On the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, for many, Nov. 22, 1963, has become a date which symbolizes a nation's transformation.
"The country lost its innocence that day," Warren native Jim Dyer said from his home on Kenmore Avenue.
Those who lived through it will never forget how and when they heard the news.
You're on the air
Dyer arrived to his job as a radio broadcaster for WSOM in Salem on the fateful Friday morning unaware that even the day's mundane events would remain vivid a half a century later.
"I read news and sports from noon to 6 p.m. and this was just another day, it seemed like," Dyer said.
Photo by Ashley Newman
Retired radio broadcaster Jim Dyer, a Warren native, displays a self portrait taken during his employment at WSOM in Salem. Dyer was on-air when JFK was killed.
A little after 12:30 p.m., Dyer's routine was interrupted while he was on air.
The day's national news was communicated to the radio newsroom by a small radio teletype machine which featured a bell, signaling to the broadcasters the report's importance or urgency.
"One bell meant it was a regular story and two meant it was a big deal," Dyer said. "All of sudden, it dinged 10 times."
Assuming there was a mechanical error, the 29-year-old Warren Harding graduate approached the machine with the station's general manager during the next break.
"That's when we saw it ... shots fired around the president's motorcade in Dallas," Dyer recalled. "Minutes later, it said the president had been shot. We were stunned."
Reporters across the country took to the airwaves, delivering the news which progressively got worse to a nation in shock.
At about 1 p.m., the news was official and Dyer quietly turned away from the teletype and opened the microphone.
"As a reporter, I couldn't go anywhere or do anything," Dyer said. "We had to give the news to the people. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with in my 28-year broadcasting career."
The heart-wrenching news echoed through homes, offices and street corners.
In the Mare-Lane Hostess Shoppe along Elm Road, owner Elaine Wallace sat in stunned silence.
"I was so shaken up, I didn't know what to do," Wallace said.
Shortly after the announcement of Kennedy's death, she decided to close up shop.
"I had to turn the radio off," Wallace said. "I just couldn't listen to it anymore."
A volunteer for the 1960 Kennedy presidential campaign, Wallace decided to dedicate her storefront to the mourning masses passing quietly by its window.
"I took a big black-and-white picture I had of the president and put it in the window," Wallace said. "Then, I draped it in black cloth."
Wallace, 87, then headed to Blessed Sacrament Church to say a prayer for the family. She wasn't alone.
"You could see it on people's faces all over Warren," Wallace said. "Even days and weeks later, it was terrible."
For weeks leading up to Nov. 22, Carl Buffone and the rest of his military division at Fort Hood in Killeen, Texas, prepared for a visit by President Kennedy.
"He was on a five-stop trip through Texas," Buffone said. "We had gone over to Germany in October and we came back in November. That was the next big thing for us, having the president review our division."
Preparing for guard duty that night, Buffone sat in his bunk downstairs with the radio on when the hustle and bustle of the military base fell still.
"Right at about 12:30, it came on the radio," Buffone said. "When it was announced that he was dead, some young sergeant from Alabama said 'it's about time somebody shot (him). They didn't care for Kennedy down there."
An emotionally overwhelmed Buffone charged at the sergeant.
"I took a shot (punch) at him," Buffone said. "It was such a tense atmosphere."
Initially unsure if the assassination was an act of war, the base stayed on edge.
"We would listen to whatever details came over the radio and on the TV," Buffone said. "Nobody knew what was going on."
Just before 2 p.m., news came of a possible arrest in the assassination of the president. Later that night, Lee Harvey Oswald was arraigned for the murder.
According to Buffone, being about 150 miles north from Dallas in the state of Texas was strange.
"That was the south down there and there was just a strange feeling in the air," Buffone said.
On Sunday, four days after the assassination, Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby as he was being transported from police headquarters to jail.
"I even knew who Jack Ruby was," the 75-year-old Buffone said. "We'd go down to Dallas every now and then and hang out. He had these whisky-a-go-go joints down there."
According to Buffone, Kennedy was the first president he had ever voted for.
"That's why I always kind of liked the guy because we needed young blood in the White House," Buffone said. "There was a bunch of old guys back then and we thought it would be good to get the young ones."
Dyer agreed that Kennedy's perceived injection of youth into what had become a stale political environment added to the tragedy.
"There you had this young, vibrant president," Dyer said. "For that to be snuffed out was just beyond belief."
Meanwhile, Wallace has devoted the 50 years following the assassination to collecting Kennedy memorabilia.
"I have books, photos, statues, all kinds of things," Wallace said. "When you look at that family and everything that has happened over the years, it is just so sad."