On this day, a Friday, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade through Dallas. Chicago froze in horror, the moment sealed in memories people would carry for the rest of their lives. Office workers on their lunch hours when the news broke stood on the street, some too shocked to speak, some openly weeping. Crowds gathered around loudspeakers strung up in the Loop, listened to radios in hotel lobbies and watched television sets in restaurants and bars.
A woman who heard the news in front of a Michigan Avenue hotel grabbed her husband by the arm but could not say anything, according to a story in the Tribune. Neither could her husband: "He put his hand over his mouth. Finally, the silence was broken by the woman, who said, `Oh, my God!' That was all she was able to say. Then the two shocked, suddenly grief-stricken people looked at each other and there were tears streaming down both of their faces.
" Mayor Richard J. Daley, a close ally whose delivery of Illinois during the 1960 election was crucial to Kennedy's victory, burst into tears during a lunch meeting of the Cook County Democratic Central Committee. He dictated a statement, then left for his home. "I cannot express my deep grief and sorrow over the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy," the statement read in part. "His vital spirit, sincerity and warm personality have given us all a memory that we will cherish and never forget." Black mourning drapes were placed around the entrance to City Hall.
On Monday, the official day of mourning, the city essentially shut down. Virtually all public offices were closed, along with most businesses. Chicago public schools closed after a morning memorial service. Catholic schools and suburban schools closed, and most colleges and universities suspended classes. When funeral services began in Washington, Chicago Transit Authority trains and buses halted for a minute of silence. The city's sidewalks were virtually empty. Highway traffic slowed to a trickle. Lake Shore Drive was deserted. The cars, buses, trains and people slowly returned. For many, in Chicago and across the nation, a kind of innocence never did.