Like millions of others, I vividly remember where I was on Nov. 22, 50 years ago, when we learned of President Kennedy's assassination.
A second-year law student at Georgetown University, I was studying in my boarding house room on E Street when I was asked to turn on the television. Several classmates huddled and watched as Walter Cronkite, fiddling with his glasses and almost choking back tears, announced that JFK had died.
Washington turned into a ghost town almost immediately. The department stores, restaurants and government offices quickly closed. The streets were deserted with no cars or taxis to be seen. After watching the various reports for hours, I walked out of the house to find somewhere to buy a sandwich - even the 7-Eleven store, which never closed, had shuttered its doors. But when I returned, another classmate was waiting with some unexpected news.
Paul Bible had stopped by the boarding house to ask me and my roommate if we wanted to accompany him up to the Capitol to view the casket. His father was Sen. Alan Bible from Nevada, who told his son to bring along a couple of friends to the Rotunda when Congressmen would have a private viewing immediately following the Kennedy family.
We walked about a dozen blocks up Constitution Avenue in the misty night and entered the Senate Office Building. Security was tight and Paul Bible had the Senator's identification badge to gain access. Using the underground subway, we traveled to the basement of the Capitol and took the elevator up into the Rotunda level.
We didn't wait more than half an hour in one of the conference rooms before being escorted into the area of President Kennedy's casket. Together with maybe 10 Congressmen and their families, we immediately followed Jacqueline and Caroline Kennedy once they left the viewing area.
Just after a few moments staring at the flag-draped casket, we started to walk down. But I decided to stop and stepped out onto the Capitol's balcony. It was about 1:30 a.m., and I could look in four directions.
There were hundreds of cars heading slowly to D.C. There were no horns heard. Only a silent, solemn procession of headlights coming toward the Capitol. It was an eerie sight.
I headed to Williamsport that weekend with plenty to share about my private viewing of JFK. I was ready to head to the dining room on Sunday when I paused a minute to watch Oswald being escorted from the Dallas jail. There on NBC-TV, I watched as Jack Ruby lunged and fired the fatal shot.
This time, I was watching history live on television in Williamsport. Only two days beforehand, I witnessed history up close in Washington.
I still remember the chilling feeling in looking out on the Capitol balcony in all four directions as mourners headed slowly to pay their respects to our fallen President, a bit numbing but surreal experience.