Southern California Remembers
The Olympic torch at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will burn all day today to commemorate the man who, in 1960, spoke at the venue when accepting his party's presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention.
However, just three years later, the Coliseum would become a temporary makeshift memorial to the late president.
In fact, on Nov. 25, 1963, the venue's flag flew at half-staff and the scoreboard read: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. John F. Kennedy."
Friday's tribute, in which the torch was lit at 12:01 a.m., was spearheaded by Congresswoman Janice Hahn, and coordinated through LA City Councilman Tom LaBonge and USC officials.
"Earlier in the week, I got a call from Congresswoman Janice Hahn from our nation's capital suggesting that the torch be lit," LaBonge said. "I quickly called USC President C.L. Max Nikias and I am now joined with council member Curren Price, and the entire City Council, in thanking USC for this tribute. John F. Kennedy forever lives in our minds every day."
The torch will reamin burning for 24 hours, as it did in 1963.
Fifty years later, the memories are surprisingly fresh for many Angelenos. Some were in school, others were at work, but no matter where they were, most stopped what they were doing when the shots rang out.
"I remember getting the phone call. I was the front desk, and it just changed my life. I couldn't believe that that had really happened," said Gloria Miller of Los Angeles.
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Solemn Ceremonies in Dallas, Other Major Cities
In Dallas, the place where the president's motorcade passed through and shots rang out, a solemn ceremony on Friday was designed to avoid distractions and included brief remarks by the mayor. The tolling of church bells was also incorporated.
The city wanted to focus "in a positive way more on the legacy of President Kennedy," said former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk.
About 5,000 tickets were issued for the free ceremony in Dealey Plaza, which is flanked by the Texas School Book Depository building where sniper Lee Harvey Oswald perched on the sixth floor in 1963.
Other events being held Friday in Dallas include a ceremony at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where Kennedy was declared dead, to lower the U.S. flag to half-staff. In Fort Worth, the city's Chamber of Commerce was slated to host a breakfast at the hotel where Kennedy gave his last speech and spent the last night of his life.
The somber approach will be mirrored in Boston, where the JFK Library and Museum is hosting a small exhibit of never-before-displayed items from Kennedy's state funeral, as well as a musical tribute that will be closed to the public.
In Washington, President Barack Obama is meeting privately at the White House with leaders and volunteers from the Peace Corps program, which Kennedy established.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.