“JFK: Like No Other” PBS documentary on 50th anniversary of JFK’s death

“JFK: Like No Other,” PBS American Experience

9 p.m. Eastern time Nov. 11 (part one) and Nov. 12 (part two) (Check local listings)

Millions of us remember where we were at the exact moment we heard the news that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963. It was about 11:30 a.m. in San Diego that Friday, and I was going to my locker to get my lunch. One of my seventh-grade classmates — I think his name was Johnny — came running by the bank of lockers, screaming over and over, “Someone shot the president!”

I remember saying, “Don’t joke like that!”

He stopped and held out a prohibited transistor radio and looked at me with such innocence and said, “It’s true! It’s on the radio!” And so it was.

I went by myself to an empty classroom and took out my rosary, which I did not normally have with me. Some other kids came in with their lunches and ate in stunned silence. When we were back in class, the principal announced over the loudspeaker what had happened, called for a moment of silence, then said we would stay in school. He was sure President Kennedy would want that.

It was the “birthday” of our Girl Scout troop that day, too. But instead of the celebration, we gathered in the parking lot of the Methodist church where we met each week, formed a big circle, prayed silently for a while, and then went home.

It was so sad, shocking and senseless.

We will all recount our stories on Nov. 22 this year, and perhaps speak of where we were on Sunday morning, when Jack Ruby shot and killed the suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald. I had just got home from Mass and CCD and was folding laundry in front of the TV. I wasn’t watching at that moment, but my dad walked through the room as the shot rang out, and I can never forget his exclamation.

But the PBS documentary series American Experience airing Nov. 11-12, “JFK: Like No Other,” produced and directed by Susan Bellows, is not going to analyze the events of Nov. 22 and what followed. It’s a comprehensive, unembellished and highly watchable four-hour documentary film on the life, political career and presidency of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, ending with one of the saddest days many of us will remember.

A few things stood out for me in the film about “the most fearless, most tragic presidency in our history,” CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING  on my blog at National Catholic Reporter.

(Parts of this video are in the documentary; I was not able to obtain a complete preview to post here.)


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