Friday, November 22, 2013

It was history in the making and I was there

JFKI was a freshman at what was then Indiana State College (now Indiana State University) 50 years ago today.

I’d just had lunch in the Gillum-Sandison Hall dining room when I walked into the Gillum lounge and found a crowd of guys glued to the black-and-white console TV.

The news from Dallas was grim and we learned minutes later that President John F. Kennedy was dead.

I was a Kennedy Democrat at the time and thought of JFK as my president. So the news of his death was like a body blow.

Nobody knew what to do or say. Classes were cancelled and we all just wandered around like – well, to use an overworked word – zombies. The local rock and roll station, WBOW played funereal music all evening.

I ended up driving to Washington, D.C. with five other students. We drove all night and crashed at the University of Maryland Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity house. We were somewhere in Maryland, approaching Washington, when we learned Jack Ruby had gunned down Lee Harvey Oswald. Reed McCormick, whose parents’ car we used, was an ATO active and I was a couple of weeks away from becoming an ATO pledge at the time, which got out couch space in the ATO house lounge.

We stood in a chilly line all the next night to file past the casket in the Capitol Rotunda and stood along the funeral procession route the next morning. It was a surreal experience. I had a cheap little box camera with me and got a few shots of the funeral procession, including the caisson and the horse Black Jack, with the boots backward in the stirrups.

That's me on the left, then Reed McCormick and then Steve Dolbow. Reed died of a heart attack in his Arizona home a year ago last April. Steve lives across Chesapeake Bay from the Capital in Easton, Md.


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