Most of us can recall what we were doing when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were taken down and the Challenger explosion. Where you alive on Nov. 22 of 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas?

It's a date I will not forget. I was an 19 year old college student at the University of Kentucky anxious to get home for the Thanksgiving weekend. It was an unusually warm Friday afternoon in Lexington and I was doing something I would not dare do today--standing on US 60 just East of Lexington hitch-hiking a ride home to Eastern Kentucky.

I had been standing on the road for an hour or so with no luck even though I had my suitcase displayed with the huge "K" and wildcat head on the side. This was a common practice at the time to indicate to a potential ride that you were a safe person to allow in your car. Finally an older car came swerving from lane to lane and stopped in front of me. The driver was a normal looking older fellow who rolled down his window and said, "Get in buddy, the President's just been shot".

I thought about it for a moment or two ("do i want to get in with this guy-he may be crazy") and then I realized I could hear his radio and a newsman was talking about the shooting. I climbed in and we listened in silence while details of the shooting were broadcast. I soon recognized the newsman as actually a DJ on Louisville station WAKY which did not have a network. I asked the driver if he minded if I changed the radio to a station with a network that might give us better updates. He said OK and I switched to WLW in Cincinnati and they were in the middle of the national anthem and we both realized what that meant. Word had just been released that John Kennedy was dead.

We both shared a cry and it took a while before we could drive on in silence.

I saved that old suitcase as a kind of reminder of that terrible day in 1963.

bill with UK suitcase



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