Friday, March 7, 2014
By Roy A. Whitcomb Jr.
From the Portland Evening Express, Nov. 23, 1963
The heart of the city weeps in its grief today.
Somehow life goes on, but on every face in every store, on every street corner and in every car there is a numb, quiet and tragic look.
The President is dead.
The stores along Congress Street were open today. There were a few customers, clerks and, in some display windows, reverent, crepe covered pictures of the late President.
But in spite of the realistic attempts at normalcy, there was none.
Congress Street was like a great, mourning cathedral. The damp fog and glum sky added a somber note.
No one could talk about anything else today. The President is dead.
Flags atop stores were at half-staff, as are the four flags around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument. They are soaked by rain and they dripped as if tears and not the rain had poured on them.
You ask people what they feel. They look at you with a mixture of surprise - for asking such a stupid question, perhaps – and anguish.
“What are we going to do now?” asked John DiBiase, a restaurant worker. “He was the greatest man I’ve ever known. What are we going to do about this horrible thing? Are we going to let people do things like this?”
DiBiase waved his hands towards a rack of newspapers. Big, big headlines dramatized his point:
“The President is Dead”
There’s no news today about the century’s biggest news and one of history’s most tragic events. It all happened yesterday.
But there is reaction today along Congress Street like this:
“It still doesn’t seem possible, but when I look at the newspaper I go cold. I cried myself to sleep last night, and it was a fitful sleep,” said Mrs. Dorthl MacDonald, a clothing store clerk.
Another woman said she didn’t sleep last night: “Every time I closed my eyes I saw President Kennedy’s smiling face. And I cried.”
Jeffrey Anderson, 11, heard about the shooting while at Presumpscot School. It was announced over the schools’ P.A. system.
“I felt terrible. Everybody felt awful. I still felt bad last night. I feel the same way today, you know kind of sick.”
“ASSASSIN KILLS KENNEDY”
That headline loomed up from the dusty corner if the restaurant where the newspaper had been tossed. Today the restaurant has a few customers in it. All were talking about the assassination.
“Yesterday we had a man come in from an office. He’d just learned about the shooting. We turned on our radio. It wasn’t turned off until we closed.
“Now it all seems like a bad dream. The kind of dream you can’t seem to forget even the next day. And now it’s worse because I know it wasn’t a dream…”
Before the woman could say anymore she broke down. She refused to give her name.
Donald S. Hibbert, Falmouth Foreside, said he was stunned yesterday. “After we got our bearings…if that’s what the word… I realized what a tragic and terrible thing had happened and was relieved to hear Johnson had been spared and was able to take over the government. I’m sure he’ll carry on very well. He’s a smart, well-informed man who can do the job, I think.”