North Dakotans Remembers JFK Assassination - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

North Dakotans Remembers JFK Assassination

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There are not many days in history where something so profound happened that you will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news. Today is one of those days.

It's been fifty years since President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. The events of that day forever changed the country. Jessica Roose spoke with North Dakotans who remember it like it was yesterday, including one man who was at the first lady's side seconds after the shots where fired.

"White House Press Secretary Malcolm Kilduff has just announced that President Kennedy died at approximately 1:00 central standard time, which was about 35 minutes ago."

It's been five decades since President Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas but that day is still fresh in the minds for many Americans.

"I know it's been fifty years, but to me it's like it happened yesterday," says Clint Hill.

Hill was a secret service agent for First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and when the shots were fired he was the first to jump into the president's limousine.

"If he had not been there she might have crawled far enough to be thrown off. If she had been thrown off she would have been damaged and probably killed and the tragedy would have just been deepened over what it already was. So every North Dakotan has reason to be proud of Clint Hill," says historian Clay Jenkinson.

"It was really what I call the end of the age of innocence because prior to that time going back to the Eisenhower administration, it was a peaceful tranquil time in the United States. Everybody seemed to get along really well and after his assasination occurred in 1963 things seemed to really change throughout the country," says Hill.

The nation mourned and many Americans sent sympathy letters to the first lady, including one little boy, who just wanted to let the first lady know she wasn't alone.

"Like hundreds of thousands of people, I wanted to write something to Jackie Kennedy just to let her know how bad I felt that her husband had been killed. I couldn't tell you today what I wrote, I have no idea, I can't remember. But I scratched some kind of a note out. I'm sure my parents got the White House address and had all that figured out of where I should send it to," says Rick Collin.

A few weeks later, he got a response.

"And it said Mrs. Kennedy is deeply appreciative of your sympathy and grateful for your thoughtfulness," says Collin.

Though only eight years old, the whole experience, from watching the events of the president's death and the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald unfold on TV, stayed with him over the years.

"The assasination was huge. It has a huge impact on me and all the presidents since. I've always been interested in, you know, how they preformed in office and where they traveled and what the issues were that they were dealing with," says Collin.

For the last ten years, Collin has been teaching a class on presidents at the University of Mary, with a focus on JFK.

And he's not the only one who has been impacted by the events fifty years ago.

"If you asked 600,000 North Dakotans who are fifty or more years old they would tell you where they were. I can't tell you where I was when Martin Luther King was killed. I can't tell you where I was when Dwight Eisenhower died. I probably can't tell you where I was when my grandmother died. But I can tell you exactly where I was when John Kennedy died. That's how searing this was in the consciousness of the American people," says Jenkinson.

Which isn't a surprise since this was the first major event to be broadcast on television, and the death of the young president left many Americans wondering what could have happened if he lived and was elected to another term.

Clint Hill has released a new book detailing his accounts of the assasination. Five Days in November is available on shelves now.



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