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Texas School Book Depository


This building.

Right here in Dallas, Texas.


This is where The Legal Genealogist‘s childhood ended.

There may not have been all that much remaining, that bleak day in November 1963.

I was, after all, a child who learned to curl up in a ball in an elementary school hallway, practicing what we would do when (not if) the bomb dropped.

I was a child who understood only too well the hushed tones of the adults and the shock on everyone’s face when the television showed us images of Russian missiles in Cuba.

But I stopped being a child altogether the day a gunman killed a President of the United States.

From this building.

Right here.

In Dallas, Texas.

I was in the seventh grade at Thomas Jefferson Junior High School in Edison, New Jersey, on Friday, the 22nd of November, 1963. Mr. Lutz was my science teacher. He was in front of the class that afternoon, when another science teacher — Mr. Thompson — came through the connecting hallway between the two lab rooms and pulled Mr. Lutz aside.

He came back in, and his face was ashen.

He didn’t say anything to us.

He didn’t have to.

We didn’t know what it was, but we all knew something was terribly wrong.

He tried to pick back up with the lesson, but a few minutes later the room intercom buzzed. Mr. Lutz picked up the receiver and stepped out into the hallway. When he came back in, his face was a color I’d never seen before. And his hands were shaking. He told us to sit quietly, and he stepped back into the connecting hallway.

We only had a few minutes until the end of that class period. We sat there, not knowing what was wrong.

Then the principal’s voice came over the school-wide announcement system. We were told that the President had been shot, and that we were to change to our next class… in silence. There was to be no talking.

We gathered up our things and quietly moved to the next classroom. It wasn’t in complete silence, no. I remember whispering to classmates, asking whether there would be war — since we couldn’t imagine that a President could be shot on our soil by anything less than an act of war. I remember someone wondering in a whisper if the President would live. I remember teachers trying to hush even those whispers.

We sat in our next classroom for a short time, again in silence, before the announcement came again: “The President,” our principal said, “is dead.” And we were dismissed, early, to go home.

Home. Where all of us sat mesmerized for days in front of the television, watching events play out that were unimaginable only hours earlier.

The death of a President.

The swearing in of his successor.

The suspect gunned down in the police station.

The state funeral.

The burial at Arlington Cemetery.

The end of Camelot.

And the end of childhood.

No more illusions of safety, if any were left by then.

No more illusions that adults could prevent the worst from happening, if any were left by then.

No more illusions at all.

I stopped being a child altogether that day in 1963.

That day when a President was gunned down in cold blood.

From this building.

Right here.

In Dallas, Texas.

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