Forty Years After Kennedy’s Killing, There’s Still A Sense Of Personal Loss


Peter R. Whitmey

(Republished in the Vancouver Sun on Nov. 22, 2003; previously published on Nov. 22, 1993)



      It’s hard to believe 40 years have passed since the day of U.S. president John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Like so many people, I greatly admired the dynamic, charismatic “leader of the free world.”

      In the summer of 1960, at the age of 15, I moved to Seattle with my parents from Oakville, Ontario. It was in the midst of the Kennedy-Nixon presidential campaign, and I became a big fan and supporter of JFK. I particularly recall the televised press conferences that gave viewers a sense of somehow being in personal touch with the man.

      I certainly was not aware of the growing hatred toward the president by various factions of U.S. society such as members of organized crime, numerous anti-Castro groups, the Ku Klux Klan, the National States Rights Party, even members of the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

      On the day of the assassination, I was a second-year student at the University of Washington, majoring in history and economics. I had just left a class in Miller Hall when a friend told me someone had taken a shot at the president, but had apparently missed. However, by the time I reached the Student Union Building, it was obvious something serious had happened, as a large cluster of students and professors gathered around radio speakers set up outside. I then learned the shocking news that Kennedy was dead.

      Shortly thereafter, I headed for my car and drove to an afternoon job at The Seattle Times, where I was responsible for delivering the incoming mail, as well as running a Pitney-Bowes mail machine. In the course of the afternoon, I had little to say, as was the case with everyone else in the business office. I just wanted to complete my job as quickly as possible and go home, as the enormity of the events in Dallas began to sink in.

      Copies of the paper were available with the headline “Assassin kills Kennedy,” reconfirming what I still hoped was not true. (Coincidentally, the same headline appeared in the Vancouver Sun.) A short article near the bottom of the page referred to the arrest of a 24-year-old man named Lee H. Oswald for the murder of a Dallas policeman. He was also being questioned about the assassination of Kennedy.

      I felt a sense of relief that at least someone had been taken into custody, but spent most of the weekend preoccupied more with Kennedy’s death than with the details of the crime—especially given that no film footage of the assassination was shown on television (such as the now-famous Zapruder film, purchased that weekend by LIFE magazine.).

      Nor did I become interested in the question of who was really behind the killing of JFK until many years later. Like so many others, I accepted the verdict of the Warren Commission, although the shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby certainly looked very suggestive of an attempted cover-up right from the start.

      I tried my best to put it all behind me and get on with my own life, which resulted in my decision to return to Canada in 1967 upon graduation.

      Today, I still feel a sense of personal loss with each report about John Kennedy’s life and tragic death, like millions of others do around the world. At the same time, I also grieve for Lee Harvey Oswald and the family that he left behind.


    (Peter Whitmey, 58, of Abbotsford, BC, has published numerous articles about Kennedy’s assassination.)


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