daughter, and watching TV. I was in shock, got her ready to take out, and walked to the nearest shopping center. I wanted to be with someone, anyone. All of the tv's were on in the department stores, so it was eeery to see so many shots of the event. Nothing eased my pain, so I went back home, struggling with how to deal with the pain. I told my daughter' history is being made, and you wont' remember this day'. I didn't prepare dinner for my husband and brother, whom we were living with at the time, and when my brother got home, he was upset that I hadn't made dinner. I told him I was grieving, and he yelled at me. He didn't have any compassion for the tragedy and to this day, is cold-hearted and a loner. When I think of JFK I think of my brother, and vice versa. My brother and I are estranged, due to his personality, but the JFK event brought it home to me.
I was only 4, and pretty sheltered at home. I'm not sure of "the moment" when I learned that President Kennedy was dead. I don't think I really understood it all, or I wouldn't have been so bent out of shape that my favorite cartoons were cancelled that weekend. But the funeral coverage did affect me -- I remember dimly some of the funeral procession, the riderless horse, the casket rolling along.
I have more memory of Dr. King's and Bobby Kennedy's deaths, as I was in third grade by then. There were two moments of "knowing" with RFK -- first he was shot, and he died later, with some time to process and reflect and pray in between. It wasn't almost immediate, like JFK and Dr. King. So my memory is muddled as to when I learned he was shot, and when I learned he'd died, and when we were waiting for news in between, but I remember my third grade classroom, and going home for lunch and watching the news while I ate. That year, 1968, was a horrible year for our country. I still get sad when I think about how different things might have been if Bobby Kennedy had lived and become president, instead of Nixon with his "enemies lists" and shady conspiracies.
Dion's song "Abraham, Martin, and John" still makes me get teary if I'm in a certain mood.
> 60 ; tymfos
Interesting comment about the cartoons being interrupted. I was 5 (almost 6) at the time and when the cartoons went out was when I realized that something really big and really serious had happened in the world. I have the same muddled memory, save for the cartoons.
It's interesting to see how events which trigger the "where were you ..." reaction are correlated with age. I think about age 12 or so is when they can become indelibly imprinted (for me, 1969, man landing on the moon, first time I can vividly remember where, when, and what I was doing).
With me it was Pearl Harbor. We'd had company that sunday afternoon & after they left, my mother turned on the radio because she always listened to "One Man's Family." But instead of the program, Eleanor Roosevelt was speaking. "What is Eleanor Roosevelt doing on One Man's family?" My mother asked. "Listen and we'll find out," my father told her. so we did and that was how I remembered Pearl Harbor.
JFK - I was in 6th grade, and during art class (I can still remember the picture I'd been working on) someone came in from the principal's office to announce that the President had been shot. It was one of those moments when things shift from The Way They've Always Been to something new and un-nerving.
MarianV, I remember my mother talking about Pearl Harbor - she said it was her birthday, and someone turned on a radio for background music, and they heard the news. They didn't really believe it at first - they'd heard the original War of the Worlds radio broadcast, too.
I asked my grandmother's older sister once what they'd thought when they heard about the Titanic sinking. She said that their reaction was more or less, "no, that's not right, that can't happen."
Which was pretty much what I thought when I was working away at my job with a graphics software company in January of 1986, and someone came in and said, "the space shuttle blew up!"
Back on topic: as others have remarked, I think hearing about JFK was the first of those moments I really noticed. Something - security? predictable-ness? - had gone out of the world.
My son was home from school sick the day the shuttle blew up. He was 12. I worked sort of kittycorner from the apartment. We lived on Swamptscott Ma at the time.
I tried to convince him he was mistaken. He would have none of it. I went home to him.
You are right.... that was another of those minutes..
I was in the Navy and we were pulling in to San Diego, deep in the harbor. We were monitoring (as usual) the civilian chatter when all of a sudden we heard:
"The space shuttle just blew up."
Long silence, followed by an anonymous voice chiming in:
Lots more silence.
The space shuttle -- the first disaster, Challenger -- was definitely one of those moments for me. (Actually, Columbia, too, but not the same way.) It's funny, I'm the kind of person who never calls in sick to work unless I'm really, REALLY sick, but that morning I didn't go to work and I don't remember why, except I HAD to see that launch. And then it happened. Total shock.
