*Republished from the December 6th, 1963 issue of The Kayseean
By Tom Buchanan
(Editor’s Note: Seven King students–Bob Bruce, Sam Schumate, David Morgan, John Holler, Pete Holler, Earl Mathis, and myself–were fortunate in being able to spend November 23, 24, and 25 in Washington, D.C., and to witness there many of the events surrounding the ceremonies honoring the late President Kennedy. Following are a few of my impressions of those days.)
The most vivid memory I have of President Kennedy’s funeral ceremonies are the crowds which seemed to line the streets continuously throughout the entire period. The patience of these hundreds of thousands of mourners and curiosity seekers was phenomenal, and I must admit that on these days I saw a side of America which I thought had long since ceased to exist.
Four hours before the President’s body was scheduled to be taken from the White House to the Capitol, crowds were lined up five and six persons deep along the entire length of Pennsylvania Avenue. But even at this early hour, the silence along this mile-long route was more noticeable than that of a church.
The only noise at all was that of the traffic passing between the two lines, and even this was merely the sounds that wheels make–there was no horn blowing, no screeching of brakes.
If the spectators talked, they did so in whispers. A baby crying on Pennsylvania Avenue on that afternoon was as incongruous as a radio blasting out would be in church.
After the caisson had passed, the crowd all the way back to Lafayette Square in front of the White House began surging forward towards the Capitol. We were lucky in being fairly close to the end of the route to begin with, and when we reached the West front of the Capitol and turned around, we were able to see both the Mall and Pennsylvania Avenue completely filled with people–all moving in one direction.
Capitol Plaza was quickly filled with spectators, and here, again, the same deep silence prevailed as Mrs. Kennedy moved up the steps into the Rotunda with Caroline in one hand and John in the other. When the ceremonies inside the Capitol had begun, transistor radios appeared everywhere, and most people were thus able to hear the speeches then being made inside.
As soon as the Kennedy family had returned to the White House, the first of thousands of Americans began their long wait in line to file past the bier in the Rotunda. The line was sixteen blocks long to begin with, and continued to grow as time passed.