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The day America lost its innocence

JFK minutes before his assassination in 1963. Bettmann/Getty

Sixty years ago, when President Kennedy was assassinated, I was a student at a Catholic girls’ school in Chicago, says Bonnie Greer in The New European. It’s a late November day, and our class is suddenly summoned to assembly. As we walk down the hall in a “straight, anxious line”, I see one of the nuns crying through an open door. “I had never seen a nun cry before. I had never seen an adult cry before.” We’re told Kennedy has been shot and to pack our bags and go home. Out in the street, it’s raining. People are crying. “Wailing.” When I get to my house, my mother opens the door in tears.

We turn on the TV and watch Walter Cronkite, the legendary evening news presenter. “Now he is on air, in the afternoon, in his shirtsleeves.” He looks into the camera and announces that President Kennedy is dead. The following days are a blur. I remember LBJ being sworn in as president on television. “There was Jackie, the former first lady, still with JFK’s blood on her pink Chanel suit.” I remember the funeral: very slow, with the black horse, the black riderless horse, being led down the Mall in Washington. “And those drums. Those languorous, deep, rolling drums.” Everything happened on live TV – the assassination, then the assassination of the guy who did the assassination. Those were the days when America lost its innocence.