November 22, 1963: People who lived through it remember the moment—where they were, what they were doing—when the news came. President John F. Kennedy was slain by a sniper in an open car in Dallas, Texas on a political trip. At 2:38pm eastern standard time, CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite removed his glasses, struggled for composure, and reported the President’s death. Across the country, everything stopped. It seemed impossible that the young President, who had ushered in a new era of American leadership with such dash and vision, was suddenly gone. Even here in Reedsburg after the announcement, business slowed to a crawl on a Friday afternoon. Shocked and stunned citizens hurried home to listen to first-hand reports. The boulevard flag was lowered to half-staff and flags appeared at many homes as rain fell steadily.
The Reedsburg vs. Ft. Atkinson basketball game was postponed and schools called off their Monday classes as the State of Wisconsin and the City of Reedsburg went into a state of mourning. On Monday, church bells rang for three minutes and the National Guard troop fired a salute on Main Street. All businesses on Monday were closed from 11am to 2pm as the nation entered a state of suspended animation and paid its final respects. The world changed that weekend in 1963. James Reston wrote in the New York Times, “What was killed in Dallas was not only the president but the promise. The death of youth and the hope of youth, of the beauty and grace and the touch of magic.” There are hundreds of books and videos on the four days that changed America. We have many that can be checked out to experience the moment-by-moment action, like the classic William Manchester book, “The Death of a President”, and the new “Five Days in November” by Clint Hill. Hill will forever be remembered as the lone secret service agent who jumped onto the car after the President was shot.