Where Were You?

There are certain things that happen in one's life that are forever etched in their mind. The news is so shocking or the event is so astounding that a person mentally records every facet of the experience to the point that years later they will have a flashback which is complete in every detail.

I have the wonderful privilege of being able to remember things from my second year of life. I often play a little game with myself. I begin thinking on a subject and I mull it over very slowly and completely. One will be surprised what small and intricate memories will emerge from the "fog" of time. When I was about four years old, my family all lived in a large, white house about three blocks off the downtown area of Tifton. We lived on Central Avenue in the 400 block. There were three families living in the same large house because the Second World War was being fought and the men of the family were all in the military in various parts of the world. The only man in the house was my Grandfather Golden. My mother and grandmother showed me how to cross Central Avenue and go to the corner grocery for them. "Now, Bill, look both ways and when there is no car coming you run across the street to the other side. And, when you come back, look both ways again and scoot across the street again." It was certainly a different day! Well, one day, I was sent to "The Busy Corner" grocery to pick up a loaf of bread. The money was sent with me and the ladies always got he needed item for me. When I went into the little store, I noticed that all the ladies were crying. I was upset by this situation and when I got back home I told my Grandmother that something was terribly wrong because all the ladies in the store were crying. She quickly called her friend who owned The Busy Corner and inquired as to what may be wrong. Her friend told her that they had just heard on the radio that President Roosevelt had died. That event and experience is indelibly etched into my mind after all these years.

Years later, while working at WWGS in Tifton, there was a similar experience. One day, I had completed my "air" time and was in an office writing copy for commercials. I was deeply engrossed in my writing when Frank Raley, our news director, rushed by the office in a very excited state. As he passed my door he said: "President Kennedy has been shot." We all jumped to our feet and made our way to the teletype room. There was no internet in those days and the teletype was the fastest way to get news. Four or five of us crowded around the teletype machine which was belching a long sheet of yellow teletype paper telling us of the events in Dallas just a few minutes before. Frank Raley quickly went into the control room and took over telling the public about the events as they emerged. I was standing at the teletype tearing off any sentence and paragraph which emerged and rushing it into the control room for Frank to announce. I remember standing at that that machine which was clicking and clacking at a furious rate. Jack Reynolds joined me. We stood there with hearts beating quickly, heads spinning at the news emerging. Suddenly, two words emerged which changed the world and sent us reeling: "Kennedy dead." I tore off the deadly two-word sentence and rushed it to Frank who was working up a very emotional sweat as he spoke of the events and informed the people of the surrounding area of the tragedy. I handed him the words and with trembling voice he said: "I have some terrible news for you. The President is dead. Something strange happened to all of us. No one was talking. Nothing else could be said. The control room was packed with employees. Hardly room to breathe. The air was thick. The mood was somber. The reality crashed home with terrible impact. No one could believe it. The day had started off as normal. All was well until the teletype began to relay the horrible news of the assignation of President Kennedy, the most popular President we had known to that point.

Many times over the intervening years, I have had a flashback to those moments, especially the one when Jack Reynolds and I watched those words emerge from the teletype machine.....K...E...N...N...E...D...Y D...E....A...D! I have wished many times that I had preserved those words on the original teletype paper because they were words that are etched in my mind forever. I will always remember where I was when I learned of President Kennedy's assignation. I was in the teletype room of WWGS in Tifton, Ga. It was a small room crowded with news machines. It was an insignificant little room from which emerged the devastating news of our Presidents death.

The human mind is an amazing thing. It can file things away which can never be erased. Every vivid facet of the memory is saved. My memory has forever "saved" the events of November 22, 1963.

William F. Harrell

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