The nation was forced to come of age and have its innocence shattered. Fifty years ago today, Americans suffered a tragic generational moment when President John F. Kennedy was gunned down. It was a sunny, late fall afternoon as Dealey Plaza and the Texas School Book Depository were about to become part of the lexicon.
It was even harder to fathom for the youth.
Pablo Guzman was 13 years old. He was an eighth grader at Our Lady of Pity in the South Bronx. In the next half-century, Guzman would become a hard-nosed street reporter, primarily known for his work on WCBS/Channel 2. But that fateful day in Dallas would remain with Guzman throughout his career.
“It was permanently etched,” Guzman tells Tuned In. “I went to Catholic school so you can imagine what his election and his murder meant.”
Kennedy was the first Roman Catholic elected president. So parochial schools felt like their “Favorite Son” was killed. But of course, the sadness permeated much deeper.
Guzman came home from school on November 22, and was greeted by everyone crying in his South Bronx project. That began a deadly string of high-profile assassinations. Over the next four and a half years, activist Malcolm X and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were killed. But even more dramatic was the fatal shooting of JFK’s brother Robert Kennedy in June 1968.
“What was going on? Were we safe? Everyone gathered to watch the images on TV,” Guzman recalls.
Just as the mourning and grieving process started for the 35th president’s death, Americans were rocked to the core again. This time, it all unfolded live as alleged gunman Lee Harvey Oswald was being transported from police headquarters to county jail.
“The most stunning of all. My parents’ friends were in our living room, TV on. Glasses half-filled with drinks like at a wake,” Guzman remembers. “This Oswald Guy was about to be led away. Suddenly…shot him on live TV! NOTHING would ever be the same!”