Monday, November 7, 2011

Former Capitol Hill secretary recalls Kennedy assassination, Nov. 22, 1963

This is another story from Donna Lee, this time describing how she learned that President Kennedy was assassinated:

"The staff of Senator Yarborough, the senior senator from Texas and a liberal Democrat, and the staff of Senator Tower, a conservative Republican, had lunch together every Friday (those were the good old days). Although I was working for Senator Dominick at that time, I still went to lunch on Fridays with the group. We always went to a place near the railroad tracks called 'Spicer's.' I always made sure that I had quarters for the jukebox to play 'Puff, the Magic Dragon.' I can't hear that song today without thinking about that awful day.

"There was an elderly guard, in his 90s, on Senator Carl Hayden's patronage who was a boyhood friend. He manned the side entrance to the Old Senate Office Building that we used after lunch. As we walked up, he said, 'Kennedy's been shot.' I couldn't wrap my head around the fact that it might be fatal. I had to walk by Senator Tower's office to get to Senator Dominick's office. It only took a moment to step into Senator Tower's office with my friends. I saw Ken Towery, who was the administrative assistant, hanging up the telephone with tears streaming down his face. He looked up and simply shook his head without saying a word."

Two days later, on Sunday, Donna would experience yet another shock:

"I was in a cab on the way to the Senate Office Building to watch the funeral procession from The White House to the Capitol when the radio announced that Ruby had shot Oswald. The cab driver cursed and swerved over the curb and up a berm. It took him a few minutes to compose himself and get the cab back on the road. I was a lifelong Republican but, as you say, it didn't matter. The sadness just permeated all of Washington. I stayed until the Christmas recess. My dad had built a lodge/motel in Aspen so I went back there to work after Christmas."