Journalist Hugh Aynesworth recalled watching a smiling President John F. Kennedy as the motorcade through downtown Dallas passed by him -- and then hearing shots ring out.
"It was chaos. People were running into each other. ... They were covering their children. One woman regurgitated right behind me. There were screams. See, we didn't know who was shooting, how many were there, where they were shooting from or anything else," Aynesworth, then a reporter for The Dallas Morning News, said Wednesday night at an event that gathered journalists who covered the assassination.
The program "Fort Worth Remembers JFK" was held on the Texas Christian University campus. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's Nov. 22, 1963, assassination in downtown Dallas.
The program also featured actor/director Bill Paxton, who as an 8-year-old boy heard the president speak outside the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, where Kennedy spent his last night before proceeding to Dallas the morning of Nov. 22, 1963.
Paxton, who watched the president speak while sitting on the shoulders of a man who had volunteered to help him get a good view, said the crowd was jubilant. "I remember there was just a real electricity in the crowd," said Paxton.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the TCU Schieffer School of Journalism partnered for the event, which was hosted by CBS newsman Bob Schieffer, a TCU alumnus for whom the school was named.
Schieffer himself was working as a night reporter at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 1963 and famously gave the mother of accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald a ride after she called the newspaper asking if someone could help her get to Dallas because her son had been arrested in the death of the president.
Mike Cochran, The Associated Press reporter in Fort Worth at the time, covered the president's visit to Fort Worth and recalled going back to the newsroom after Kennedy's plane left for Dallas and saying, "Well guys, we got him out of town safely, didn't we."
Moments later, word came that shots had been fired in Dallas.
Cochran recalled being a pallbearer along with other reporters at Lee Harvey Oswald's funeral because there were no mourners. "It was just spooky," he said.
He said most of the people there were police officers, federal agents and journalists. Five family members attended, but no mourners.
Bob Huffaker, who worked at radio station KRLD, recalled driving around police barriers and jumping his car over medians as he rushed to get to Parkland Memorial Hospital, where the president was taken.
Gary DeLaune, a radio announcer for KLIF who was among journalists in the police station basement when Jack Ruby fatally shot Oswald, said he saw the movement from Ruby and he was then knocked over a rail.
As the panelists talked about the affect the assassination had on them, Paxton said, "I think there was an innocence that died that day with John F. Kennedy."