" A moment that will be emblazoned in your memory and you will never forget it...as long as you live." Frank McGee, NBC News, New York.
I was having lunch at the Astor Hotel with four friends from NBC News. . We left our food and the bill and literally ran the two blocks back to the office.
The scene outside of the newsroom was chaotic. Employees came from everywhere in the building to observe. We had to push our way through the crowd and the security people to get in the door.
What we saw was a reflection of what we all felt- shock, disbelief, confusion and grief. Veteran correspondents and reporters wiping away tears as they tried to make sense of what was to become the most moving and historic passage in broadcasting history.
Back then I was the Administrator of news writers. One of them was assigned to obituaries.
All major TV news organizations have on file pre-produced obituaries of notable individuals who are still alive; allowing detailed obituaries to appear very quickly after these people die.
And this writer was also suppose to be available as back-up in the newsroom when needed. But he rarely was . " I'm still working on the JFK obit" he would tell me . "Let him finish it" my boss would say.
He hadn't even started. And on the day of the assasination, NBC had no obituary on file of the President of the United States.
That writer was dismissed the same day . Five of our top news producers worked through the night to get it on the air.
I can remember that story because I was a part of it. But the rest, after forty four years, is just a blur.
I do remember that four days and 70 hours of coverage later, some of us got to go home. After a wrenching marathon that would conclude only after the president's burial at Arlington National Cemetery.