And the more I learned about why it happened -- and why it shouldn't have been allowed to happen -- the more upset I was. Challenger launch decision is on my "wishlist" to read someday. But I'll need to be in the right kind of mood to read it, or it will drive me absolutely crazy.
Columbia was awful, in part, because the folks at NASA obviously hadn't learned anything from Challenger and all the study of flawed decision making that had followed.
It's standard navigation practice to bring up and monitor the "CB" band used by boaters when you're coming into a large and busy harbor. We were 453 feet long and had to pay attention to all the speed boats and sailboats gadding about. The chatter would often tell us if there was a problem around the bend or if someone was disabled in the middle of the channel.Also, that's how the civilian craft would talk to us (e.g., "Hey, big Navy boat with a 46 on the side. I'm a gonna race y'all!").
You'd be surprised (maybe not) at how many drunk recreational boaters are in San Diego harbor on a sunny weekend.
Ah, fugitive, as a recreational boater I will tell you that those of us who don't want to be surprised by a 453 military or other vessel or a "double red flag" barge coming around a bend I monitor the "commercial and military chatter". If you and I collide, it is a lot of paperwork for you and no paperwork ever again for me!
And yes, it is scary how many drunk weekend warriors there are on the water in the Chicago area of Lake Michigan, too.
> 69 Lisa, have you ever tried powering a sailboat back to harbor after the Fourth of July fireworks? It's not for the faint hearted. We did it once and swore off.
I was at work when the Challenger blew up. We listened on the radio. When I got home, I found out that the headmaster of my son's school had been killed in a car accident that day. Those two events are irrevocably entwined in my mind (and in my son's mind--he was in 2nd grade then).
I was six years old and in first grade in Catholic school in Ontario. We didn't know much about President Kennedy since school was new to most of us. There was no kindergarten for us in 1963, at least not if you attended Catholic school. We were told about the President's death, but my parents (we were from Ireland) explained more to me. I do remember watching the funeral, though.
My parents were at Dallas Market Hall waiting for the President to attend the luncheon.I was three years old at home with our housekeeper, who had the TV on and I remember Walter Cronkite coming on the TV and announcing that the President had been killed. It is one of my first memories.
aruba... we lived in Swampscott Ma when the Challenger horror occurred. The weather wasn't great.The day after, two boys were swept off the sea wall and there were helicopters and ambulances and all sorts of chaos. We lived one street back from the sea wall... So it was all right there.. A real feeling of dread took over the town that day. Sadly, I do not remember if they were both found and rescued or not. Bad things can cluster at times, eh?
comena.. how were your parents affected, do you remember?
I was in 4th grade, in Mrs. Root's class, when the principal, Mr. Reisdorf, came on the PA and told the whole school. The previous month, I'd found my big brother's Classics Illustrated comic book about Lincoln's assassination (I have no idea which book they were adapting) I remember thinking, "No, that can't be right. Presidents only get shot in history books."
We didn't get to go home early, but it was the day before Thanksgiving, so I got to watch TV all weekend. And I was watching when Ruby shot Oswald.
That was when I started to grasp that "history" was being made all the time. I was already a voracious reader, but after that weekend I started making a serious swathe through the history and biography sections of both the school library and the county library.
Then came 1968. I remember my sister reacting to something I said (interestingly, I don't remember what) that summer, "You're so cynical! How can you be so cynical when you're only 14?" I didn't answer her, as I thought I was just making a simple observation. It was years before I realized that my sister was a perpetual innocent. Sweet, and smart, but unable to process a lot of the world.
In retrospect, I think my childhood ended that weekend in 1963.
I was sitting in Freshman English, listening to a discussion about Plato, taught by our school superintendent, Mr. Mandeville. The principal came to the door to speak to him. He came back in and said, "It seems pointless to talk about Plato and the goodness of man. Someone has shot our president." We were all sent to the big assembly room that lots of old school buildings had in those days. Mr. Mandeville hooked up a radio to the PA system and we listened to the news until it was officially announced that the President was dead. Then we were sent home. I remember tears in my father's eyes as he told me, "I didn't vote for him, but damn it, he was my president."
I was brushing snow off our tent (in June!) where we were camping in Yellowstone Park when I heard about RFK's assassination. I was in the lounge of my dorm at Hasting College, when MLK was assassinated.
I was in the library at school when the music teacher came in and told me about the Challenger explosion. As a child of the 50s, the space program was a source of dreams for me.
