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Kennedy Assassination -- Haake

Retired Pantagraph reporter Dave Haake reviews bound copies of The Daily Pantagraph Thursday, October 24, 2013, in the newsroom in Bloomington. He covered the local angle of President John Kennedy's assassination and recalls details of the day no one living then could forget. (The Pantagraph, David Proeber)

BLOOMINGTON — Dave Haake remembers it as if it were yesterday.

Children were dismissed from school early; businesses turned away potential customers; “tears formed on State Farm workers’ cheeks”; and the General Telephone Co.’s system overloaded.

Haake, now 87, was a reporter for The Daily Pantagraph on Nov. 22, 1963, and captured history in Bloomington after it was made in Dallas earlier in the day.

Back then, the newspaper had morning and afternoon editions. The late edition’s headline — “President Kennedy Assassinated” — rang out in big capital letters, followed by “Cut Down in Dallas by Sniper; Fusillade Wounds Gov. Connally.”

Inside pages were filled with stories about Kennedy and his connection to the community. Grief transcended politics and religion, wrote Haake, describing a “bubble of disbelief” as the news reached the Twin Cities.

Some 1,800 State Farm employees were kept posted via inter-office communication, he reported. The Unit 5 school district didn’t “turn its pupils loose” because about half rode buses, some to rural areas, said his story.

Haake recalled standing on the street, along the west side of the old courthouse, interviewing people in the early afternoon.

Some heard what had happened in Dallas; others learned the news from him and didn’t know what to say.

“What?” several asked, unable to comprehend what he told them.

He can’t remember every person he talked to, but said there was a common thread of shock, disbelief and sadness.

“It couldn’t have made me feel worse if it had happened to a member of my own family,” a Gibson City man told him.

Haake said people of all ages had bonded with Kennedy, especially his vision for a space program. “That kind of thing hit a note with a lot of people,” he said during a recent interview.

Haake, who had worked at the newspaper for about eight years at the time, fell into doing the work at hand and set aside his own shock.

“(Editor) Harold Liston ran a pretty good ship,” he recalled of getting directions and carrying them out.

“The newsroom was busy. We still had typewriters then,” he said, noting television made Kennedy’s assassination different from his memory of the Pearl Harbor bombing when he was in junior high school.

That weekend, he remembered “constantly” watching TV, seeing the footage over and over again of the assassination and later the shooting of the gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald.

His two sons were 5 and 7 at the time.

“They sat (with us) and watched it all. It was hard to explain things to them. … They listened.”

Churchgoers — more abundant then, Haake said — wondered, “‘What’s happening to us?’ Our nation has changed so much,” he said.

The 2001 terrorist attacks united the nation, but nothing has affected the country quite the same way as Kennedy’s assassination, said Haake, adding, “It’s essential to look back.”

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