Today, November 22 is the 45th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Many readers weren’t born when this happened in 1963.

When talking to older people, several events stick out in their minds:

Hearing about Pearl Harbor
The assassination of JFK
The planes hitting the WTC and the Pentagon

Most people alive at the time and old enough to be aware of what was going on can tell you right where they were the moment they heard the news about JFK. Yet years later, 45 to be exact, conspiracy theories still run rampant and we aren’t really sure why he was killed.

Where were you when you heard the news? If you weren’t on the scene yet, where were your parents? Have you heard them and your grandparents discuss this tragic event?

Camelot and Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ya have both been associated with JRK. Camelot described the new era the first 3 years that JFK was in office. Johnny We Hardly Knew Ya was an Irish folk song. Why were these phrases associated with this political dynasty?

The Kennedys, while presenting the image of Camelot, have led tragic lives. Joe, the oldest, was killed in WWII. Rosemary the disabled daughter was given a lobotomy to cure her developmental delays. JFK severely injured during WWII and assassinated while in office. Bobby Kennedy assassinated while running for president. Teddy Kennedy involved in an automobile accident that dashed any chances of the presidency. Today he has an inoperable brain tumor. Jackie Kennedy had an early death from lymphoma. John Junior and his wife were killed in a private plane crash. Yet our image of Camelot lingers, albeit a bit tarnished and more grounded in reality.

Johnny We Hardly Knew Ya. How would things be different had you lived?

11 Thoughts to “JFK Assassination 45 Years Later: Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ya”

  1. I more or less grew up with that legacy–was a few years shy of the actual assassination but was well aware of Chapaquidick, living in MA. Teddy never has lived that down and for good reason.

    Heard this song yesterday on an oldies station. I don’t know if anyone here knows it but I remember my parents playing it quite often. It’s a mix of “Anyone here see my old friend Johnny” and “What the World Needs Now is Love” with kids answering questions like, “What is segregation?” Very moving even now. I’ve never forgotten it. Sums up the chaos, sadness and turmoil of the sixties.

  2. -What is segregation?
    -I don´t know what seggeration is.
    -What is bigotry?
    -I don´t know what biggery is.
    -What does… hatred mean?
    -I don´t know what that is..
    -What is prejudice?
    -Hmm.. I think it´s when someone´s sick.

    [whistle] -Rise and shine, boys!
    -One, two, three, four! One, two, three, four!
    …(machine gun fire)…

    Anybody here, seen my old friend John, can you tell me where he´s

    -We´re at the Trademark, the motorcade is coming by here, I can see many
    many motorcycles coming
    by now, police motorcycles. Just heard a call on the radio for all
    units along Industrial, to pick up the
    Something´s happened here, we understand there has been a shooting. The
    presidential car coming up
    now, we know it´s the presidential car. We can see mrs Kennedy´s pink
    suit, there´s a Secret Service
    man spread eagle over the top of the car. We understand governor and
    mrs Connolly are in the car,
    with president and mrs Kennedy.
    We can´t see who has been hit if anybody´s been hit, but apparently
    something is wrong here,
    something is terribly wrong. I am behind the motorcade now, (and as you
    probably notice?) they´re
    going to Parkland Hospital…

    -We interrupt this program to bring you a special bulletin: Dallas
    Texas, the flash, apparently official:
    President John F. Kennedy died, at 1 p.m., central standard time.

    Anybody here, seen my old friend Martin, can you tell me where he´s
    He has freed a lot of people, but it seems the good they die young.