My husband and I heard about a plane hitting the World Trade Center, while we were getting ready for school on September 11th. When we got to school, I set up a TV in the library so the students could watch this event. We all thought it was an accident, but I was adjusting the TV, when I heard my husband say, "My God, there's another airplane." That was when we knew it wasn't an accident.
I canʻt remember the exact words of the young student (male) who announced to us that the President had been shot, as I entered an elevator to return to my job (a librarian in a university). The reply to him, from a female student was, "Is this some silly joke?" "No," he said, "thatʻs the tragic part of it: the president of the United States has been assassinated."
The "joke" (if it even deserves the honor of that name) that was circulating was a reference to his reason for visiting Texas. It was lame, and in execrable taste. I had already heard it in two versions, the first given by my boss at work:
"Did you hear that the president is sick? " -- "No, whatʻs wrong with him?" -- "Something wrong with his kidneys: He canʻt pass GOLDwater."
I was 4 when President Kennedy was shot and mainly remember having nightmares about Lee Harvey Oswald.
I was teaching a chemistry class when the Biology teacher next door came in and told us about the Challenger - we were in shock and couldn't seem to function the rest of the day.
And I was a high school librarian on Sept 11, 2001 and we turned the TVs on after a teacher's husband called the school to tell us a plane had hit the WTC and then watched in horror with students waiting for class to start as the rest unfolded.
I was also four, but have no memory of it even though I was playing in front of the TV when it was announced while my mother was ironing. I think I just didn't understand and I'm sure they didn't want to talk about it in front of us.
I was in sixth grade. We were Mrs. Barlow's music class, and our teacher, Mrs. Covert, came to the door in her coat and told Mrs. B. to keep us there. When Mrs. C. came back, we went to our own classroom and she told us what had happened. I cried; I couldn't imagine that those two little kids would have to grow up wthout their daddy. The other ramifications didn't mean much to me.
We had played a game of 20 Questions in a class about a month before. I suggested the person Lyndon B. Johnson; maybe two other students in the class knew who he was.
I was in my in my 10th grade biology glass. It was announced over the P.A. systhem.
I was ten. Not sure why I wasn't in school-it may have been a teacher's day, or I had a cold. In any case, I went shopping in the afternoon with my mom, and we were pulling into the parking lot of Woodies. The next few minutes were very strange.
I noticed my mom looking very pale, and then she started crying, told me that "something terrible had happened." We didn't have the car radio on, and I didn't understand why she was so upset. A little bit later we met another lady in the parking lot, who told us what had happened.
Just like premature death preserves beauty, it can sometimes preserve other illusions. Martin Luther King begged Kennedy to do more for the civil rights movement, but JFK was more concerned with re-assuring Middle America that he wasn't a Fellow Traveler.
It was LBJ - the Southerner - who had the courage to stand up to the racists in the deep south. It was LBJ who threw the weight of his forceful personality behind the Civil Rights Act. The bill that Kennedy sent to Congress was weak and wishy-washy. Emanuel Celler strengthened it, but it faced opposition from segregationists. When Johnson took over after JFK was assassinated, he argued forcefully for the bill and railroaded it past the segregationist opposition.
This may sound like a harsh statement, but if Kennedy had lived, American blacks would have waited a lot longer for their civil rights.
8th grade. Science class taught by Mr. Roth. Announcement on P.A. system - "President Kennedy has been shot. School is dismissed." Eerie quiet all the way out and then on to home to watch the news.
Seeing as I wouldn't be born for another 23 years, I was probably still chilling in the afterlife recovering from being shot out of the sky in a flying fortress during WWII. The current generation's equivalent would probably be 9/11, or the election of Barack Obama.
On 9/11 I was at home, still hadn't left for school yet. I can remember staying home from school (my highschool didn't hold classes that day). Every once in a while I'd switch the TV on and watch coverage, still not quite being able to wrap my head around what had happened.
Would now be a good time to mention that I was actually in the Dallas book depository...
LOL! I was in school and remember being released early, we were all too young at the time to understand why. My older brother had stayed home that day with a cold and I remember him waiting for me on the porch in his blue plaid bathrobe. "Polly! Someone shot the president! Mom's all upset and crying. Don't bother her. Come on I;ll make you a sandwich."
I remember the shooting video of Oswald. Dad jumping up "Sonofa....someone just shot the b@$tard!
