The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy was an event that shook the faith of generations of Americans and changed the nation, several witnesses to the tragic event and experts remembered on CBS' "Face the Nation."
The venerable television show turned aside today's issues of Obamacare and other political struggles Sunday for a look back to 50 years ago, when the nation's youngest-elected president was slain while in a motorcade heading through Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963.
"Fifty years ago this week, a lone gunman pointed a $21 mail order rifle through this window and shot and killed the president of the United States while his motorcade was passing below, said host Bob Schieffer, hosting the Sunday show from the former Texas School Book Depository, which is now a Kennedy museum.
Schieffer on that day was a young reporter with the Fort Worth Star Telegram. He ended up answering the phone on that busy day to a woman asking for a ride to Dallas — the woman turned out to be Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald's mother.
Like many Americans who were alive in 1963, many Schieffer's guests Sunday remember clearly the events of that day, but were on the front lines as the events unfolded.
Luci Baines Johnson Turpin, daughter of late President Lyndon Baines Johnson, remembered the day she learned that Kennedy had been shot and her father was to be immediately sworn into office.
"We just finished lunch and walked back to our Spanish class and had not been settled in, and a young girl came running in saying the president's been shot," Turpin remembered. She said the teacher told them that since they didn't know the rumors were true, they'd finish their lessons.
But shortly after, "the bells of the National Cathedral began to ring and ring and ring."
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However nobody said a word about her mother and father, so she did not know if they too had been shot.
In the days ahead, Turpin said, her father remained "strong and steady, determined to do the right thing."
And the funeral "tore your heart out," Turpin said.
"You looked at the Kennedy family so close, so young, so vital, so noble," she said. "And this beautiful person, Jacqueline Kennedy, standing with a child in each hand so terribly alone."
In addition to Turpin, journalists Hugh Ainesworth and Michael Cochran, along with Dr. Ronald Jones, who had been the chief surgical resident at Parkland Hospital, spoke with Schieffer about their memories.
Ainesworth, who was a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, was one of the first people who witnessed JFK being shot, and also was there when Jack Ruby shot Oswald.
"Within seconds, there was complete pandemonium," Ainesworth said of the Kennedy shooting. "People were throwing their children down protecting them. People were running into each other, people were screaming, crying, just the most hectic thing you can imagine. And it was such a contrast because people had been so happy."
Cochran, who had been working in Fort Worth in 1963 where Schieffer worked, noted that the president's visit to that city "had gone beautifully.
The welcome was just amazing; they obviously adored the president."
But he admits he was relieved when the president left Fort Worth and headed to Dallas, but minutes later a copy boy tore copy from the newsroom printer and screamed "the president's been shot."
Jones said he remembers finishing an operation at the hospital that morning when the page operator put out a call to report to the emergency room "stat."
When he entered the room, the president was on a stretcher. Jones said he saw a small hole in the front of Kennedy's neck, and knew there would be a large exit wound.
He and other doctors tried to save the president, and Jones said he saw "no evidence of life," although other reports said Kennedy was still breathing for a short time.
Ainesworth also recalled Ruby, Oswald's killer, as being a man who "wanted to be somebody," but "he was quite a show off. He was not a nice man. He had a huge temper and I'd seen him at the newspaper every week. He was a groupie for newsmen and cops."
Cochran also recalled being one of Oswald's pallbearers. No mourners had come to the funeral, and he and other reporters were pressed into service.
But he denied conspiracy theories that there was nobody in Oswald's coffin, saying the police checked it before it was buried.
Jones was also on duty when Oswald was brought to the hospital, and said that he "said nothing" but stayed alive for almost an hour and a half. All three men said they do not believe the Kennedy assassination was part of a larger conspiracy, but instead was the work of "a silly little Communist," as Jacqueline Kennedy later called Oswald.
Three key historians also discussed the aftermath of JFK's assassination: Thurston Clarke, author of "Kennedy's Last 100 Days," Larry Sabato, author of "The Kennedy Half Century," and Douglas Brinkley, author of "Cronkite"
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