La Feria News

A November to Remember

Special to LFN
By Diane Shalala Fritel

It was my first teaching job: I joined Catholic Lay Mission Corps after graduating from St. Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana, and was assigned a sixth grade class at Dolores School, south of Austin, Texas. The teachers lived in an army barracks across the parking lot from the church and school.

One day a young member of the Texas State Legislature came to the barracks looking for a “date” for the reception for President and Mrs. Kennedy who were coming to Austin after they left Dallas. The choice came down to who could fit into his sister’s formal clothes because none of us, with our $25.00 a month salary, could afford to buy anything appropriate. I guess I won, and he brought some formal dresses to the BOQ where we lived. I then went to Payless Shoes, which happened to be along route of the President’s entourage the next day, and bought a pair of “heels” for five dollars. I was nervous and excited about meeting the President, but I thought I was ready.

The next day, Friday, November 22, 1963, some of us were watching the Dallas procession on our old black-and-white TV after lunch in the BOQ. What we have been seeing for the past sixty years is what we saw that day: shots fired, vehicles racing from the scene, staff and security at the hospital, and Walter Cronkite telling us that the President had been shot (and later he told us that he had died).

While we were glued to the TV, Father Baker came in and told us that they were taking all the kids into the church to pray for the president. The younger kids really didn’t comprehend what was happening, but my sixth graders were pretty aware, and most of them were in tears. Father came into the church a few minutes later to tell us that the President had died. After more prayers, the kids were all sent home early.

I decided to take my shoes back to Payless and get my money back. When I arrived at the store, there were hundreds of people sitting along the parade route who had arrived early and did not know that the President had died. Finally, a police car came along and told the crowd. We all went home and were glued to the TV for many days…and many years, too. I guess we are never really ready for the unexpected.

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