Tomorrow marks 50 years since the day our nation’s 35th president was assassinated. Tonight, we travel back to explore JFK’s special ties to South Florida. Here’s the nightteam’s Carmel Cafiero.
WSVN — The film is black-and-white but it paints a vivid picture of our shaken community, one day after Dallas.
Wayne Fariss: “The president of the United States was assassinated yesterday and South Florida is still in shock.
The original footage is kept in a vault at Miami-Dade College. The details of John F. Kennedy’s death were delivered to 7News viewers in a special report anchored by Wayne Fariss when WSVN was called WSKT TV.
Wayne Fariss: “News vendors slowed their trucks to a crawl up Flagler street as they leaned out of their trucks shouting ‘Extra, the President is dead!’
The history-changing headline was accompanied by raw emotions.
Man: “I’m telling you, I don’t feel so good, my heart, I’m sorry, my heart, it’s too much.
Woman: “I just think it’s the saddest thing that could have happened.”
Kennedy made frequent stops in the sunshine state and he was here just four days before his death.
On November 18. 1963, he rode through Tampa in an open convertible and then came to Miami to speak at the Americana Hotel in Bal Harbour.
At Miami International Airport, he made a promise he would not be able to keep.
John F. Kennedy: “So I’m glad to come here today. I’m going to come back next year and make a longer speech, but I want to express my thanks.”
Possibly the most memorable visit from the President was welcoming home members of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
Raul Martinez says he was at the Orange Bowl 1962.
Martinez remembers the words of the first lady.
Raul Martinez: “She said, very emotionally, that she would communicate to her son, that she had been with the most bravest men in the world, referring to the brigade, and we felt very honored.”
This woman, now living in South Florida, has a chilling connection to the other key player in Kennedy’s death.
Carmel Cafiero: “She shares my name because she’s my mother.
And she was in charge of hiring at a New Orleans department store in 1963 when in walked a man in a short sleeved shirt, looking for a job.
Carmel Cafiero: “I can picture his application today, even though it’s 50 years later, Lee Harvey Oswald.
She didn’t hire Oswald because she says he had an attitude.
Turned down for work, he demanded his application.
Carmel Cafiero: “When he asked for his application back, he didn’t say, ‘Please may I have my application back, I’d like to have it back.’ He just said ‘I want my application back.’ Like that.”
Just months later, Oswald became one of the most infamous men in US history.
Carmel Cafiero: “A half-century later as the nation reflects on JFK’s life, signs of Camelot in South Florida are still visible, you just have to know where to look.”
This is the former Kennedy Estate in Palm Beach.
John Castle purchased it in 1995 and included in the $5 million cost, is original furniture and priceless stories.
John castle: This is the dining room where the Kennedy family frequently ate. This is their original table.”
John Castle: “Approximately where that seat is, Jack Kennedy worked on his inaugural address. You remember the words, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you…'”
JFK: “Ask what you can do for your country.”
From the room where he chose his cabinet, to the pool he relaxed in, to the bedroom he used both as a boy and as president.
John Castle: “This is the bedroom that Jack Kennedy used on the last weekend of his life, before he went to Dallas, Texas.
Not far from the compound is a less luxurious reminder of the times.
The Kennedy Bunker on Peanut Island was a nuclear fallout shelter built during the Cold War to protect the President.
Anthony Miller: “If there had been an attack and if the President was in Palm Beach at the time, they would have brought him here and this is where he’d be running the free world from.”
Now open to the public, the bunker houses original beds and supplies.
Anthony Miller: “We had enough rations, toilet paper, food, water, and everything else, for 30 days.
Kennedy also had a connection to the Keys.
The military trained off Big Pine Key for the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the movie PT 109, about Kennedy’s heroic service in World War Two, was filmed close by on what is now Little Palm Island.
Then there’s the Kennedy Causeway in Miami, passing a television station where an anchor’s comforting words echo 50 years later.
Wayne Fariss: “Our country will survive, our democratic foundation is too strong for anything else. Nevertheless, the sickness is deeply imbedded in all of our hearts.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
MIAMI DADE COLLEGE
BAY OF PIGS MUSEUM