How JFK’s Assassination Affected Dessie, Ethiopia — 6 Comments

  1. Carolyn,
    Thanks for the account about your Peace Corps experiences 50 years ago. You and your PCVs asked what you could do for your country and found an answer that benefited our country and other countries as well. I’ll bet that your students in Ethiopia also remember the Kennedy’s assassination and what they learned about the United States through it. Thanks for your service.
    Mary Ann

  2. That awful Friday afternoon a group of us PCVs left Makelle, Ethiopia, for a trip to Asmara to shop for things our Peace Corps group could not get in our small provincial capital. After hours of travel, we at last arrived and went to an Italian restaurant for a very late dinner. Music was playing softly on the radio and then voices were talking. Suddenly I began to hear the words assassination, President, Texas. Shushing everyone quickly so we could hear better, we all heard the dreadful, almost unbelievable, news. President Kennedy was dead. This man of such great spirit who spoke so eloquently to our generation of service to our country and to the world was gone.

    The next day was passed in something of a blur as we did our necessary shopping and began the long trip back to Makelle. Everywhere we met people who looked at us with disbelieving, sad faces, offering condolences.

    Ethiopia declared three days of mourning. On Monday we were able to listen to the funeral service over Voice of America on our battery operated radio. It lasted for hours and we felt connected to all the people in the world who were listening at the same time grieving as we were. How I wished that Mrs. Kennedy and her children could know we shared their grief.

    The next day we were back in school wearing black armbands. Many of our students and the teachers at Atse Yohannes IV School had written us notes and expressed their sorrow. They, too, wondered if we would have to go home and if we would go back to a country torn by war because the president was dead. It was hard for them to believe that there would be a peaceful transition and that our vice president could be sworn in almost immediately and become president, that there would be people standing by to help at this terrible time. It was a lesson for us as much as a lesson for them. It had never even occurred to us that this might be an issue.

    Yes, we were the Kennedy Kids. And I will be forever grateful.

  3. Carolyn and Joyce,
    Thanks so much for sharing. The peaceful transition we took for granted just doesn’t happen in many places to this day, even after so-called free elections. A good reminder to be grateful.
    Maureen Harvey, Sykesville, MD

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