In Boston, somber observances for JFK anniversary
BOSTON (AP) — Fifty years ago, Barbara Mahoney was teaching second grade in Hull when her principal interrupted class to announce President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. After she passed the terrible news on to her students, she was left to focus on her own trauma.
“It was devastating — it was surreal,” Mahoney, 76, recalled.
Like Kennedy, Mahoney was an Irish-American from Massachusetts, and she had volunteered for his presidential campaign.
“We thought he was wonderful,” she said. “He was one of us.”
Those feelings came flooding back Friday for Mahoney and hundreds of others who paid their respects to the slain president at the JFK Library and Museum in Boston and at other events around the state.
In the afternoon, about 750 people gathered in the museum’s auditorium and an overflow room to watch a video feed of a concert in the building’s pavilion, which also was streamed online.
The capacity crowd watched in silence as the U.S. Naval Academy Women’s Glee Club sang patriotic songs and hymns, including selections from the president’s 1963 state funeral. Also performing were Boston-born singer-songwriter James Taylor and saxophonist Paul Winter, whose Paul Winter Sextet was the first jazz group to play at the White House.
The performances were interspersed with selections from Kennedy’s most famous speeches, read by Gov. Deval Patrick, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and former NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund director-counsel Elaine Jones.
Marco Polo Smigliani, 65, of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., said it was a fitting tribute to the slain president.
“Unfortunately we have to be here, but I don’t think we can do enough to remember a leader like John F. Kennedy,” he said.
Museum visitors also saw an exhibit of never-before-displayed artifacts from Kennedy’s state funeral, including the flag that draped his casket and the saddle, boots and sword carried by the riderless horse that walked in the funeral procession. The exhibit included notes from Jackie Kennedy as she made plans for her husband’s funeral.
Boxes of tissues were placed around the museum, and some visitors wept as they watched video footage of the funeral. Among them was Hilary Hopkins, 75, of Cambridge, who remembered being glued to the funeral as a 25-year-old and marveling at Jackie Kennedy’s composure and nobility.
“In a sense, this place today is where I want to bear witness to a country that’s good in spite of the bad things that happen,” she said.
At the Statehouse earlier in the day, a steady rain fell as Patrick, accompanied by Massachusetts National Guard Major Gen. Scott Rice, stood at attention during a somber wreath-laying ceremony at the JFK statue on the front lawn.
The bronze statue, depicting a confident JFK striding forward, was dedicated in 1990. It has been largely off limits to public viewing since security procedures were instituted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but was available to visitors on Friday.
Associated Press writers Rodrique Ngowi and Bob Salsberg contributed to this report.