The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of the most frequently depicted historical events in all of film and television. Sometimes, as with Oliver Stone's JFK, for example, the assassination is the front-and-center subject of the piece. But even more frequently the event is merely part of the fabric of America, standing somewhat in the background and representing any number of thematic points about America, the loss of innocence, etc. With the stipulation that there is no possible way to chronicle every TV and movie character's experience of the JFK assassination, what follows is a representative timeline of the events of November 22, 1963 as experienced by the fictional (or fictionalized) characters who experienced it.
March 21, 1963
2:46 PM CST: Dr. Sam Beckett leaps into the life of Lee Harvey Oswald, in order to attempt to put right what once went wrong.
November 22, 1963
11:40 AM CST: President and Mrs. Kennedy arrive in Dallas at Love Field airport. There among the crowd hoping to catch a glimpse of them is Lureene Hallet, a Dallas housewife who is looking to escape her humdrum home existence for a few hours and live vicariously through the Camelot Kennedys.
11:56 AM, CST: C.G.B. Spender – a governmental agent of unknown conscription – takes his place in the sewers below Dealey Plaza. He proceeds to smoke a number of cigarettes while he waits.
12:30 PM CST: Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan is accompanying the Presidential motorcade when shots are fired at President Kennedy. Horrigan is unable to protect his charge, which is his one job. So begins a decades-long downward spiral for Horrigan, one which only the thwarting of another dangerous Presidential assassin can redeem.
12:31 PM CST: Dr. Sam Beckett, now in the body of Secret Service agent Clint Hill, climbs onto the back of the presidential limousine, possibly presenting further harm to Mrs. Kennedy. Which is still more than Frank Horrigan was able to do at the time, which is probably why Frank Horrigan went into that horrible bout of depression.
12:40 PM CST: Lureene Hallet learns of the assassination attempt on Kennedy and immediately begins processing the tragedy through the only lens she knows how: Jacqueline Kennedy, upon whom Lureene has placed most of her fantasies about living a better life.
12:51 PM CST: In New York, Duck Phillips unplugs his television, not wanting the news of the attempt on Kennedy's life to interfere with an afternoon dalliance with advertising colleague Peggy Olson.
12:55 PM CST: Meanwhile, the employees at Sterling Cooper advertising in New York City gather around to learn the details of the assassination attempt. Among them is Donald Draper, who does not share President Kennedy's politics, but who is nonetheless emblematic of Kennedy's era-specific idealized virility and philandering. Mr. Draper will spend much of the ensuing few days grappling with the implications of Kennedy's impending death.
1:27 PM CST: While at home trying on different outfits and wigs, Gloria Gaines, wife of White House butler Cecil Gaines, gets the news that President Kennedy has been shot and killed. She pours herself a drink and begins wondering how long all this hoopla is going to keep her husband at work for.
1:27 PM CST: At the same time, in Eastport, Massachusetts, high-school student and practicing (though not baptized) Catholic Charlotte Flax hears the news report of Kennedy's death and goes into something of a tail spin.
1:27 PM CST: In her home in Ossining, NY, Betty Draper informs her housekeeper, Carla, that the President was just declared dead. The two women share a moment of kinship, despite the fact that Ms. Draper is a frigid monster whom Carla does not care for one bit.
1:27 PM CST: Former Vice-President and thwarted Presidential candidate Richard Nixon gets word of the Kennedy assassination and enters a period of dark contemplation, sweatily wondering whether his complicity in the Bay of Pigs affair may have been part of a chain of events, intra-governmental resentments, and elaborate and far-reaching conspiracies that may have ultimately led to this fateful day.
1:40 PM CST: Back in Eastport, Charlotte Flax – having fled the news reports of JFK's death – runs to the local convent, where she finds the groundskeeper Joe Porretti and seeks comfort in his embrace. Kissing and moderate groping ensue, as Charlotte's teenage hormones mix with grief in what would have been quite a scene had any of the sisters saw what was happening in the bell tower.
7:31 PM CST: Having returned to Washington from Dallas, Mrs. Kennedy makes her way back to the White House. Refusing to change out of her blood-stained pink suit, Jacqueline breaks down in the solitude of the West Wing, attended to only by the White House butler, one Cecil Gaines, whose wife at that very moment was embarking on her fourth whiskey of the day.
November 23, 1963
5:12 PM CST: The wedding of Brooks Hargrove and Margaret Sterling (daughter of Roger and Mona Sterling) is fairly ruined due to the pall that has been cast by the Kennedy assassination.