"For my father, the Kennedy assassination awoke an ancient tribal anxiety," Sipress writes, explaining that the 20 years between the height of Nazism and 1963 must not have seemed a long time at all. This, too, brings to mind contemporary fears—of dormant prejudice, racial profiling—that surround other developing national tragedy. Consider the days of speculation regarding the perpetrator(s) of last spring's Boston Marathon bombing. As one widely discussed Salon piece put it, "Let's hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American."
Shutting down the New York Stock Exchange
One of the first outside groups of people to feel the impact of the shooting weren't even aware at the time of what the news was that they were facing. Veteran Wall Street trader Art Cashin was on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange that day when a major selloff of stocks began. Only later would he learn that the selloff was initiated by a single branch manager in Dallas, who played a hunch in the frantic first moments after the shooting. Via Business Insider:
"What happened"?, asked the manager. "Parade got canceled" mumbled one of the returnees.
After questioning, he learned that they had heard the sirens accelerate, the police lights flare and the "parade" suddenly turn right. They were many blocks away and obviously heard no shots.
The savvy manager quickly asked – "Give me a bullish reason to pull a President out of a parade?" "It's not to sign a tax bill – that could wait." No one could think of a bullish reason to divert a parade. Then they mulled bearish reasons. No one thought assassination. But they did think natural disaster, nuclear accident, missile threat and scores of others. That's when they decided something "bad" must have happened and began to sell.
With an hour, trading was halted in New York, just seven minutes after Kennedy was declared dead in Dallas. All they knew was "something bad" had happened to the President, and it was worse than they imagined.
The journalists at work
Kennedy was killed at 12:30 p.m. local time. At 12:40, a terse AP news bulletin sent word of the shooting to newsrooms around the nation. The story of that bulletin concerns a brief, frantic telephone call between Bob Johnson, bureau chief of the Dallas AP office, and James W. “Ike” Altgens, the staff photographer who captured some of the clearest photographs of the scene at Dealey Plaza—including, famously, the shot of Secret Service agent Clint Hill reaching to grab Jackie Kennedy across the trunk of the vehicle. A recent AP story recounts that crucial conversation:
“Bob, the president’s been shot,” he shouted from a pay phone.
“Ike, how do you know?” Johnson demanded.
“I was shooting pictures then and I saw it.”
“Ike, you saw that?”
“Yes, there was blood on his face.”
Johnson typed furiously, folding in Altgens’ details.
Here's the initial bulletin:
Parkland Memorial Hospital
A different sort of shock pulsed through Dallas' Parkland Memorial Hospital when the earliest reports arrived on November 22 — one coated with the urgency of attending to the president before his wounds were confirmed fatal. The same AP story describes the terse intercom announcement that informed hospital staff of the emergency at hand:
Because it was lunchtime, many on the Parkland staff were in the cafeteria when calls suddenly blared over the public address system, summoning specialists — “stat.”
Dr. Ronald Jones called the operator to learn why.
“Dr. Jones, the president’s been shot ...,” she said. “They need physicians.” The cafeteria cleared.
In an account for The Augusta Chronicle, a then-nursing student recalled rushing to the hospital and facing chaos: "The president and governor was being treated, but we still had other patients to take care of." Meanwhile, doctors swiftly attended to the president, inserting an IV and examining the neck wound, but it was too late. A doctor recalled to the AP the precise moment they realized he was gone:
Dr. Kemp Clark, professor of neurosurgery, was standing by a heart monitor at one point, McClelland recalls. Kennedy’s heartbeat had flatlined.
“Dr. Clark said to Dr. Perry—and I remember the exact words—‘He said, ‘Mac, you can stop now because he’s gone,’” McClelland says.
The impromptu funeral march
For some several thousand concertgoers on November 22, the news of Kennedy's assassination was delivered not by a family member or radio announcer, but rather by Erich Leinsdorf, the longtime Austrian-American music director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Leinsdorf was about to begin a matinee concert that Friday when he learned the news, and so he had the grave responsibility of passing it along to the oblivious crowd.