Older Iowans have spent the past week watching, reading and listening to accounts of President Kennedy’s assassination — and remembering where they were when the news came that Kennedy was dead.
Ninety-three-year-old Neal Smith was an Iowa congressman at the time, but he was in a Montgomery Wards store in Des Moines, not D.C., on this day 50 years ago.
“It came over the radio and somebody came out and said: ‘President Kennedy’s been shot,'” Smith says. “…Everybody gathered around me and said: ‘What in the world’s going to happen now?’ Most all of the people there didn’t know that the vice president would be sworn in, so I told them the vice president would be sworn in.”
Smith says people in the crowd who hadn’t even voted for Kennedy started to cry. Susie Culver cried when she heard the news. She was a dietician at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines, doing a consultation when the television in her patient’s room started broadcasting the news. “The patient and I both dissolved in tears and watched it together,” Culver says. “I sat on the edge of his bed and watched it.”
Clifford Stokes was a high school principal in Hamburg, Iowa, when another school administrator came into his office with the initial news that Kennedy had been shot. It was during the noon-hour, as students and staff were making their way back to school after lunch.
“The elementary/junior high principal said: ‘Are we going to let school out?’ and I said: ‘No way are we going to let these kids loose on the roads in this kind of excitement,'” Stokes says. “And then when it was heard that he died, we decided just to let the teachers discuss it in class and turn the radio on.”
Stokes and nearly a dozen other Iowans shared their memories of the day Kennedy was shot with Des Moines photographer Dan Welk.
Watch Welk’s video here.
If you’d like to share your memories, too, go to Welk’s Yimea post and click there to leave a comment.