11/18/2011 02:07 pm ET Updated Jan 18, 2012

A November 22 Remembered

I was a 23-year-old, first-year medical student at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963. A couple of my classmates and I had driven to a nearby eatery for lunch, and on returning to the medical school heard on the car radio that President John F. Kennedy had been shot and had been rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital, the main teaching hospital of our medical school.

Eager to know what was happening, I dashed into Parkland via the emergency room entrance amid unbelievable chaos. The ER entry area was packed and the din was indescribable, with people pushing and shouting at top volume. Pandemonium reigned. Suddenly a gentleman in coat and tie grabbed me by my arm. He introduced himself as Robert Pierpoint, the CBS news correspondent who was traveling with the presidential party. I recognized Pierpoint; he was nationally known, frequently appearing on CBS television evening news.

He said to me with unmistakable urgency, "Can you help me?" Pierpoint had managed to capture one of the few pay telephones in the Parkland ER, and he was hanging onto it for dear life. On the other end of the line was the CBS office in New York City. "Will you guard this phone while I find out what's going on with the president?" he implored. I said yes. Then Pierpoint pushed his way down the hall to Trauma Room 1. While he was doing so, I was asked by the CBS people in New York what I could observe from my vantage point. I described the chaos as best I could. Then Pierpoint returned, took the phone and provided the information he'd obtained in Trauma Room 1. He and I kept this telephone tag going for an hour or so.

Finally Pierpoint told the CBS office that the president was dead. I was unable to comprehend it. Pierpoint was obviously stricken with grief and disbelief. He simply said to me tearfully, "Thank you for your help." For a moment we just stood there looking at each other, realizing we were participants in a drama we could not grasp, but which we would remember for the rest of our lives. Then he gathered himself and dashed off to pursue events unfolding outside in the ER parking lot that would involve Jacqueline Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Judge Sarah T. Hughes.

Classes were dismissed. We students were collectively paralyzed with grief. Four of us drifted aimlessly to a nearby tavern and drank beer in numbed silence. No one could find words to describe adequately what we felt. I still can't.

-- Larry Dossey, M.D.