Friday, November 22, 2013

Sepia Saturday: Where Were You?

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.

This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt commemorates the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy by asking participants to reflect on where they were on that date or on other significant dates that serve as historical markers.  Indeed the world changed on November 22, 1963.  I was 12.  Before then I had never heard of such an act of violence.  Now never a day goes by without a news report of a murder, abduction, bomb threat, or mass killing. 

That Friday in November began like any other lovely autumn day for the students at Cradock Junior High in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Cradock Junior High School, Portsmouth, Virginia
Cradock Junior High School
Portsmouth, Virginia

My classroom was in the right wing.

I was sitting in the last row over by the windows of my classroom, and like I always did, I was paying close attention to Mrs. Ann Mancuso’s grammar lesson when the principal, Mr. Slade Phillips, came over the loud speaker with the horrible news that our President had been shot and killed. 

Snipped from Google Maps
the route from school to my house on Gillis Rd.

We were dismissed early and ordered to go straight home.  It was usually a 15-minute walk from school to home, but on that day I ran. 

I was petrified.  The tone of the principal’s voice was so urgent that I thought for sure the killer was driving around Cradock shooting randomly at people.  Whenever a car rumbled down the road, I held my breath as I prepared to be shot.  

This crazy world has given me several chances to get over that irrational fear of being the target of an assassin.

May 13, 1981, Portsmouth, Virginia
Me and Jordan, May 13, 1981

A couple months before my first daughter was born, President Ronald Reagan was shot in Washington DC, just a few days into his presidency.

Then on the very day my daughter was born – May 13, 1981 – Pope John Paul II was shot as he was entering St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City.  

Naturally, I’ll always remember WHERE I was on May 13, 1981, but I will also remember the assassination attempt because THERE WAS NOTHING ELSE ON TV and I was stuck in the hospital with all-day news coverage.  (The Pope forgave his would-be assassin, so I hope he forgave me for being annoyed at this bad timing of events.)

I had better luck with Daughter #2.  No assassination attempts on February 27, 1983, thankfully.  The next night was the biggest night in tv history with the final episode of "M.A.S.H." The hospital served steak to all new parents. (I could hardly wait for the nurse to take that fresh baby back to the nursery! Yep, Mother of the Year ~)

February 27, 1983, Portsmouth, Virginia
Me and Zoe, February 27, 1983

So where will you be today?  I hope you’ll be visiting my friends at Sepia Saturday

© 2014, Wendy Mathias.  All rights reserved.


  1. You have given us such a vivid picture of the link between major national events and their personal impact on you. I can just imagine the panic you must have felt as a 12 year old dashing home before more tragedy struck. . .

  2. You and I must be of a similar age, but Canberra, ACT, Australia was far away from the USA, and back then we were sure it couldn't happen there, and didn't feel the need to rush home, but nevertheless it was still pretty sobering. I must confess that when I was in hospital having babies, world events tended to pass me by!

  3. So you have an easy way to remember your daughters' birthdays? :)

  4. JFK: a man, a president, a day I will always remember.

  5. I remember being on the school bus when I heard about Reagan. I got off that bus as quickly as I could when it pulled up to my driveway, and I raced into the house, sure that I had news my parents hadn't heard. I remember the grave look on my dad's face. I'll never forget that.

  6. Wow, I was about to say, maybe you shouldn't deliver any more babies! Yikes! I do remember that last Mash episode, I was excited too. Funny thing about my first hearing of the news, and that it wasn't until after I got home from school that I received the news. Of course, perhaps it's because my elementary school didn't have a loud speaker into the classrooms.

  7. Momentous events create a heightened awareness that gives memory a clarity that ordinary events never achieve. Photos and videos may reinforce the memory but I think the constant repetition of tragic events like the Kennedy assassination only diminish our feelings by overloading our senses. A memorial should honor the person and never include a recreation of the horrific acts.

  8. I was mom was glued to the TV and I went outside to ride my tricycle in the driveway and remember how there were no cars driving down the was eerily calm that even as a 4 year old I knew something terrible had happened.

    Funny how we use dates of good or bad events to make a timeline of our lives. Everything revolves around 2002 here.

  9. It was my 18th birthday. I think I remember seeing the news on TV in a store window. My mother had sent me a sweater she knit. I was shopping for some new buttons--I liked the sweater but not the buttons. I never did get new buttons.

  10. You couldn't have better title for your blog for this post - Where Were You? What's more you never will forget.

  11. Nice post, combining personal milestones with history. Hope you didn't feel too guilty about wanting to send your newborn daughter back to the nursery so you could watch the final episode of M.A.S.H. & eat that special dinner in peace. :)) Having had a first child, you knew what was awaiting you when you left the hospital to go home! Might as well take advantage of any free time you could get before then! That's what I did with my second & third babies. (I was too naïve with the first one to realize.) Today's popular "rooming in" idea wouldn't have flown very well with me, I don't think. But I'm long past that stage of my life, so - oh well.

  12. That's a great ending wrapping with MASH. You have a good photo there of your school too. So many things we can never forget

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