of President Kennedy’s Assassination
started out like any other Friday in Detroit. I was a junior studying
electrical engineering at Wayne State University and I awaited the
my friend Dany that morning. It was his day to drive and we were soon
on our way.
were mostly in the morning and we were ready to leave for our return
by early afternoon. But before we could leave, Dany had to make a stop
engineering office to pick up some important papers from one of the
He parked in front of the engineering office and headed in. I waited in
those days, I
was one of the on-air personalities with a DJ show once a week and
a news broadcast on the campus “current carrier” AM station, WUBG.
been talk among the station management about beginning some dramatic
plays at some point, and although I wasn’t involved in that endeavor, I
curious about what was on the air while I waited. I tuned in to 620 AM
discovered a play in progress about the assassination of the president.
Abraham Lincoln story, I figured. It was being presented in a very
realistic style and I was hooked for a while.
But I began
sense that something was not quite right about the details and I
decided to tune
in something else. I switched over to WJR to catch some music and
realized that this was not about our 16th
president, but was a live
news report about our 35th president, John F.
Kennedy. I was stunned
to learn he had been critically shot and might not survive. It was the
shock I had ever received in my young life.
Dany returned a few minutes
later and we headed toward
my home in silence, except
for the somber reports from
the radio. I turned on the TV when I arrived home and my mother and I
glued to the set until my dad arrived home from work.
I had a
quarter track stereo tape deck back then, a Viking model 88 that
stereo tracks or up to four mono tracks to be recorded on the two sides
tape. My dad suggested that I get upstairs and start recording from the
as quickly as possible. I grabbed an empty tape, loaded it up and tuned
WWJ- FM. They were broadcasting a network news feed from NBC radio at
had a quick dinner and my dad
had another stroke of genius. “Keep recording as long as you can and
out and buy several 2400 Ft reels of tape. We should be able to go for
days.” he said. And so we did.
Over the next
few days we recorded as much as we could, day and night, from WWJ-FM,
and WJBK- FM. There were reports from around the world, across the
around our town of the capture of the assassin, the death of the
funeral, and comments from world leaders, local dignitaries and
the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald by the police and his assassination by
Ruby. We cried at the TV scenes of the first lady and the president’s
who stood stunned by the events and his loss.
and circumstance were over in a few days, the memories of those times
never leave me.
events were finally over, I packed the tapes away for safe keeping.
about 16 hours of sound all together. I never listened to them until a
months ago when my friend, Jim Feliciano, mentioned that he was very
in the Kennedy assassination and wondered if I had any recordings from
1963. I pulled
box and examined the tapes. They looked to be in good shape. I spot
couple and found that indeed the recordings were well preserved. I
make copies for him.
I planned to
let each track run for the full hour into my computer and convert each
mp3 file for storage. But they were so captivating that I listened to
every one during the recording process. It was a truly somber
with all the international comments, it made me realize how loved and
the United States and our people were in those days. The tapes also
we as a nation stuck together almost as one big family. I long for
simpler days and wonder if we will ever be able to restore the
compassion we had back then.
Kennedy famously said, “Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask
you can do for your country.
Robert G. Pratt 9/30/2018