50 years ago today, I was a TWU nursing student at Parkland Hospital. John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first president I paid attention to… that I noticed… I followed him through his campaign. I was not old enough to vote for him in the first election, but was planning to vote for him in the second term.
I remember seeing the presidential motorcade around lunch time rushing down Harry Hines Boulevard and pulling into the hospital area. We had classes that morning and were not excused to go see him in the parade downtown. So naturally, I was excited because I thought JFK was coming to visit us. Little did I know or could I ever imagine that he had been shot.
I ran through the dorm to the outside to get a glimpse. A crowd had already gathered between the front of the dorm and the area adjacent to the hospital. I heard through the murmur that a secret service agent had been shot. The entrances to the hospital had been barricaded so that no one could enter. A classmate and I ventured through the tunnels that led from the dorms to the hospital to see what we could find out. While in the stairwell I met a woman who was crying hysterically that the President had been shot. I used a technique often seen in movies to calm her down. ( I slapped her and told her he wasn’t shot, it was a secret service agent.) Luckily, she did not slap me back but actually thanked me.
We walked all over the hospital trying to find any signs of the president. Eventually, we found ourselves on the first floor where one of our professors asked us what we were doing in the building. She led us down the hallway to her office to keep us from getting into trouble. On the way, we passed by the room where they were holding a press conference. As we passed the door, a reporter ran from the room bumped into us, and said that they had just announced that President was dead.
I was stunned. My classmate and I hugged each other and wept loudly and intently. We were then led to my professor’s office where we were allowed to sit and mourn in peace. The reporter followed us in and used the phone to make his report to his newspaper. He took pictures of a white and a black woman hugging each other in grief.
Later, we left the building to return to the dorm. We exited through the emergency room exit, I remember seeing the presidential limo. The back door on the passenger side was open, the roses Jackie had carried were sprayed with blood on the floor. As we walked, an eerie darkness covered the city of Dallas and a strong wind howled carrying large sheets of trash and newsprint through the air. Obviously, the world for me was changed forever.
Dr. Carolyn Yusef – https://www.facebook.com/carolyn.yusuf