Staring solemnly at a statue of John F. Kennedy at the State House, Governor Deval Patrick placed his hand over his heart this morning, as he and other state officials marked 50 years since the assassination of the 35th president.
No words were spoken during the brief ceremony, which was held in a rain-soaked courtyard overlooking Beacon Street.
A bugler played taps and a wreath of white roses was placed before the statue, which depicts Kennedy walking briskly, during his years as a US senator from Massachusetts.
Patrick stood alongside Major General L. Scott Rice, the adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, and was accompanied by a military honor guard carrying highly polished rifles and the flags of Massachusetts and the United States.
Later Friday, Patrick is set to attend a tribute to Kennedy at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Dorchester.
The governor has often pointed to the slain president as a source of inspiration for his own interest in civic life.
Earlier this week, Patrick recalled hearing about the president’s assassination as a 7-year-old in grade school in Chicago and then watching the funeral on a black-and-white television in the living room of his grandparents’ home.
“It was the first time I ever saw my grandfather cry,” Patrick told reporters Wednesday. “The experience of that loss so affected people like us, who were as far away from the White House as you can imagine being.”
Meanwhile, at the Kennedy Library this morning, Jay Karasik said it was his birthday. Karasik turned 11 the day JFK was assassinated, and every Nov. 22 takes him back to that day.
He remembered being let out of school early — it was a Friday — and how his mother was there to meet him at the bus stop. When they saw each other, they both burst into tears.
“I can visualize the whole thing,” he said
Five decades later, Karasik felt drawn to attend to the 50th anniversary exhibit at the library, a place he had never been. He drove up Thursday from Middletown, N.Y.
“It’s been part of my life for 50 years,” he said. “I told myself, if you don’t go, you’re a fool.”
Like Karasik, Rosemine Occean of Quincy felt she needed to pay tribute today to the slain president.
She didn’t have time to see the exhibit but left a bouquet of white roses by the entrance
“He was a truly special person,” said Occean, 39. “He made a tremendous contribution to our country and mankind”
Occean, who is black, said she most admired Kennedy’s support for the civil rights movement, despite the political costs.
Betty Noble of North Hampton, N.H., said the terrible day stole the country’s innocence.
“It changed everything,” the 73-year-old recalled. “It took away something. It made us feel vulnerable.”
Joe Monast, 58, of Attleboro said he came to honor Kennedy’s life and legacy.
“My father fought in the Pacific,” he said. “Fifty years later, it just seemed right to pay my respects.”
Monast said he was home sick that day, “kid-sick” at least. He remembered his parents gathering around the TV and seeing his father cry for the first time.
“It was the first time I saw an adult cry,” he said. “It made a major impact.”
Paul Doyle, part of a contingent from the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, recalled the overwhelming grief of that day, and said it lingers.
“Still sad,” he said.
This afternoon at the library, a large crowd attended a musical tribute in Kennedy’s honor, which included readings from several of his famous speeches and a moment of silence.
“I thought it was very moving,” said Jack Mulhern of South Boston, who described Kennedy as a childhood hero. “He was a great man.”
In Brookline, at JFK’s birthplace on Beals Street, Allan Benson and Nancy Hill, visiting from Maine, stopped by with hopes of getting a tour but found it closed this morning.
Still, the couple said, the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death was a time to reflect on the legacy of the family, including their dedication to public service, the arts, and people with special needs.
“I think about the gifts we got from the Kennedy clan,” said Hill, an artist who was a middle schooler when JFK died.
Benson described listening to Kennedy as a high school student and being inspired by Kennedy’s ideals.
“He was the first president I identified with,” said Benson, a lawyer.
They said the day isn’t just a reflection on JFK but the whole family. “The Kennedy family is part of our lives—our history,” said Hill.
Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley issued a statement saying the assassination was “a time of great sorrow for the whole world. ... It is with sadness that we look back at President Kennedy’s assassination, because we all wonder what America would have been like had he not been killed.”Michael Levenson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.