For JFK...I had just turned 5. I was sitting in the car next to my aunt who was babysitting me. We were parked in the lot of a school. My older cousins got in and were crying. I asked my aunt, "Why are they crying?" and my aunt replied, "Someone shot our president." I now teach at that very same school and each year on 11/22 I show my students where I was in the parking lot. Other things I remember from that weekend- I had a horrible nightmare that night. The year previously I was hospitalized with pnuemonia. In my dream I was in my hospital room. The door burst open and they wheeled Kennedy into my room. That Sunday morning I remember sitting in fromt of the tv trying to find cartoons or something besides that coverage. I recall seeing Ruby shoot Oswald live on tv. My mom was behind talking on the telphone with my uncle. She dropped the phone. His death affected me for years, making me fearful of going to sleep at night, making me afraid of the dark.
RFK- 3rd grade. I remember turning on the tv in the morning and seeing the news. I remeber my mom crying during the funeral when Andy Williams sang.
MLK- It was one of the fist times my mom let me stay home alone while she went grocery shopping wiht a friend. The news came on and I remember being frightened and wishing my mom would come home, though I knew thyere wasn't anything she could do about it.
Reagan Going up the escalator in a local mall. Not feeling too too sad but disappointed that someone would do this to him. Didn't and don't agree with his policies but no one should solve problems with gunshots.
Space Shuttle- Was teaching ay a day care school. We watched while the kids napped. We told the kids that their parents would be talking to them when they picked them up.
9/11- Friend from Poland (living with my family and I, working to earn college money) and I were getti8ng ready to go to the gym. We had seen the first plane crash reports on the morning news shows and thought it was serious but not terrorism. We were walking out the door and my Mom screamed, "Oh my God! Oh my God! There is another plane!!" We went to the gym. I remember that no one was working out. Everyone was standing by the bank of televisions watching. That was where I was when the towers fell. I remember the next night going to mass with my friend, Mom, and a cousin. The bishop said the mass. We sang "God Bless America" and everyone was crying.
On 9/11, I was at home (self-employed) and my sister called to tell me to turn on the TV. I spent the whole day watching the coverage. Later it was recommended not to watch those images repeatedly, but I don't know that it would make any difference--once or a hundred times, there's no way to forget.
My 3-year old daughter and I watched the space shuttle Challenger explode during live TV coverage. It was horrifying (for me). She was too young at the time to realize what had happened, thank goodness.
On 9/11, for the first time in forever, I had not turned on the TV to hear the news while getting ready for work because I was late and had to get a move on or I'd have missed my train. I didn't learn that anything had happened until we were already halfway to downtown L.A., and no one on the train knew exactly what had happened. Someone said they'd heard NY and DC had been bombed, and there were bombers on the way to L.A. Everyone was afraid. When we got to Union Station, police were sending everyone back to the trains to return home. Downtown, they said, was shut down.
I got home in time to see the second tower fall. Then like ejj1955, I spent the rest of the day in front of the TV, crying. I don't think I stopped crying all day.
When I went to NYC in Feb. 2003, my sister took me to Ground Zero. We got lost and were wandering through a maze of alleys and side streets. Just before we rounded this one corner, we both looked at each other and gasped. There had been an actual physical sensation of having our breaths taken away, and both of us felt it. We went around the corner and there it was, about a half block away. I always thought it had been the residual emotion of the actual disaster, of all those whose lives had been taken from them so violently and unexpectedly, that was still there a year and a half later. I don't know, maybe we were overly impressionable, but we both felt it at the same time. Weird.
In 1963 I was in Mr. Steven's 5th grade class at Alice Peck School in Hamden, CT. Mrs. Donahue, the principle, made the announcement that Kennedy was shot. I was numb. After that I don't remember anything until the point where my stepmother and I watched the funeral procession and the lighting of the eternal flame.
My Dad had a comedy/parody album called "the First Family" that I liked. After the assassination,I think it was destroyed.
I was in the second grade and remember well where I was. I,too, was in school, Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak, Michigan. Our principal, Sister Patricia Marie, interrupted all classes with her announcement on the PA that Kennedy was shot. She was crying.
I would have just turned two the month before and I don't remember it.
My mother taught at the school I attended. When I joined her at her car to go home she was listening to the news about JFK on the car radio and hushed me.
I have no recollection of RFK or MLK, Jr.'s deaths.
The Challenger explosion occured when I was working on a ship. I brought the news to the bridge when I went on watch but no one believed me.
