November 22, 1963 - The Day of the JFK Assasination
Toughest Day, Traumatic Events
I was appointed to the position of Postal clerk on October 15, 1962. I use the word appointed because that was the term used when you got a job at the Post Office. It was rather a prestigious job to have at the time. I worked in a "barn of a building" from 3p.m. until told to go home, usually around 2:30 a.m. Few woman worked at the Post Office at the time and in "outgoing mails" there were only 2 older ladies. We had a great camaraderie with our co workers who were mostly male but pretty much treated the "new girls" with respect. We worked our mail and had a lot of fun doing it. There was usually lots of laughter and kidding and good times where we worked which was okay with the bosses as long as we got that mail out! I had been there a little over a year when the laughter and joking disappeared one evening.
We all remember where we were and what we were doing on that day, Friday, November 22nd, 1963. I was getting ready to go to work when Walter Cronkite interrupted a soap opera to tell the world that President Kennedy had been shot! I called my mother in to listen and to tell me I didn't really hear what I heard. I needed to hear it was a mistake and that everything was alright. We cried together. I remember thinking, there won't be any mail today, it seemed the whole world stopped. Then we slowly pulled out of the shock of the awful news and realized life would go on and it was soon time to go to work.
As I drove to work, I saw people on the streets openly weeping, driving cars with somber looks and often tears. It was so hard to see the grief on people's faces and no smiles, no laughter………….just grief.
When I got there, I walked in to punch the time clock and that is all that I heard, the sound of the time clock. I sat down on the primary line and started sorting mail with such a heavy heart. I suddenly realized something-NO ONE was talking. No One! I knew that I didn't feel like talking to anyone unless it was necessary but I was surprised that everyone felt that way. We did our jobs in a rote way, checking to see who might need help on a secondary or tying out. There was no need for assignments, we all just wanted to work the mail and go home and that is just what we did. One lady did try and talk and wanted to say something political but I shushed her quickly by telling her "no one feels like talking tonight Jessie, please respect that." Somehow we all got through that terrible evening and went home to the safety and warmth of our homes and our beds. I don't know about other people but there is something to be said about a warm bed making you feel protected from the, sometimes, ugly world outside. That’s how I felt that night.
Of course, there were dreary days that followed, America watched the funeral on TV and the mail kept coming and we kept working. The new President, Lyndon B. Johnson declared a National Day of Mourning and it was a federal holiday, but the mail did not take a day off so many of us worked that day.
For awhile, some of us would recall that "day of silence" on November 22nd but then, after a few years, we didn't mention it anymore. There were other tragic days during those times, what with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy and those times impacted us emotionally but none like the shock of that somber day in Dallas. I guess that is what we were…………in a state of shock!
I retired in 1992 and I was given my personnel folder with documents of awards, suggestions, discipline ( who me?????) letters from customers and stuff like that. As I read through the file, I happened upon a letter thanking me for working on the National Day of Mourning for President John F. Kennedy. It all came back to me in a flash.
This is a story I tell my grandchildren for it represents the feelings and actions of America on November 22, 1963.
AUTHOR NAME: Phyllis K Wood