Three residents recall impact of the day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 22, 2003

T.C. Williams

T.C. Williams remembers thinking something was wrong before he ever left New York City that day 40 years ago.

But it wasn’t until Williams, a mail train employee for the United States Postal Service, was on his regular run between New York and Boston that he learned of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.


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&uot;As I was on my way to work, I could tell something was going on,&uot; he said. &uot;People were talking in hushed tones and I could sense a feeling of unrest.

&uot;I had no idea what people were talking about or whether it was something I should know about. You just don’t stop strangers on the streets of New York to ask them what is happening.&uot;

But it didn’t take Williams long to learn of the tragedy once he reached work.

&uot;Most of those guys on that train were from New England,&uot; Williams recalled. &uot;There was not much talk on that trip. They were just stunned … and nobody wanted to accept the fact that John Kennedy was dead, just like that.&uot;

The news of Kennedy’s death shocked the country, leaving in its wake a nation of mourners that crossed political, racial and economic boundaries. But Williams, who spent the following day in Boston, believes it hit the hearts of Massachusetts’ residents even harder.

&uot;Boston was in state of shock. Everybody and everything in that whole city was hushed.&uot; he said. &uot;The Kennedy’s were from Massachusetts and Boston was the headquarters of the Kennedy’s.&uot;

Williams said he doesn’t believe any leader has experienced the universal popularity that President Kennedy enjoyed.

&uot;He was young, stylish, and had the country moving,&uot; said Williams said. &uot;The country was excited under Kennedy’s leadership.

&uot;I don’t think it ever really got the momentum back that it had under Kennedy.&uot;

– By Allison T. Williams

Suffolk News-Herald

Marion Matthews

Marion Matthews was at the chalkboard of a fourth-grade classroom when she heard the news.

The retired Portsmouth Public School guidance counselor teacher, at the time a Norfolk State University senior, was doing her student-teaching at Liberty Park Elementary School when she learned of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

&uot;I was writing on the chalkboard when the teacher that I was teaching for came in to tell me that John F. Kennedy had just been shot,&uot; Matthews recalled. &uot;All of a sudden, I didn’t feel like writing anymore. She sat down and cried. I was in limbo and didn’t know what to think or what was going to happen next.

&uot;Other teachers began to come to our room and we all discussed the assassination,&uot; she said. &uot;The children didn’t understand what was going on so the teacher explained to them what had happened. While she did that, I made lesson plans so that I could discuss the incident with the class.&uot;

– By Evelyn Wall

Suffolk News-Herald

Virginia Hill

Virginia Hill never met the late President John F. Kennedy.

But she remembers shedding tears for days after the president was fatally wounded as his motorcade rolled through Dallas 40 years ago today.

&uot;I felt as though I had lost a family member. I cried and cried for days,&uot; recalled Hill, a Walnut Hill Estates resident and retired Philadelphia police officer. &uot;His assassination was like, I don’t know… I still can’t get over the sadness of it all.

&uot;First JFK; then Bobby; then Martin Luther King. It was as if the world was ending, the world as we knew it anyway,&uot; she continued.

&uot;People all over the nation were crying and the churches were filled as news flashes kept bringing us news of the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald, and then Jack Ruby’s shooting him to death. We just couldn’t think what was happening.&uot;

Hill, who was pregnant and helping her mother raised her late sister’s eight children, remembers being home watching a soap opera when the news of Kennedy’s shooting broke.

&uot;They (the television network) broke into the program to tell us that JFK had been shot in Dallas. It was just too, too unbelievable.&uot;

Hill, considered by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to be an expert in finding missing, abused and murdered children, believes JFK’s assassination helped shape her life

The progress that John F. Kennedy and his brother, Robert, made in the civil rights arena inspired her well in life, Hill said.

She went on to become a police officer, recently getting her photograph and biography included on the National Law Enforcement Officer’s Memorial Fund calendar.

– By Barbara L. Allen

Suffolk News-Herald