Since I live on the west coast, I awoke to the news of the World Trade Towers. The first tower was on fire. Monsieur just got out of the shower and I called to him to see the scene on TV. Just then the second tower was hit. Shock is a totally inadequate word for what I felt. I attended school in the Bronx and when I was a junior we were extremely fortunate to have our spring formal on the top floor. We were unfortunate in that it was cloudy that night and all we could see was the top of the clouds beneath us. It is a treasured memory.
I was in the 7th grade at Mineral Springs Jr. High School in Winston-Salem, NC. All the teachers were asked to come into the hallways while the students stayed in the classroom. No one knew what was going on until our teacher came back into the class room and told us what had happened. We were soon dismissed from school and sent home. Everyone was scared and upset. Our school bus driver wouldn't let anyone talk on the bus while we were going home. That entire weekend was just awful. I attended a pajama party on Saturday night ( it was already scheduled ). After church, we all came back to our friends house and the TV was turned on and we then saw Oswald shot by Jack Ruby. We watched the funeral in black & white with our parents. Completely unreal .....
I was too young to remember, since I was only 1 1/2 years old, so I imagine I was playing with a doll or some kind of toy or one of my older siblings, but I do remember clearly when Bobby was shot.
I was in the third grade. The principal came into our classroom and told us to put our heads down on our desk. She told us that the President had been shot and killed. I remember one girl started crying really loudly. We were sent home from school early. My family was watching TV to see what Oswald looked like, and saw him killed by Jack Ruby. We watched the funeral procession, the riderless horse, and John John saluting the casket.
I was in Sri Lanka, so did not hear about it until the next day. The day after my brothers and I had to attend some event and Mom dressed us all in black and I remember the whispering as we walked in.
I was in Grade 3, in a Canadian school in a rural community. The teacher came into the classroom crying....very unusual, as she was a pretty tough cookie. President Kennedy didn't mean that much to me at the time, but my teacher crying sure made an impact!
I was working for a bank in Glendale, CA and we heard the news just before lunchtime. When I exited the bank onto Brand Blvd., one of Glendale's busiest streets, people were openly crying and holding each other. A sense of suspended reality existed for me at that moment in time, indelibly burned into my memory.
Hello all. I had just turned 1 in August of '63, so to little to remember. But my Mom(r.i.p) and Dad told me about it as I got older. And I recently read "Killing Kennedy" by that O'Reilly guy. Needless to say, sad time. Despite his womanizing, it's bad whenever a president is assassinated.
...behind the grassy knoll, swapping Rat Fink stickers, diapers dripping.
If you haven't read it, Stephen King's 11/22/63 is about going back in time to prevent the assassination. Lots of references to the time.
Don DeLillo wrote an interesting novel about it as well, focuses on Oswald: Libra.
Stephen Kings novel 11/22/63 recalled many of events of the that day in 1963. I remember exactly where I was when the news came over the school's loud speaker; it was my tenth grade History Class. The entire weekend of events are still very vivid in my memory but most memorial was Ruby shooting Oswald; I was watching the news with my Grandparents and was shocked to see a man shoot dead in "real life" and not in a TV drama's gun fight.
Living in Massachusetts, Kennedy's death was even more emotional for its citizens; he was the home state "Golden Boy." Most emotional aspect of the funeral was observing John John salute his father.
I was just getting ready to go back to school after having lunch...I was watching cartoons on the TV when the program stopped for the announcement
I was off school--and was in the car with my mom pulling into a store parking garage. All of a sudden she got very upset and turned very pale. She said something terrible had happened. I couldn't understand why she was upset, we had no radio on in the car, and I hadn't heard anything outside the car. She got out of the car and crossed through the garage to speak to some people. She came back and said the president had been shot. We went to visit a friend who had a television to watch the news. (This was not the only time I witnessed my mom knowing or farseeing, but it made the most impression on me.)
as a sophomore at MIT, i was in statistics class. i heard the first news from Susan H, one of only 19 women in a frosh class of 900, and she the youngest at 16. at that moment, it was unclear that JFK were dead. not until a lab that afternoon, when the radios were all on, did we hear of his death.
the irony of this is the Lecture Series Committee (the LSC, MIT's movie-showing committee), had a note on their basement offices, "due to circumstances beyond our control, this evening's scheduled showing of The Manchurian Candidate has been cancelled."
