The 700-bed hospital in the South Hills of Pittsburgh was where I had been working for about six months. The institution was divided into three parts: one area for ambulatory patients who needed supervision and dispensing of medications, one for bed-ridden patients who needed extra care with getting out of bed and bathing, and a third called the tower that was exactly like a general hospital for seriously ill patients. The enormous grounds of the facility included a large fruit orchard and large garden areas where vegetables were grown to be used for the daily meals. In the middle of the buildings was a beautiful large chapel where Sunday services were conducted.
I worked on the seventh floor of the tower, which was the men’s ward. We had a special patient, whom I shall call “James.” James had been a patient in the same private room next to the nurses’ station for many months. He had been the victim of a shooting and had lost both of his legs up to his hips. James was bed-ridden all of the time and was on round the clock doses of morphine injections. He watched television day and night and was very demanding when it was time for his next injections. It was so sad to see a young man in his thirties so addicted.
James was the first on the floor to hear of the assassination, as he had been watching the motorcade through Dallas on television. He was profoundly affected by the death of the president compared to his own situation. He stopped eating, became very depressed, and died a few days later. The person who had shot James had been incarcerated and now was facing murder charges.
My future husband and I had planned a dinner date the evening of the day the president died. Instead, we sat in my apartment all evening watching the replay of the news with a tearful Walter Cronkite. It was a very sad day for our country, and one I will never forget. I cried for the senseless deaths of James and our president.