Effingham Daily News
Sisters Lana and Candace Hudson certainly weren't planning to travel from their homes in west St. Louis County to spend an October Saturday evening at the annual Community Banquet in Altamont.
Then they heard who was speaking.
When the sisters heard that Secret Service Agent Clint Hill — an eyewitness to the Kennedy assassination — would be the keynote speaker, the 100-mile plus drive didn't seem that long.
"He (Hill) is a piece of history," Candace said. "He is the only person who could tell this story."
Both sisters have vivid memories of the events surrounding the Kennedy shooting and its aftermath.
"Even though I was only 3 years old, I can still remember it," Candace said. "I remember watching my parents mourning, and how we saw the loss of hope.
"It was devastating."
Big sister Lana said she came home from school that day feeling vulnerable.
"We'd just been through the Cuban missile crisis," she said. "I just wanted to feel safe."
Lana said the assassination brought Americans together, no matter what their politics were.
"We all grieved together," she said. "He was witty and so charming and she (Jacqueline Kennedy) was such a lovely first lady."
A number of people at Saturday's banquet were adults at the time of the events of Nov. 22, 1963.
Marge Denton of rural Effingham was teaching school at St. Anthony Grade School when she heard the news. Compunding the tragedy for her was the fact that two of her students had been killed the previous evening.
"It was a life-changing event," Denton said.
"It put a big empty feeling in our hearts," she added. "It was a scary time."
Denton said she was looking forward to hearing Hill speak. She wasn't the only family member to feel that way.
"I have a sister in Champaign and a sister-in-law in Clinton," she said. "We all just decided to come."
Altamont Chamber board member Jeff Fritchtnitch said he was glad to hear the presentation.
"It was a great honor to be able to listen to their story," Fritchtnitch said. "It was nice to hear him sharing with us what really happened on that day."