-=*+* Marty M '66
I was only 7 when JFK got shot, so I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to the news; however events in my family would have taken priority anyway as November 63 was when my dad left my mum and disappeared for six months with his girlfriend...you can appreciate that life became somewhat difficult.
Should I admit that I've aged into this group this year AND was less than a year old when JFK was shot? No memories, even of my parents discussing it later. No memories of RFK or Martin Luther King Jr's deaths either.
I have vague memories of the Challenger disaster - since I didn't own a TV or read the newspaper or listen to the radio during that period of my life.
9/11 is of course much more recent. It occurred less than a month after my father's death. I had called my mother that day and she said rather vaguely that I'd better turn on the TV. I was shocked with what I saw. My daughter was a toddler at the time and I remember thinking that it would change the landscape of her life. I think it has.
Edited to add: After adding to this thread, I did ask my mom about it. She was a librarian at a high school library at the time, and the news came over the pa system.
I remember a lot about the day Kennedy died. I was in Jr. High School and all the teachers were called to the halls over the intercom system. They were gone for about 15 minutes and everyone didn't know what to think. When the teacher came back they told us what had happened and then school was dismissed and we all got on the busses. Out bus driver wouldn't let us talk or anything, he said we had to be respectful. When we got home all the family was watching the coverage on TV. That entire weekend was just terrible. I went to a pajama party on Saturday night and the next morning we all went to church with our friends. When we all got home from church and turned on the TV, the next thing we saw was Jack Ruby getting shot. What a scary time for a jr. high school kid.
Grade 4, Mrs. Evans' class in San Francisco Bay Area. She took the call on the phone in the class room. She lost it. She blurted to us, "President Kennedy's been shot in the head and he's dead!" then burst into tears. There in that room, where we had practiced duck and cover emergency drills, it seemed like nothing was safe, the world was not safe. Remember watching the funeral, Jackie in her veil, the beautiful children, John John's salute.
I was 5 years old. My babysitter, younger brother, and I were playing a game when the news report broke. I remember my father's employees watching the funeral at our house. I didn't understand most of what was happening.
> 114 Sorry, I did mean Oswald getting shot. I was typing faster than remembering correctly. That was truly a trying time for the entire country. I shall never forget it and hopefully it will never happen again. By the way, does anyone know why Oswald killed Kennedy?
117 > Why? I doubt if that's something that could ever be known, since the only person who could answer that question is dead.
Even if Oswald wasn't dead, it's very difficult to discover the real "why" behind any act. We're not always honest with ourselves about our motives, much less with anyone else.
I don't think we can ever really understand why anyone would do something we wouldn't do ourselves. And even if it is something we would do ourselves, we would be doing it for our own reasons, not for anyone else's.
fyi CBS News is streaming its four days of 1963 news coverage here.
Fifty years later, and I still cry when remembering that terrible tragedy. Watched a program about the assassination and aftermath last night and was sobbing as if it had just happened. As with the 9/11 and Challenger tragedies, I don't think any of us who lived through those terrible days will ever quite get over them. Oddly, I don't seem to have the same vivid memories about the King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, though I do still feel grief over those losses.
I've been watching the stream of CBS's coverage of the assassination and aftermath off and on for the past day or two and its a bit surreal. Comparing it to the coverage of 9/11 is eye opening in realizing just how skewed our news has become. I wish we had men like Dan Rather back, I might actually be willing to watch the news then, knowing I wasn't getting some skewed overly hysterical inflation of reality.
121 > Big difference then is the news divisions of the networks were news divisions. Now they're under the control of the entertainment divisions and it's All Ratings All the Time! preferably with the lowest budget possible. For Kennedy, they just thought people wanted to see. Never had anything like that happen before.
I remember jack-shit about my early childhood. I'm not like one of those intellectuals who remember their extrusion out of the birth canal. I was like, 5 years old.
But I do remember all the adult hub-bub and, the funeral "parade" -- on a grainy back & white TV set up in the living room.
We actually had a living room. We had just moved into a Victorian mansion because it was a cheap, "used" house in the "old" part of town. I recall that Mom (a Depression child) furnished it with antiques (marble top tables, Geo. Washington chairs, etc.) because that was "old" furniture available from rummage (not garage) sales for a couple bucks.
She had a swarm of kids (and a dog) and we trashed all of that that beautiful, beautiful stuff...
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