“Ya’ll, the president’s been shot. I just heard it on the radio coming back from picking up lunch,” Richard said as he stepped from the back stairway into our work area with a soft drink cup and fast-food bag in his hands. The mixed clatter and hum of proof machines inside Central Bank ceased. No one spoke for a moment, then questions tumbled from everyone’s lips.
“How bad is he hurt?” Barbara said.
“Is he all right?” Lorena asked.
“Have they caught the guy who did it?” Johnathan questioned.
Richard shook his head. “He’s on the way to the hospital. That’s all they’re saying.”
In 1963, radios and televisions were not allowed in work areas in banks, not even on the second floor hidden away from public view. We had no access to the news. While we considered the gravity of Richard’s words, the employee elevator opened and Mabel stepped out with a basketful of work from the tellers on the first floor. Her slow speech matched her gait. “You all look like you’ve seen a ghost,” she said. “What’s wrong?”
“The president’s been shot,” Rusty, our college part-timer responded. “I don’t even like the man—he’s Catholic you know—but he is the president. I’m gonna run down to my truck and listen to the radio. Don’t tell anybody. If any of the higher-ups need me, make some excuse for my absence.”
Mabel tossed the stack of paper into a wire basket on the nearest table. “I know where there’s a hidden TV,” she said. We followed her as she shuffled to the opposite end of the building to the closed doors of the board room—off limits to all employees without invitation.
Rusty jumped ahead of Mabel’s slow steps, slung the door wide, and dashed to a black and white TV sheltered in a corner away from the massive conference table. We crowded around as he twisted knobs and manipulated the rabbit-ear antennae to clear the snowy picture of a press conference outside Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas.
Today, technology lets me alternate between fiftieth-anniversary services and fuzzy original newscast replays. I see books written by authors who were kindergartners on November 22, 1963, now declaring themselves experts on whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Details fade with the years, but I cannot forget one vivid moment as I stood next to Lorena, my co-worker, in her white blouse and red skirt—the color of fresh blood.
President John F. Kennedy was dead.
Employee names have been changed to protect guilty who broke the rules in rule-keeping days when we entered the Central Bank board room in Monroe, Louisiana.