November 22, 1963
It’s early in the afternoon on Friday and I’m sitting in Mrs. Becker’s 3rd grade class at Pyburn Elementary School in Houston, Texas. This particular classroom was right next to the school’s Admin Office. It was not unusual to see the principal, Mr. Klein roaming the halls during and between classes, but it was unusual for him to come to the door of a class and motion for the teacher to come out into the hallway. That’s what he did on this day. I was sitting in the second desk from the front on the second row from the door, so I had a good view of the meeting between my principal and teacher. Mrs. Becker was obviously taken aback by what Mr. Klein told her and as he walked away, she slowly turned around and walked across the front of the room towards her desk. It looked like she had seen a ghost. To say she was shaken would be an understatement. The scene plays in my mind like a video in slow motion, although as slowly and deliberately as she was walking, it really was in slow motion at the time. Needless to say, we were all on the edge of our seats as we watched our teacher acting like she never had before. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong. As a young boy living during times of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union, I can remember going through “bomb drills” at school, but that seemed like playtime compared to whatever was happening now. Mrs. Becker looked at us and said, “Someone just shot President Kennedy in Dallas.” The first thing that popped into my head were scenes from the day before when the President was in my hometown. He had spent his final night on this planet at the Rice Hotel in downtown Houston. And while all this was sinking in, if that’s possible, Mr. Klein’s voice suddenly came across the school’s P.A. system informing the entire school of what had happened. It was very strange hearing a voice coming through that speaker because to my memory that was the first time the P.A. had been used. Then he somehow patched through a live radio broadcast and Walter Cronkite’s voice appeared. This was really getting bizzare. I’m sitting in my classroom listening to Walter Cronkite and that’s when I witnessed history. The attached video is the very announcement I heard that day. After that, everything’s a blur. I do remember several girls starting to cry and getting up and walking out of the room without Mrs. Becker’s permission. She said nothing to them as she sat at her desk staring at the floor in what appeared to be a state of shock. We weren’t released early that day, but when school was over, I ran all the way home to let my mother know what had happened as if she didn’t already.