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Warren Gerds Extra! Nov. 22 looms as a memory jogger

It’s coming on 50 years since the Kennedy assassination.
Texas School Book Depository 2013 (Monica L. Gerds)
Texas School Book Depository 2013 (Monica L. Gerds)
Grassy knoll, Dallas, Texas, 2013 (Monica L. Gerds)
Grassy knoll, Dallas, Texas, 2013 (Monica L. Gerds)
John Kennedy assassination site 2013 (Monica L. Gerds)
John Kennedy assassination site 2013 (Monica L. Gerds)

PHOTO: Moments before shots ring out in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy rides in the presidential limousine with his wife, Jacqueline, and Texas Gov. John Connelly.

GREEN BAY, Wis., (WFRV) – The movie “American Graffiti” asked, “Where were you in ’62?”

The movie was made in 1973, so assessments weren’t particularly deep when looking long term at the clock on the wall as it tick-tock, tick-tocks, tick-tocks away.

More importantly, very soon – Nov. 22 – will come consideration of “Where were you in ’63?”

That’s the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

Shot in the head.

When I first read of plans recently for Nov. 22, 2013, I thought, “Holy cow. Fifty years.”

It was a watershed day in American history.

Indelible.

I thought about stuff for a while – where I was, what followed on the day, how so many people were affected.

Then I went on as normal.

Then, in short order, my kid sends me some photographs she’s taken in Dallas.

Kid. She’s a grown woman.

Like my father always reserved a right – “You will always be my boy” (no matter how old) – she’s always my kid.

My kid’s pictures were of the Texas School Book Depository, Dealey Plaza and the nearby grassy knoll.

My kid wasn’t around in 1963.

The photos threw me. The day was big in my life, but I was unaware she has a fascination.

She says she picked up an interest when she was growing up from reading a Life magazine picture book on our living room bookshelf. There was a section in the book on Kennedy and the ’60s.

She’s read and seen a lot. She’s even read the Warren Commission Report.

“I more recently read Stephen King’s ‘11/22/63,’ a time travel book. EXCELLENT!”

In a way, my path to sitting here traces to the Kennedy assassination.

My university called classes that afternoon. A chemistry teaching assistant came into a qualitative analysis chemistry laboratory and gave the word. I was a chemical engineering major. A buddy and I went to his house and watched the news on TV – the Texas School Book Depository, Dealey Plaza and the grass knoll were part of the coverage that day and for years afterward.

My kid says the photo from the road looking back toward the Texas School Book Depository is the spot where the second shot hit.

The shot in the head.

I’ve never been to Dallas. My kid has. She’s telling me stuff from a day that I remember vividly.

Chemistry lab store room. Teaching assistant’s eyes glazing. Radio says Walter Cronkite says President Kennedy is shot. Numbness all around on TV. Questions. Mystery. A stormy, blustery night.

I don’t think back on that a lot.

Fifty years made me remember and sort…

Heck, I got to interview flamboyant showman Liberace first hand in Green Bay because of that day.

Liberace had stopped giving interviews because of a palimony mess, but he agreed to talk about the day as an anniversary approached because of the story he wanted tell.

Where was he Nov. 22, 1963? Asleep in a dressing room in a Pittsburgh theater amid his array of costumes that were freshly cleaned in carbon tetrachloride. When Kennedy was shot, his manager came into the room and awakened him to tell him the news – and got Liberace to fresh air. Liberace still became deathly ill because of the fumes, but he said the assassination saved his life.

The assassination raised questions about propriety. Should the National Football League games be played that Sunday? The decision was yes, and on Sunday, Nov. 25, 1963, the Green Bay Packers beat the San Francisco 49ers, 28-10, at Milwaukee County Stadium.

By then, another shock had occurred.

Saturday morning, Nov. 24, I was among millions who watched news coverage about the assassination.

Lee Harvey Oswald was being led from Dallas police headquarters. A shot rang out. The assassin was murdered on live television.

Fifty years.

It’s still fresh.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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