November 22, 1963
Published 11:43 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023
By Gene Hays
MSgt, USMC (Ret)
On Nov. 22, 1963, just after lunch, I made my way to my chemistry class at Odessa Permian High School in Odessa, Texas. When I got there, I noticed the few students already there were very quiet.
In the room between our classroom and the physics classroom, I recognized the voice of Walter Conkrite on the television. Something was terribly wrong, as evidenced by my chemistry teacher, Bert Tucker, as he came into our class with tears streaming down his face.
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We all asked him what was wrong and he said in an anguished voice, “they have killed our President!”
There had been a lot of coverage for his trip to Texas and some concern as he was not that popular in some of the southern states. Vice President Lyndon Johnson from Texas and Texas Governor John Connaly pulled out all the stops to show President Kennedy and his beautiful wife, Jackie, that the Kennedys were indeed popular with most of the people from Texas.
At their first stop in Fort Worth, there were large crowds of people trying to get a look at the Kennedys. The Secret Service agents were chagrined when President and Mrs. Kennedy broke protocol and went to the crowds around the tarmac, shaking hands and talking to the people.
The President then made a speech in the morning at the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce where he quipped about how he felt like he was the man that accompanied his wife Jackie to Texas. He said that no one wondered what he and Lyndon were wearing that day, bringing a laugh from the crowd.
That next day, history recorded multiple accounts about what happened when his motorcade made that fateful turn onto Dealey Plaza and Elm Street.
Back at my school, none of my teachers taught class the rest of the day and many of our students were crying; it was a somber rest of the day. I’ve been to the museum at the former school book depository, stood at the next window adjacent to the so-called sniper’s nest on the 6th floor, and walked to the grassy knoll and the overpass.
I won’t go into the details of what transpired that day or any of the unproven conspiracy theories since then. I recommend reading Clint Hill’s account of those days, “Five Days in November.”
Clint Hill was the Secret Service Agent riding behind Kennedy’s motorcade and the only one able to jump on the back of Kennedy’s car; I’ll stick with his account.
Gene Hays is an author and historian and can be reached at email@example.com.