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I Witnessed JFK's Assassination: Here's What I Remember

Jenyce Gush was a teenager skipping school in Dallas the day of JFK's assassination

spinner image president john f kennedy and jacqueline kennedy in dallas on the day of his assassination
President John    F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy in Dallas on the day of his assassination.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Jenyce Gush was a teenager skipping school in Dallas in 1963. Now the director of volunteer services at the Suicide and Crisis Center in Dallas, she looks back on what it was like to witness the JFK assassination.

On November 22, 1963, a friend and I decided to skip school. We knew that the president was visiting Dallas and that his motorcade was going to come right down Lemmon Avenue. I was 15 years old, going to Rusk Junior High. The whole city came alive. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. I was standing on the curb on Lemmon Avenue, wearing big pink rollers in my hair, when I saw the governor of Texas, John Connally. And then there they were — the president and the first lady — in an open Lincoln limousine.

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I was in awe. This was the Camelot era. There had never been a president like John F. Kennedy or a first lady like Jackie. I was surprised to see them in an open car, that there was no bulletproof bubble. But mostly I was thinking about how attractive he was. He had on a pinstriped shirt, and he had these bushy eyebrows. I looked at Jackie, who was the epitome of beauty, with lipstick that matched her pink suit. I waved at them, and President Kennedy’s eyes fixed on me because I looked funny wearing these big pink rollers in my hair. He waved.

About a half hour after I saw the president, suddenly I saw this lady hysterically screaming in front of what was then Skillern’s Drug Store. She was yelling, “They shot him! They shot him!” I thought she was talking about someone she knew, a family member or something.

“They shot who?” I asked.

“They shot the president!”

“No, no,” I said. “We just saw him.”

I went into Skillern’s Drug Store and saw people huddled around a TV. No one spoke. It was surreal. That is when I heard Walter Cronkite say those haunting words: “From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2 o’clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.”

I thought, This can’t be happening.

For days, it was all anyone could talk about. It was such a dark time for the whole world. My mother had previously worked as a waitress for Jack Ruby, at the Carousel Club. So when Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and Jack Ruby was captured on a television camera shooting Oswald, it was just unbelievable. Within a short period of time, the FBI showed up at our door. I answered, and there were these two agents with badges. I panicked, shut the door in their faces and ran to get my mother, who was asleep. “Mother!” I said. “My God! The FBI is here! Did y’all kill the president?” Somehow, my young mind had made that leap. Of course, she had nothing to do with it.

Looking back, it was something you never dreamed could happen, and certainly not in your own hometown.

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