STEUBENVILLE - Ann Koon will always remember the November day when her sixth grade teacher held a hushed conversation with a school secretary and then turned to her students in a Weston, W.Va., Central Elementary classroom to announce President Kennedy had been shot.
It was, what Koon later described as, "a defining moment" that would remain with the 11-year-old sixth-grader for the rest of her life.
"I can still remember that day very clearly. It was in the afternoon and near the end of the school day. When Mrs. Wilks made that announcement my friend, Beth Ann, who was sitting in front of me, immediately started crying. It was such a shock and so hard to believe," recalled Koon, the director of public information at Eastern Gateway Community College.
REMEMBERING FOUR DAYS IN NOVEMBER — Ann Koon, director of public information at Eastern Gateway Community College, looks at a book about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Koon compiled a scrapbook of newspaper clippings from November 1963 when Kennedy was fatally shot in Dallas. Koon will be attending the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Lecture Series on Nov. 14 at Steubenville High School to hear retired Secret Service Agent Clint Hill give a personal account of the Kennedy era.
"I went home after school and in those days we had one black-and-white television and just the three television networks. So I sat with my family watched all of the news from that day and discussed the implications. We watched the initial reports of the assassination, the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald followed by the shooting of Oswald on Sunday and finally the funeral for President Kennedy on Monday," said Koon.
"My mother was an English teacher who later became the librarian at the middle school in Weston. She had purchased all kinds of newspapers during those few days and it was her idea for me to create a scrapbook of the newspaper clippings. She wanted me to save the stories because it was such an historical event. She wanted me to be aware of what a significant event had occurred. Now, when I look at those photos I can remember everything, including Jacqueline Kennedy starting to climb onto the back of the limousine and the Secret Serve agent trying to climb onto the car to protect her and the president," Koon explained.
Clint Hill will always be remembered as the Secret Service agent who ran after the presidential limousine in order to shield the first lady from gun shots on Nov. 22, 1963.
n The first lecture in the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Concert and Lecture Series will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Steubenville High School auditorium. It will feature feature former Secret Service Agent Clint Hill, and Lisa McCubbin, who wrote the book "Mrs. Kennedy and Me." Reserved seats for the event cost $20 and general admission tickets cost $15. For details, contact the chamber at (740) 282-6226 or the Herald-Star at (740) 283-4711.
Hill collaborated with journalist Lisa McCubbin to write "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" about the four years he was assigned by the Secret Service to protect Jackie Kennedy. The book was published in April and immediately became a No. 1 best seller on the New York Times best seller list.
Hill and McCubbin will be the featured speakers at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 when the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Lecture Series kicks off in the 1,300 seat Steubenville High School auditorium.
Tickets for the event are available at the Herald-Star newspaper and at the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce office on Market Street.
According to Sue Hershey, chamber president, the reserved seat tickets are $20 while general admission seats are $15.
"And persons interested in purchasing a VIP ticket should contact me at the chamber offices at (740) 282-6226," said Hershey.
"That significant moment in time was captured by photographers and eyewitness accounts. But Clint Hill was there and witnessed firsthand what was happening. I plan on going to the VIP reception prior to the talk, but at this point I don't know what I will say. He has obviously gotten past the pain he felt for so many years and has written a book about his Secret Service duties while he was assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. He was a witness to history," said Koon.
"I think the talk will be very moving, especially for those people who remember those days and still have the image of Agent Hill climbing onto the back of the limousine in Dallas to protect Mrs. Kennedy and President Kennedy. When I look at my scrapbook of newspaper clippings or the two books my mother bought about Kennedy's assassination, the images of that fateful day and the days that followed are still clear in my mind. The memories are etched into our memories," commented Koon.
"I was at the Texas School Book Depository museum in 1992 and the window where Oswald fired his shots from is glassed in with several boxes positioned like he had placed them to hide behind as he prepared to fire his rifle. It is absolutely chilling to stand there and to look out onto the street and imagine the presidential motorcade passing by the building," Koon related.
"I was in Dallas again this spring for a conference, and before I went I read Stephen King's fictional book about what would have happened if Kennedy hadn't been assassinated ('11/22/63'). There are historical facts in the novel about where Oswald walked that day and where he went after the shooting. It is chilling to walk those same streets," continued Koon.
"I have read Clint Hill's book and his personal account of life with the Kennedys. And I think about how Mrs. Kennedy was a student of history. She had just witnessed the assassination of her husband, but she knew what she had to do for the country," Koon said.
"I watched the funeral and I remember the images of the president lying in state at the White House and the Capitol and the final walk to the church. I remember the iconic image of her son saluting the casket, her decision to bury her husband at Arlington National Cemetery and the eternal flame at his grave. Mrs. Kennedy had fabulous vision to do everything she had to do in that short span of time and under those circumstances," recalled Koon.
"And, I look at Clint Hill and am impressed by his dedication to Mrs. Kennedy and his job. She would spend time at the Kennedy home in Hyannisport, Mass., in Florida and at a farm she rented in Virginia. And at that time there were only two Secret Service agents assigned to protect her. Clint Hill literally gave up his personal life for his job. I get chills thinking about the lecture and what he will talk about on Nov. 14," declared Koon.
"The assassination of President Kennedy was one of those defining moments in the lives of our generation that we will never forget. We will always remember where we were when we heard the president of the United States had been shot," remarked Koon.
"And, to listen to Clint Hill's personal account of that day will be a very moving experience," she added.
Copies of "Mrs. Kennedy and Me" can be purchased at the Herald-Star office, 401 Herald Square, for $25. A coupon worth $5 off on a book purchase is available in editions of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. The coupon expires Nov. 1. Hill and McCubbin will sign copies of the book following the lecture.
Partners and co-sponsors of the lecture series include the chamber; the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times; Eastern Gateway Community College; the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast; Apollo Pro Cleaning; Piergallini Catering and Steubenville City Schools.