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‘We all prayed together’

A 16-year-old writes in the anger of the day

By Leslie Dinsmoor Melby, written Nov. 24, 1963

The summer of 1963, I took an American Heritage trip to the East Coast. We toured D.C. along with other states. After leaving the tour, I continued to visit my family in Alexandria, Va., and New York. In Arlington, I stood near the area when President Kennedy is buried. I also watched the President leave the White House in his helicopter. We left the area by car to come back to Oregon. The March on Washington was held after we left.

President Kennedy brought politics to life for young people and after taking the trip, what I had learned in U.S. History meant more to me after I was there. A few years ago, I found this essay that I wrote a couple days after the assassination, through tears and watching history on TV. Since I had been there, and saw on TV everywhere I had visited that summer, it brought it closer to home.

Remember when you read this, I was a senior in high school and very upset.

On the day of Nov. 22, 1963, while I was sitting in my third-period class, an announcement came over the intercom that “the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, has been shot.”

We were all stunned and most of us went on with our work for we thought it was only propaganda. Our teacher then asked for us to hear the news that was coming over the radio. We then followed it and it was 11:25 a.m. (our time), we heard that President Kennedy was dead in Dallas, Texas.

The school was not at all like usual. The lunch room hour was silent with only the noise from the radio, which was keeping us in tune with what was happening in Dallas. We all wished we could have gone home, but they were unable to get the buses.

At 3, we gathered in the gym, where we listed to a biography of the President, a list of news by Bob Hall that he had gathered from all over about the assassination. Then we all prayed together that our country would be saved and that this great man would remain in all minds of the free world as long as they live. Everyone was quiet and it was the worst assembly I have ever gone to. I will never forget it.

That evening, I went home and sat in front of the television and watched everything that went on from there. I cried most of the time as I suspect most Americans did.

President Kennedy was loved and admired by all. I had been following him since it was known that he would run for the office of President in 1959.

Since he had been President, I felt more like I was part of the nation. And since I took a trip to Washington in the year 1963, I was becoming more and more interested in the Capitol, seeing all the sights in Washington, including the White House.

Knowing first how it was in Washington and seeing everything the President did, I felt close to the President, event though I had not seen or spoken to him. So when on the grim day of Nov. 22, 1963, the whole world was saddened by the death of this great man and leader. We would not believe that this terrible thing could happen in America and we were stunned beyond belief.

I couldn’t eat or do anything until late in the afternoon of the 23rd. I couldn’t sleep or do anything after I heard the news. Right now, I am watching so much television on him and reading the papers, I realize that we, the nation, have lost a great man. And I hope to God that we will be guided by him throughout eternity.

And I hope that the man who did this insane thing be punished without degree. I know this is a terrible thing to say, but I wish he could be hung upside down by his toes until he is dead for the horrible and insane thing he did.

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(This was written by Leslie Dinsmoor a couple days after President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. Lee Harvey Oswald was shot and killed Nov. 24 by Jack Ruby. He served a life sentence and died in prison.)

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