It was a moment that changed history. Fifty years ago this week, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
On Nov. 22, 1963, at 12:30 p.m., the president was shot while riding in his limousine in a procession to a luncheon with civic and business leaders in the city.
Though all those years have passed, many Monroe County residents remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news.
Longtime Waterloo alderman Charlie Metzger, 82, said he was working in a power plant when he heard about JFK’s death.
All of the workers in the factory were notified as soon as the news became known.
“We knew about it right away, and they passed the word throughout the plant,” he said.
Metzger said he viewed the assassination as a huge disappointment.
“I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, but that man didn’t get a chance to prove himself,” Metzger said. “Going out and killing somebody is not a way to solve a problem.”
Monroe County as a community seemed to feel much the same way, Metzger recalled.
“Even going back to Abraham Lincoln – that wasn’t a way to solve a problem either,” he said.
Metzger said the only reaction he has seen to a national event that compares to JFK’s assassination is Sept. 11, 2001.The Eternal Flame at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia serves as a memorial to President John F. Kennedy. (Robyn Dexter photo)
Fellow octogenarian Pearl Hirsch of rural Waterloo also remembers the day all too well.
“I came back from a chiropractor appointment in St. Louis and I was going into the drugstore… I heard some friends talking about it out on the sidewalk,” she said.
Hirsch said the national event was overshadowed by family tragedies for her, because her uncle was killed in a plane crash and her grandfather’s funeral were the same week.
“It was a sad time all the way around,” she said. “The whole community was saddened.”
Carolyn Henry, 71, of Waterloo recalls working at Childs Securities on Broadway in St. Louis when she heard the news.
After rushing back from a lunchtime shopping trip to Famous-Barr just two blocks away, she read the news on the Teletype that the president was dead.
“Everything closed down after that – no Teletype, no market, nothing – so we all went home to watch the events of the day unfold on TV,” she said. “It was a feeling of loss, depression and worry about what would happen to the country and the world.”
Years later, Henry’s son Scott moved to Dallas and when the family visited him, they went to Dealey Plaza and stood on the spot where JFK was assassinated.
“Such an overwhelming feeling overcame us as we explored the site,” she said.
To this day, Henry said she wonders just how the country and the world would be different if JFK had not been killed.
“Would we have stayed out of Vietnam if President Kennedy had lived?” she asked. “I would like to think the world would have been better with the influence of such a great man to lead.”