Radio Free Montone: November 22, 1963

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By John Montone, 1010 WINS

NEW YORK (1010 WINS)  – Six seconds in Dallas. A half century later.

Frank Ortenzo is a navy vet just like John Kennedy who he voted for and admired. Ortenzo was home in North Arlington watching TV when the bulletin came across the screen that the President had been shot.

“My wife cried, really cried. It was a shame what they did,” said Ortenzo. He’s 85 now.

Ed Frye was 28 on Nov. 22, 1963. “I was a plumbing apprentice up in Washington Township,” he told me, “and these two girls were running this lunch wagon and they both were crying. I said what happened? They said, ‘President Kennedy got shot.’”

During the 1960 presidential campaign, Gail Micheaux and her classmates in Rochester lined a motorcade route and got to shake Senator Kennedy’s hand. Three years later, her fourth grade teacher came into the classroom crying. “And she just told us, ‘class bow your heads, the president has been shot and he is dead.’”

Micheaux recalls one girl, screaming out, “Oh, my God we’re going to be at war.” David Pinto was an eighth-grader in Jersey City. He remembers leaving school and seeing parents running in all directions crying about something, then he saw, “My mother running up the street saying, ‘get in the house.’ And I wondered what did I do now, only to find out the tragic news.”

It was a festive Friday afternoon for Nancy Hirsch, a fourth-grader in East Meadow. Her music teacher was playing Christmas songs on the piano when the principal announced over the P.A. that, “President Kennedy had been shot and died. And then our music teacher started to cry.”

1010 WINS Facebook fans recall teachers allowing them to watch Walter Cronkite on TV in their classrooms. Bill Hooks writes that when his fourth grade teacher gave the class the news, he felt a “sense of fear, dread and confusion.”

I was also a fourth-grader at School-3 in Ridgefield, NJ. Running home to get my football helmet, I was stopped by a black man coming out of Kocher’s Pork store on Bergen Boulevard — the first black man I had ever seen coming out of a store in my hometown. He asked me if I knew who the president of the United States was. “John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” I said. “They shot him,” he said. And he began to cry.

“How is he?” I asked. “He’s dead.” I ran home, grabbed my helmet then ran back to the school yard to play football. But that night our Cub Scout meeting was cancelled; on Saturday morning there were no cartoons on TV, and during Mass on Sunday, the priest asked that we pray for the “repose of the soul of John Kennedy.”

A couple of hours later we watched Ruby shoot Oswald. And the next day the muffled drums, the bagpipes and the clopping sound of the riderless horse.

50 years ago.

John Montone 1010 WINS News.