Thursday, November 21, 2013

Everybody remembers remembering the day they shot JFK

I clearly remember waking up in the bedroom at our old flat to the news that John Lennon had died. I obviously remember seeing 9/11 unfold on a big flat screen TV in reception at Saatchi and Saatchi. I was in a lift at Television Centre when somebody told me that HMS Sheffield had been hit by an Exocet. On a happier note I remember watching Geoff Hurst net the fourth in the World Cup final while sitting on my suitcase in the reception of a hotel in the Loire Valley.

The death of JFK, which was fifty years ago tomorrow, was the first event I remember remembering.

It was early evening on a Friday. I don’t remember exactly who was in the house but I think my mother was. The radio was on. The first I remember was a story saying that the President had been involved in some incident involving a motorcade. I took that to mean some kind of car accident. Maybe I was the only person in the world who put that intrepretation on the news. We put the TV on. It would have taken a while to warm up. There was some form of rolling news, unusual at the time. It might have taken half an hour for the announcement that he was dead.

I can’t actually remember the details. I don’t know who passed on that news. It might have been Richard Dimbleby, but that may be something I learned later. The events of that day have been recapped so often that the original version is buried like a faint pencil sketch beneath a Rembrandt. But I do remember being in that room, looking at that TV and rather enjoying that feeling of righteous grief.

What I remember most of all is being told how I would always remember that day. Which I do. As much as anyone does.


  1. I was the only person in the boarding house kitchen when the headmaster bowled down at about 8 pm. He hated me but he had no one else to tell so he told me. I wasn't sophisticated enough to say "the chickens have come home to roost" but I thought something similar.

  2. I recall between marched into the school assembly hall to watch coverage of the first space shuttle flight on TV. A year later the same thing happened, only this time it was televised footage of The Mary Rose being raised from the seabed.

    In both cases I recall nothing of the event itself - only Mr Garner informing us that we were witnessing history in the making and that we would remember this day for the rest of our lives.

  3. A strange one I remember was standing in the queue for lunch at school and the headmaster announcing over the school tannoy that Harold Wilson had resigned.

    Still not sure why he felt the need to immediately inform us of this event.