Guest Columns

White Plains and John F. Kennedy: A Moment in Time

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By John Vorperian

This Wednesday, Nov. 22 marks the 60th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Where were you when JFK was shot? Only one out of four Americans can answer that question. I am one of them.

Being a young child hanging out at my grandmother’s house, which served as her full-service rug sales and cleaning services business venue, I was baffled and upset by the wide array of emotions I saw that day at Z.N. Saradjian Rug Co.

Once the news broke, interrupting my afternoon TV cartoon series watching, I recalled the urgency and distress from all the adults running about the store. A bookkeeper condemning Communists for what had happened in Dallas. A delivery driver shouting out blame at the KKK. Then someone said Hoover had the ability to mastermind killing the free world’s leader in Dealey Plaza.

All stayed that day watching a small black and white television and the inevitable – the announcement of President Kennedy’s passing at Parkland Hospital. The capture of a lone gunmen, Lee Harvey Oswald, who two days later would also die at Parkland having been shot while in police custody by nightclub owner Jack Ruby.

JFK had gone to Texas to shore up support for his forthcoming re-election campaign.

When he ran for President in 1960, JFK campaigned in White Plains. New York was not a blue state but a swing state. He won the Empire State 53 percent to 47 percent over Richard Nixon. In crimson red Westchester County, Kennedy garnered 43 percent of the vote compared to the 1956 Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson’s 27 percent.

The Westchester County Historical Society has an image of JFK in a motorcade going through White Plains’ central business district. In this historian’s judgment, the picture looks as it was taken on Main Street.

JFK’s assassination was a gut-punch to the nation’s spirit. Memorials were erected throughout the U.S. to permit some sense of collective closure to this horrifying event. One such plaque sits on the former White Plains High School property, now Highlands Middle School.

It’s 2023 and a majority of Americans believe there was a conspiracy to kill JFK. Despite enactment of the 1992 JFK Records Act, which mandates release of the files pertaining to the killing, the documents, particularly those from the FBI and CIA, have been delayed and parceled out piecemeal. Purportedly, in the name of national security, what actually happened in Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963, is being kept from the American public. All we can do now to find some solace is to view the memorials and ponder who really perpetrated this criminal act.

John Vorperian is the White Plains Historical Society’s past president. He is also host of “Beyond the Game,” seen on White Plains Community Media.

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