Fifty years later

The Columbian Class of 1964 was scheduled to graduate May 29, 1964. Our real initiation into life, however, began shortly after lunch Nov. 22, 1963. Many of us were sitting in government class when word came over the intercom that President Kennedy had been shot in Dallas.

Soon, the radio reported that the president was dead. Amid shock and tears, Mr. O’Keefe calmly explained that this was a tragedy but that the Constitution provided for a smooth transition to a new president. The country would survive. Then the bell, a mechanical walk to the next class, and disbelief.

At band, Mr. Hawk offered brief condolences. We got out the music, “The Student Prince,” for the winter concert and somehow rehearsed.

It seemed ironically bright and warm walking home. My mother had been ironing shirts but sat staring at the TV news reports. The network death watch continued through the weekend, broken only by a Friday night get-together that should have been a fun trip to Toledo for the now cancelled basketball opener. It broke up early, winding up at Gold Crown for 15- cent hamburgers and feeble chat among the guys.

Sunday, we returned from church to witness the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald on television, followed by the regular NFL games. Monday, the streets of Tiffin were quiet and deserted. Even the birds seemed subdued. After the televised funeral, my brother and I went out to shoot some baskets. After a few minutes, we felt guilty and went inside.

School resumed Tuesday. LBJ was now president. Soon, the Beatles helped take our minds off the November tragedy. The Class of ’64 would know happier times that year. We were young; the future was before us.

There was no grief counseling then. Mostly we kept our feelings private and went on. Fifty years later, I think of myself and my classmates as we were on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963 and of how profoundly different the world became for us that afternoon.

Doug Collar

Columbian Class of 1964