by Tom Stachelek
I was a 19-year-old Peace Corps Volunteer working in the village of Tarata, Cochabamba, Bolivia the day of the president’s death.
I was listening to Voice of America news on short wave radio after eating lunch. I heard the broadcaster refer to President Johnson and I thought that it was a strange mistake . When he said President Johnson for the second time I couldn’t believe it!
When the broadcaster began to describe President Johnson’s swearing in I began to understand what had happened . I had no way to communicate with our office in Cochabamba to confirm the news or receive direction. Within a few minutes Bolivian friends and neighbors began to come to me to express their sadness about President Kennedy’s assassination. There was real sadness because President Kennedy was well respected in Bolivia.
During the following week there were many expressions of concern and sympathy for America by the Bolivian people. I returned to the States in July of 1964 with the memory of that day and my two years as one of President Kennedy’s Peace Corps Volunteers forever in my heart.
Photos: circa 1963, Bolivia, courtesy of Tom Stachelek
Much more on JFK and the anniversary, including a remembrance by CBS journalist Bob Schieffer, and a slideshow of Kennedy family life starting in the late 1950s.
Here’s a preview of the American Experience documentary on JFK that airs November 11 and 12 on most PBS stations.
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