    -We´ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn´t really matter
    with me now. Because I´ve been to the
    mountain top. And I don´t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live…

    No-one can be certain who next will suffer, from some senseless act of

    Anybody here, seen my old friend Bobby, can you tell me where he´s

    … send you a message, I´ve been here too long already. So my
    thanks to all of you, and now let´s go
    on to Chicago, and let´s win there… [cheers]

    -Senator Kennedy has been.., senator Kennedy has been shot, is that
    -Oh my God, senator Kennedy has been shot. ….hold of a man, who
    apparently.. just fires a shot.
    Get that gun, get that gun, get that gun, stay away from the gun! His
    hand is frozen, get a hold of his
    palm, and break it if you have to, get it… Get the gun… hold
    him, hold him, we don´t want another

    -Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. That is the
    way he lived, that is what he leaves
    us. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond
    what he was in life. Be remembered
    simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it,
    saw suffering and tried to heal it,
    saw war and tried to stop it.
    -Those of us who loved him, and who take him to his rest today, pray
    that what he was, to us, what he
    wished for others, will some day come to pass for all the world. As he
    said many times, in many parts of
    this nation, those he touched, and who sought to touch him; ´-Some men
    see things as they are, and
    say Why; I dream things that never were, and say Why Not?´…

    What the world needs now, is love sweet love, no not just for some, but
    for eve-ry..-one…

    -What is segregation?
    -I don´t know what seggeration is.
    -What is bigotry?
    -I don´t know what biggery is.
    -What does… hatred mean?
    -I don´t know what that is..
    -What is prejudice?
    -Hmm.. I think it´s when someone´s sick.

    I remember watching a news clip where a mother was asking her child something and the kids answered, “Because we don’t want no niggers around here.” It made me sick. My mother went on a tirade. I grew up with a sense of social justice and that anger over bigotry.

    We watched the news a lot when we were kids–JFK’s and Bobby’s killing, MLK’s speeches, the killings at Kent State, then the Billy Jack movies…..I felt the rage even if second hand and never got over it.

  3. Punchak

    I was living in Mountain View, California. I was in my car. The news hit me so hard I had to pull off the road and cry. Martin Luther King had been assassinated in April 1968, and now our President had been shot. I truly feared for our country. What was happening? Then, two days later, I saw Jack Ruby aiming his gun at Oswald, the alleged murderer, killing him, while Oswald was being transferred from one place to another. To see it when it actually happened was shocking!

    My daughters, 11 and 13 at the time, had been told about the murder at school and the day devoted to Kennedy. My 6 year old son didn’t quite grasp what had happened. For the next several days, the whole country was in a daze. Nobody did anything, We met with our dearest friends; we didn’t do anything, just wanted to be together.

    I don’t know what kind of president Kennedy would have been, had he lived, but whatever he did, he stirred the young people to action; he started the Peace Corps which brought forth many future leaders, and the statement: “Do no ask what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.” will be forever connected to John F. Kennedy. Would it be that we all could live up to that!

  4. IVAN

    I was sitting in 6th grade class when the anouncement was made. School was immediately canceled. I remember walking home from the bus stop. Neighbors were out in their yards, silent and stunned. They would ask, “Did you hear the new?” I just went into the house and turned on the TV. Word came shortly afterwards that he had passed. My mother got home from work, she was crying.
    I got up the next morning and saw Ruby shoot Oswald on TV. Johnson being sworn in, Jackie, the funeral, it all seems like yesterday. How far have we come as a nation?

  5. Marie

    This is one of those infamous days in history and a day that is marked in my memory forever, as is the assassination of Martin Luther King. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when both occured. It seems like it was just yesterday in my memory.

    The attempt that was made on Ronald Reagan’s life in 1980, is also etched in my memory.

    I hope we never experience events like these again. That is why I pray for Obama everyday, for his protection and safety.

  6. Moon-howler


    The Challenger disaster is embedded in my mind. I remember right where I was and what I was doing.

  7. MH, me too. I was in high school and they brought televisions into our journalism class.

  8. Moon-howler

    That was such a dramatic event. Hundreds of thousands were watching it live on TV. One minute they were here. The next they weren’t. Also Christa McAuliffe was on there. Wasn’t she the first civilian? The competition amongst teachers to be on that shuttle was fierce from what I have read.

  9. Moon-howler

    Ivan, have they ever discovered why Jack Ruby shot Lee Harvey Oswsald? There have been so many conspiracy theories that I have forgotten the truth of it all.

  10. –Wasn’t she the first civilian? —

    Yes she was.

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