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Tue, Aug. 20

Local residents answer age-old question: Where were you when Kennedy was shot?

PRESCOTT - Americans are typically consumed with meal planning the week before Thanksgiving. That was the case 50 years ago just as it is now.

The Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of John F. Kennedy changed all of that. Gone were thoughts of turkey, stuffing, cranberries and the coming Christmas shopping season, replaced by a sense of disbelief and horror.

Similar to the American reaction on Sept. 11, 2001, many flocked to the nearest television set to watch the unbelievable news as it unfolded in Texas.

Many current Prescott residents can remember waiting to hear whether Kennedy had died from injuries sustained in the Dallas shooting.

All said they felt a sense of disbelief upon hear the news of his death.

Alan Balser worked as a principal at a school in Rockford, Idaho. He was in his early 30s at the time, and can remember the shooting as if it happened yesterday.

"A mother came into the office and said JFK had been shot, and they reported he had passed away. I thought maybe she'd heard the wrong thing. No one in their right mind would shoot that man. I was in disbelief. People started calling the school and we knew it had happened," Balser said.

Classes at the school were canceled the next day due to the national tragedy.

"It was hard for everybody to give thanks at Thanksgiving, I remember. In my estimation he was one of the best presidents we ever had," Balser said.

Karen Hagberg was just a girl at the time, and was in her fourth-grade class in Minneapolis, Minn., when the teachers were called away to be informed of the tragedy. Hagberg noticed how sad they were when they returned.

"They told us what had happened and they sent us home for the day," Hagberg said. "The day of the funeral, I remember they wheeled out a TV and put all the classes out in the hallways on the floor and we watched the funeral. Most of my reactions were based on the adult's reactions, on how sad they were, and how tense it was."

Joyce Haas was in sixth grade when events unfolded in Dallas. She first heard the news while walking back to school in Omaha, Neb., following her lunch break.

"We had a safety patrol. Someone told one of them and it spread like wildfire among the students," Haas said. "When we got in the building, all the teachers were talking about it. I remember being shocked that something this horrible could happen in this country."

Sue Campbell was a college student at the University of Nevada when she first heard the reports. "We went to the journalism department, because they were the only ones we knew that had a TV," Campbell said. "I was living in Reno. All of the casinos went black for that night," she added. "People were just kind of walking around in a state of disbelief."

Now, Campbell said, she wonders what the country might have been like were Kennedy not assassinated.

"It seems like things would have been quite different if we could have had him for a little bit longer," she said.

Macrena Sailor said she was at home in Kansas City, Kan., when she heard the news. "I was horrified. I couldn't believe it," Sailor said. "I listened to the news nonstop and cried a lot."

Coming from an Irish-Catholic background, Sailor said her family members were huge Kennedy supporters.

"It was intensely personal," she said. "We prayed that he would be alive that day, and that it wasn't fatal, and we spent the next several hours on edge worrying about that. I still get emotional about it."

John "A.J." Seigler lived in Minnesota when he heard the news.

"I had just come back from duck hunting and everybody was all upset. The news hit me like a ton of bricks. It was one of the worst things to have happened in my lifetime," Seigler said.

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