Frank Denzler CNHI News Service
The Batesville Herald-Tribune
---- — One of the most frequently asked questions of what is known as the “baby boomer” generation (those individuals born in the years following WWII from 1946 to 1964) is “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?”
For at least one Rush County resident, David Lanning, he is well aware of where he was the day of Nov. 22, 1963.
That fateful day, which in many people’s eyes changed the course of American history forever, Lanning was an eighth grade student at Graham Junior High School in Rushville. As fortune would have it, he was ill that day and stayed home from school and was watching television when the first news bulletin of the President being shot crossed the screen.
“I was watching ‘As the World Turns’ with my mother when the first new bulletin came across the television. Back in those days, when a new bulletin scrolled across the bottom of the television, the first thought was that something bad had happened because we had just lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Walter Cronkite came on television and said the President had been shot,” Lanning said.
Since that day nearly 50-years ago, Lanning has been fascinated with Kennedy, his death, the events that led him to the presidency and beyond. For half a century, Lanning has collected more than 500 items on the Kennedy assassination and that is not counting what he estimates to be more than 1,000 additional items related to the brief Kennedy administration, individual news articles and campaign buttons to name a few items contained in his collection.
“When Kennedy was shot, it affected our entire family in a very profound way. I remember my mother crying all through the funeral a few days later and it (the loss of our President) effected me personally too. No event since and that includes the event of 9-11-2001 have affected me more than the Kennedy assassination. It was such a tragic event - it shook the nation and I don’t think we have fully recovered to this day,” Lanning said.
Recently Lanning loaned the Rushville Public Library a number of pieces of his collection and they are displayed in the library entrance display case. Contained in the display are a number of newspapers from around the country the day of the assassination and the following days, along with books on the event and some very personal items as well. One of Lannings’ most prized items of memorabilia is a thank you card from then First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy addressed to the Lanning family. The items will remain on display until the end of the month.
In looking back, Lanning said his perception is that Rushville handled the Presidential death like every other small town across the country.
“Anywhere you went is was a solemn occasion. When we went back to school, it was all we talked about in class. It hit everyone and to this day, I firmly believe that Kennedy’s death may have changed the course of history in America as we know it today.”
When asked about how the Presidents death is perceived today, Lanning is concerned that the current generation of youth does not fully understand and fathom the depth of despair the country was in following Nov. 22, 1963. That was followed by a second shock two days later when accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down by Jack Ruby.
When asked his thoughts on the Warren Commission Report that Oswald acted alone, Lanning like many other Americans’ has his doubts and is not so convinced.
Lanning said he is happy to share his collection with others for historical reasons and hopes that people will visit the library in the coming days to view as he puts it the tip of the iceberg of his collection.
“I think about that day (11-22-1963) frequently and how it changed, not just our lives here in middle America, but throughout the world. It was much like the President Lincoln assassination although the media had a major impact on getting the information of President Kennedy’s death out all over the world,” Lanning said.
He closed by saying that as tragic as the death was, it brought the country together like no other event since.
The Rushville resident said that although his family was always staunch Republicans, when it came to casting votes, from his perspective in the days and weeks following Kennedy’s assassination and for the only time with the possible exception of Sept. 11, 2001, there were no longer Republicans or Democrats, “We were simply Americas who had lost our President.”