THE PRESIDENT’S WIDOW
Recently I was compelled to do a bit of research on the assassination of U.S President John F Kennedy. Back in November1963 I was a young wife and mother. The emotions I experienced upon hearing of that life altering event are still embedded in my psyche. Before that time everything seemed fairly simple. The war (Second World War) was over and except for some conflicts in the Far East, peace was thought to be inevitable. The US had a beautiful couple on the throne in Washington DC and the world as we knew it was unsinkable. We assumed that with “Jack” at the helm of our particular “Titanic” it would never slam into an ice-berg.
When John F Kennedy died we fell into a world of confusion, mistrust and downright paranoia. (don’t think we’ve ever recovered!)
I wondered about the reaction of Kennedy’s wife Jacqueline who was in the car with her husband during that horrific incident. The following biographical reference provides some insight into what the First Lady of the United States experienced during that terrible time.. Earlier that same year her two-day-old son named Patrick, had also passed away.
After the motorcade turned the corner onto Elm Street in Dealey Plaza, the First Lady heard what she thought to be a motorcycle backfiring, and did not realize that it was a gunshot until she heard Governor Connally scream. Within 8.4 seconds, two more shots had rung out, and she leaned toward her husband. The final shot struck the President in the head. Shocked, she climbed out of the back seat and crawled over the trunk of the car. Her Secret Service agent, Clint Hill, later told the Warren Commission that he thought she had been reaching across the trunk for a piece of the President’s skull that had been blown off. Hill ran to the car and leapt onto it, directing her back to her seat. The car rushed to Dallas’s Parkland Hospital, and on arrival there, the president’s body was rushed into a trauma room. The First Lady, for the moment, remained in a room for relatives and friends of patients just outside.
A few minutes into her husband’s treatment, accompanied by the President’s doctor, Admiral George Burkley, she left her folding chair outside Trauma Room One and attempted to enter the operating room. Nurse Doris Nelson stopped her and attempted to bar the door to prevent her from entering. She persisted, and the President’s doctor suggested that she take a sedative, which she refused. “I want to be there when he dies,” she told Burkley. He eventually persuaded Nelson to grant her access to Trauma Room One, saying “It’s her right, it’s her prerogative.”
Later, when the casket arrived, the widow removed her wedding ring and slipped it onto the President’s finger. She told aide Ken O’Donnell, “Now I have nothing left.”After the president’s death, she refused to remove her blood-stained clothing, and regretted having washed the blood off her face and hands. She continued to wear the blood-stained pink suit as she went on board Air Force One and stood next to Johnson when he took the oath of office as President. She told Lady Bird Johnson, “I want them to see what they have done to Jack.”