It was 55 years ago that my hero, President John F. Kennedy visited Tampa and I saw him for the first and last time.

I read in the newspaper he was coming so I put all my energy into getting press credentials, not an easy task for a 16-year-old high school junior, but I managed to get a pass from the chamber of commerce with the help of letters from school.

Air Force One landed at 11:25 a.m. After the National Press Corps exited the plane the president, ever charismatic, walked out as the band played Hail to the Chief.

I walked up to his limousine where he sat with MacDill Base Commander, Paul D. Adams. I shook his hand, took his photo and welcomed him to Tampa.

After lunch and a briefing at the Macdill officers club he was flown by helicopter to Al Lopez Field, followed by a drive south on Dale Mabry Highway to Grand Central Avenue, then east to downtown Tampa.

I waited on Franklin Street north of Twiggs as his motorcade came by fast.

At the end of the day I returned with the president to MacDill Air Force Base where he shook hands with police officers who had worked during his visit.

I watched Air Force One fade into the clouds.

Four days later I learned he had been assassinated. I felt numb. I often think of that day and although subsided, the shock has yet to disappear.

The president exits Air Force One after his arrival at MacDill Air Force Base to a crowd of military personel, government officials, local press and hundreds of school children let out of school to greet him.
The president exits Air Force One after his arrival at MacDill Air Force Base to a crowd of military personel, government officials, local press and hundreds of school children let out of school to greet him.
President Kennedy stands at attention for the playing of Hail to the Chief upon his arrival at MacDill Air Force Base, with Gen. Paul D. Adams (right), commanding officer at the time.
President Kennedy stands at attention for the playing of Hail to the Chief upon his arrival at MacDill Air Force Base, with Gen. Paul D. Adams (right), commanding officer at the time.
JFK waits in a limousine for a ride to the MacDill officer's club where he dined with airmen and received a briefing.
JFK waits in a limousine for a ride to the MacDill officer's club where he dined with airmen and received a briefing.
Kennedy spoke at the Florida Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and answered questions at the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.
Kennedy spoke at the Florida Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting and answered questions at the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.
JFK emerges from a crowd of admirers as he departs from the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.
JFK emerges from a crowd of admirers as he departs from the former Fort Homer Hesterly Armory.
JFK smiles after a story by a speaker at the former Al Lopez Field, where he spoke on the 50th anniversary of America's first commercial flight between Tampa and St. Petersburg, by pilot Tony Jannus.
JFK smiles after a story by a speaker at the former Al Lopez Field, where he spoke on the 50th anniversary of America's first commercial flight between Tampa and St. Petersburg, by pilot Tony Jannus.
President Kennedy stands in his limousine as it makes its way north on Franklin Street.
President Kennedy stands in his limousine as it makes its way north on Franklin Street.